Monday, April 12, 2021

Are you sure the devils are all tied up?

Afghani food I tried in Bonn

I began fasting at seven years old, purely out of peer pressure. I had thought to start fasting at puberty, just like my Daddy. Alas and alack, I was shamed out of going to the canteen during Ramadan and thus, it was easier to just fast.

It was more challenging when my school was in afternoon session. The heat made you drowsy and the day seemed endless. When I took the schoolbus, it was worse because the evening congestion often meant that I reached home after Maghrib, by which time I was dehydrated and ravenous. Luckily for me, my Mum began driving when I was ten so I no longer had to deal with that.

For all my ignominious start to fasting, I have always enjoyed Ramadan. I rarely went back to sleep after sahur; I used to spend it playing computer games on our enormous home PC using the large floppy disks, or watch the one Disney cartoon that my Daddy bought on VHS, and as I grew older, just reading. 

Theoretically, fasting is only for those who are physically capable and is not an obligation for children, the old, and the infirm. It was only recently that my eyes are opened to other invisible infirmities when it comes to fasting. Mohani Niza wrote a lovely piece examining what Ramadan is like for those with debilitating conditions that are not always apparent.

I hate it that we police fasting in this country. Fasting is an obligation between the devotee and Allah; no one else is part of the equation. It is detestable that we have a criminal act under the syariah law that enforces respect for the month of Ramadan. How on earth does a month have feelings?! How is fining people and if they can't afford to pay, stuffing them in prison for not fasting Islamic? Not to mention that the ones who get punished are usually those from the lower socio-economic bracket; the lofty bangsawans get away scot free.

We need to go back to the core of fasting. Fasting is supposed to remind us of those who are less fortunate, and help us reflect on our spirituality when we stop feeding our body. It is supposed to give our bodies a rest from the usual abuses we heaped on ourselves and reprogramme how we manage our time. 

No one should be punished for not fasting, whatever their reasons may be. Let us take this time to reflect on the blessings that we have received to improve our thoughts, words, and deeds. Because some people's behaviour sure makes me think that the wrong devils are tied up during this month.

Ramadan Mubarak to those observing!