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Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh and the spirit of Ramadan

Update : 13 Jul 2013, 02:53 AM

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is considered the holiest out of the twelve months by the 1.6bn Muslims in the world.

This spiritual month is observed by fasting from dawn to dusk for the entire month, and participating in special prayers known as the taraweeh after the fast is broken every evening.

During this month, Muslims are seen to pray more and ask for forgiveness and blessings from the Almighty. The zakaat, an obligatory annual payment for well-off Muslims (meeting certain criteria), also has to be disbursed during this month, which is then used for charitable or religious purposes.

The holy month is observed in Bangladesh, which has a population of 150m, among which 89% are Muslim. It seems that we, in Bangladesh, have forgotten that this is meant to be a month of charity, and of spiritual and personal growth. Sadly enough, life in Bangladesh, during the month of Ramadan, does not become any easier for the vast majority of its people.

This Ramadan too, the price of essential food items in the country has sky-rocketed, in spite of the continuous decline of prices in the global market of many essentials.

The prices of edible oil, sugar and pulses have gone down significantly in the global market, and the value of our currency against the US dollar has risen, thus lowering the import cost of such items.

Analysts have said that there is no reason behind these spiralling food prices and have blamed an artificial crisis created by unscrupulous traders of essential food items.

Although it is very easy to put the blame on traders and excuse ourselves, I think this attitude is questionable.

The traders are by no means separate from us. All of us, small or big, educated or uneducated, are doing business at the end of the day. For those of us in service, we are basically selling our services to an employer, be it in the government, or the private sector.

During the “holy” month of Ramadan, corruption levels do not go down. Allegedly, law enforcement forces, with Eid nearing, become more corrupt during this time. All these people are either you or me, or our brothers and sisters.

We see that more people are going into the mosques to attend prayers – the places of worship overflow with people, and some of them are seen to pray in the streets in the scorching sun.

What disturbs me most is, after fasting and praying, people go back to their “normal” lives, deceiving other people, contaminating and overpricing food, taking bribes and continuing all other misdeeds that they normally do.

The traffic conditions in the streets worsen during this month, with incessant honking, a total disrespect of traffic laws, and commuters getting involved in petty fights – as if somehow they have the right to behave irrationally because they are fasting.

Ramadan is supposed to be a month of sacrifice, for Muslims to experience hunger and thirst, thus being able to sympathise with those in the world who suffer every day.

We are supposed to develop feelings for those who have less. By exercising self-control, courteousness, proper speech and good habits are meant to be attained.

A healthier diet is also a goal for this period, with the body getting a one-month period to purge itself of the extra fat which we normally consume, which may cause us harm.

Unfortunately, many of us indulge in gluttony during this month, eating a lot at Iftar; gorging on all kinds of unhealthy, oily foods in decadent amounts. Some people are actually seen to gain weight and become more obese during this period.

A certain section of the population take the opportunity to bring about road side shops selling different Iftar items, disregarding hygienic preparation or providing good, healthy food.

During the month of Ramadan, we also see the practice of donation of zakaater shari and lungi, a publicity stunt by certain people who want to show they are helping the poor and destitute, when in effect, they are encouraging them to remain poor.

This is completely in contrast to the original Islamic principle which asks the zakaat to be provided in a way so that the poor can have their own means of living, and can participate in giving zakaat from the next year.

It is said that if everyone provided their zakaat properly, there would be no poor people left.

However, we have moved far away from the true concept of zakaat as well, although it is common for many of us to go on bragging about being good Muslims.

I feel that as a nation we are completely misguided about how we should lead our lives during Ramadan. It is high time that we try to grasp the true meaning of Ramadan and not just focus on the rituals.

If we are able to become more tolerant, and stop our wrongdoings, like Islam instructs us to do, I believe, as a nation, we can truly prosper.  

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