I took leave to observe the first day of Ramadan at home in Melaka. Early in the morning, I went to my 'kebun' (garden), several kilometers away from home, and a few hours later was back home, exhausted.
Actually it was my intention to get tired so that I could easily fall asleep after that, before zuhr prayers. After zuhr, I spent time reading and soon it was 'asr.
After 'asr, time flew fast, and it was maghrib, time for breaking the fast.
It was easy at home. On the second day of Ramadan I had to go back to work in Kuala Lumpur. That journey was a real test for me.
After alighting from the express bus near the Klang Bus Station at the Central Market that Friday morning, I walked along the pavement along the Klang River to fetch the train at the Masjid Jamek station.
The walk was almost a kilometer. While walking, I remembered what was said about Ramadan by a former Mufti of Terengganu, Dato' Abdul Halim Abdul Kadir during his talk to our staff a few days before the fasting month.
"Fasting is not just about abstaining from food and drinks," said the grand old man of more than 70 years. "We are also requested to 'fast' our tongues, eyes, ears and minds.
"If we only refrain ourselves from taking food and drinks, but 'freed' our sights, hearings and tongues, then at the end of the day, we will be rewarded only with hunger, thirst and tiredness," said Abdul Halim.
He also said we had to 'fast' our stomach. It was true, during Ramadan, we had to refrain from eating and drinking during the day, but it would be of no value if during breaking of the fast, we took food that was forbidden (haram).
The former mufti said all the food that was laid on the desk had to be halal, and there were regulations when eating. For example fill only one third of the stomach with food, the next one third with drinks and leave the rest empty for easier breathing as said by the Prophet.
A Muslim is ordered to eat and drink, making sure he takes care of the following: First, not to waste or exceed the right limit. Allah SWT says; "…and eat and drink but waste not by extravagance,…"(Quran 7:31).
Second, not to eat or drink what is harmful, especially if it is forbidden. Third, to eat and drink moderately. The Messenger of Allah SWT said; "Man has not filled a container worse than his stomach; he should be satisfied with a few bites to survive. However, if his appetite beats him, let it be a third (of his stomach space) for his food and a third for his drink and a third for his breath." (Ahmad).
Fourth, to try not to be fat, for the Prophet of Allah SWT described the people who would come after three blessed centuries, that fatness appears in them. Fatness appears when the human body takes more calories that it needs, that is, food entering the body is much greater than what is needed and excreted. (Rules For The Muslim Home, Sa'eed Muhammad Al-Deeb, IIPH).
Having the lectures of the former mufti on my mind, I walked with my head looking at the ground. I was afraid my eyes would catch sight of the Kuala Lumpur girls. Yes it is Ramadan, but activities in Kuala Lumpur don't stop. The girls as usual, are in their 'best' when going out to work or shop.
At the pedestrian bridge near Kompleks Dayabumi, two girls overtook me. I didn't look up but as they passed me, I smellt sweet fragrance. It took a few seconds to vanish from the air, but the odor still lingered on my mind. What an enchanting smell. Oooh God, I hope my reward for fasting would not be decreased by that incident.
With my head still held low, suddenly I heard a 'salam' (greeting). I looked up and saw a tall and frail looking man, his hand busily with a broom. In broken Malay, he told me he was a Bangladeshi worker in distress – he was not being paid accordingly. He said he was fasting and asked me to give him some money to buy food for iftar (breaking of the fast).
It was later that I realized perhaps that man was from a group or a friend of several hundreds Bangladeshis' who were on a hunger strike inside and outside the Bangladeshi High Commission in Kuala Lumpur.
An online newspaper reported that they had gone on the hunger strike for several days in order to get help from their diplomatic mission.
Group spokesperson Jainal Abidin said they were left with no choice but to go on a hunger strike in order to get help from their diplomatic mission.
"We are waiting for death. Four days (without) food. Many (are) sick," said Jainal 25when met by the online reporter outside the High Commission's compound.
They were allegedly not paid for six months and were fed only one meal a day. The group is holding their Bangladeshi agent responsible for allegedly misleading them. Typically, Bangladeshis have to pay about RM12,000 in order to obtain work in Malaysia.
Fasting is the third pillar in Islam. But in this case, the Bangladeshi workers are fasting in Kuala Lumpur for a different purpose. They were fasting to get attention and to spread the word that they were being ill treated by those in power, perhaps their own brothers in Islam?
After giving the Bangladeshi some money, I continued my way to work. Before crossing a main road, I came across a restaurant with its main attraction and trademark – blasting off verses of the Quran.
What crossed my mind was whether the owner of that restaurant was a Muslim or not, for it was Ramadan but he had no respect for it. Several patrons were seen enjoying their food when I passed it at about 9.15 am while verses of the Quran were on air!
Perhaps the reading was about fasting, what an insult to the religion, I thought.
Walking on the back lane along the Klang River, I passed another restaurant. The aroma of food being cooked was strong. Ramadan or not, Kuala Lumpur keeps on spinning; its people chasing money, not bothering much about the holy month.
After work, I headed for the Puduraya bus station. From the LRT station of Plaza Rakyat I had to walk to the terminal. I kept my head low, not wanting to look at the girls, and on one occasion, bumped onto a Chinese schoolboy.
It might be my mistake, but I was happy when the boy said he was sorry.
So it is difficult to observe Ramadan in Kuala Lumpur. One may abstain from food and drinks but one's eyes and ears are not spared from seeing and listening to 'haram' things.
How I wished I were in Mecca and Medina where almost 100 percent of the ladies cover themselves and the shops, especially the eateries, close during the day. Perhaps fasting there is less challenging than here, in Kuala Lumpur!