Sunday, October 09, 2005

Ramadan

Ramadan is here !! By far the most important event in the middle east.
Everyone looks forward to Ramadan , be it Islamic believers or otherwise. For muslims, it is special because the Quran was first revealed to the prophet during Ramadan but for others, going home at 2.30pm itself is big enough reason to rejoice.
Meaning of ' Ramadan' as 'parched thirst' is indeed a very apt term Those who are accoustomed to scorching heat of middle east in summer can understand the feeling of 'parched thirst'. Ramadan every year advances by 11 days, so one can have Ramadan practically every month of Gregorian calendar including sweltering summer.
Being in middle east gives an opportunity to understand Ramdan beliefs, know the festivities and its impact on social behavior. Concept and philosophy of holy month of Ramadan is very similar to one in Hindusi. Both religions- despite their divergence in practising seems to converge on the importance of fasting. Both agree that fasting leads to an attunement with the Absolute by establishing a harmonious relationship between the body and the soul. Islam states that fasting trains ones mind and the body to endure and harden up against all hardships, to persevere under difficulties and not give up. Fasting is one of the 5 pillars of Islam; the others being faith, prayer, charity and the pilgrimage. Beauty of Ramadan is not just about the abstinence from food, drink, cigarettes, and sexual relations during the daytime but a path of practicing restraint – goodwill to others, comfort and joys and an empathy with those who go to sleep without meal. According to Hindu philosophy, food means gratification of the senses and to starve the senses is to elevate them to contemplation. "When the stomach is full, the intellect begins to sleep. Wisdom becomes mute and the parts of the body restrain from acts of righteousness.” Both religions converge on the belief that fasting is not only a part of worship, but a great instrument for self-discipline too. Pangs of hunger that one experience during fasting make one think and extends one's sympathy towards the destitute that often go without food.

However, in recent times, believers of both religions practice the act of fasting in their own convenient way. Most Hindu fasting believers often eat sumptuous carbohydrates that have high calories and energy content. Some Muslim believers convert almost day into night, by eating all night and lying low all through the day. Inactivity during the day takes its toll on business. Most offices reduce working hours by almost half. Many companies and factories factor Ramadan in their yearly plan as 'dead' month. Some people with hunger pain become restless, resulting into agitation, fight on frivolous issues. Road accidents shoot up in Ramadan. Cars are often driven at reckless speed in the evening to rush home for food invite gory accidents. Atmosphere in the evening is electrifying 'Iftar' – break of fast - turns into a huge marketing event with lavish buffet spreads by most hotels. Pizza Hut offers an unlimited pizza for about 17 Dirhams or 2 UK Pounds!. Malls are open until 1am, night galore in 'Shisha Tents' till 3am with people smoking on different flavors. Bars and Nightclubs are filled with revelers but without any music.

I plan to practice fasting during Ramadan with 12 hours without food and water and just a normal meal in the evening. I am sure it will serve all the purpose prescribed by both religions but am more keen not be vulnerable for erratic driving and lethargic lifestyle.

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