In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate; blessing and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w
Every self will taste death. You would be paid your wages in full on the Day of Rising. Anyone who is distanced from the Fire and admitted to the Garden has triumphed. The life of this world is just the enjoyment of delusion. - Qur'an, 3:185
PERHAPS as you are reading this article, you may already fasting. Almost everyone including non-Muslims knows that Ramadan is the month when Muslims abstain from taking food and drinks during the day.
So Ramadan is about taking less food (because you can only eat after sunset ) but the irony of it, Ramadan is the month where some Malaysian Muslims spend so much money on it and it is the time of the year when one could have 'exotic food ' including ‘kuih’ (cakes) never found on any other time such as 'badak berendam', 'tahi itik' and 'tepung pelita'.
Ramadan teaches Muslims to be trift on their spending. But it is normal for a Malaysian Muslim family; me included, to spend more during Ramadan especially on food, clothing and decoration of the house.
A few days ago while driving my car, I heard an ‘ustaz’ (religious teacher) say in a radio programme, that one’s ‘puasa’ (fasting) in term of spiritual enhancement of the soul was considered a failure if one’s budget overshot the normal monthly expenditure.
He also jokingly said that if one’s weight dropped a lot at the end of Ramadan, he or she had succeeded in his/her ‘puasa’ but what would be said if one’s weight increased at the end of the holy month?
In recent days during my journey to work, I noticed tents were being erected on not so busy roads such as in front of shops lots; these premises were to be used by traders to sell their goods and products during Ramadan.
At some places, they called it ‘Bazar (Bazaar) Ramadan,’ others were kown as ‘Pasar (Market) Ramadan’, 'Karnival Ramafan' and ‘Gerai (Stall) Ramadan’. In these places, one could find almost all of ones needs including perhaps those ‘exotic food’ mentioned above.
What does the presence of this ‘Ramadan phenomenon’ suggest? Am I wrong in saying that Muslims are encouraged to spend more time and money in this ‘fiesta’ like a monthly occassion; unfortunately it is Ramadan, the best time of the year for Muslims to double or triple his good deeds as required by Islam?
In this holy month, one ‘sunat’ (optional) deed done would be rewarded like a ‘wajib’ or ‘fardu’ (obligatory) deed, and a ‘fardu’ deed would be rewarded 70 times or more than in other months.
Ramadan teaches us to feel the pangs of hunger of the poor people of the world. It has been reported that one person in the world dies every three seconds because of hunger. So wasting of food is criminal. But how is the situation in our country and other rich Muslim nations where the word ‘hunger’ seemed ‘quite unfamiliar’ to us, and seemingly is happening in far faraway lands. In United Arab Emirates (UAE) it was reported that 500 tons of food are thrown away each year in the holy month of Ramadan!
The lavish meal of breaking fast or ‘iftar’, many say dishonor the spirit of the Muslim holy month - and create an immense a mount of waste. Muslims should be reminded to be moderate with food, and this call could be made by ‘imams’ during ‘tazkirah’ (short religious talk) while doing the optional mass ‘tarawih’ prayers in masjids (special night prayers perform only during Ramadan) or when giving ‘khutbah’ (sermons) on the first Friday prayer of Ramadan.
Then on the eve of Ramadan, some of our people go for projects that are not beneficial for the 'ummah' what's more in line with the teaching of Islam such as making the largest 'ketupat' (rice cook inside wrappings made from coconut leaves) in the world. It was reported that the Melaka State Constituency (Dun) of Sungai Rambai had craved that its name be in the Malaysia Book of Records (MBR) for cooking that giant 'ketupat' which weighed 1,800 kilogramme and was 1.2 meters tall.
Imagine the wastage of time and resources just to project one's name - 630 kilogrammes of rice was cooked in 21 large pots from 3.00 p.m to 4.00 a.m. The projects was undertaken by 12 people and it took two days to prepare for the neccessary items and ground work. It was reported, the 'ketupat' was distributed to the people in that state constituency but tell me frankly who would want to comsume it?
Muslims should not be involved in such a wastage project, they should be reminded that they are accountable for five things before the coming of five. The Prophet (pbuh) said: "Take benefit of five before five - your youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free-time before your preoccupation,and your life before your death." (Hakim)
So to Muslims brothers and sisters, do not indulge in such empty, hollow and unbeneficial deeds, for Allah SWT says in Surah Al-Asr: "Verily! Man is in loss, Except those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and recommend one another to the truth (i.e. order one another to perform all kinds of good deeds which Allah has ordained, and abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which Allah has forbidden), and recommend one another to patience (for the sufferings, harms, and injuries which one may encounter in Allah's cause)."
Regarding the wastage of food and gluttony during Ramadan, President of Consumer Association of Penang (CAP), SM Mohamed Idris, commented on the lavish spending of Muslims at Ramadan bazaars and the ‘merry iftars’ at restaurants and hotels.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims are encouraged to eat nutritious food during breaking fast and sahur (predawn meal) and prohibited from wasting. Unfortunately many tend to prepare many dishes or the easiest way is to buy food and drinks that are sold in abundance in Ramadan bazaars and markets that mushroom during the fasting month.
Mohamed Idris said there is too much of food being served, much of it is not eaten and wasted. This kind of wastage is forbidden in Islam and contradicts the concept of Ramadan.
Then each year during Ramadan, hotel and restaurant is flooded with Ramadan buffet advertisements inviting Muslims to break fast in their hotels. From a rate of as low as RM38++ to RM135++, an individual can eat and drink as much as they like, with a variety of selection, at times offering more than 120 appetizing buffet dishes and desserts.
The Ramadan buffets are also accompanied with live music and keroncong whilst customers enjoy their meal. This indirectly shifts their attention and deviates them from piety of fasting in this holy month.
Those enjoying the buffet style fast breaking will be attracted to the delicious smell and scrumptious looking food. In fact their activated senses will induce them to take more than necessary.
Although gluttony is forbidden in Islam, there is nothing to prohibit Muslims from surrendering to their desire for food during breaking fast. Some would feel that it is necessary to eat a lot for their money’s worth.
As there is too much food put on their plate, many would not be able to finish it and finally the food is thrown away.
Don’t Muslims realise that food is Allah SWT greatest gift for humans and that we will be questioned on Judgement Day, akhirat, on our wasting nature? asked Mohamed Idris.
Remember Allah SWT decree in Surah Al A’raaf, sentence 3, "Eat and drink, but not in excess. Allah does not like people who are superfluous". Whereas Surah Al Israa’, sentences 26 and 27 states, "And do not waste, as those who waste are the devil’s friends".
If we consider the amount of food wasted during Ramadan mainly at buffets in hotels, we will realise that the present followers have lost their love to each other. Whilst many can enjoy the best food for themselves and their families, they forget that there are still people of the same faith who suffer from poverty and hunger.
Besides wasting food, much time is wasted when breaking fast in hotels as they tend to eat a lot until they are too full and making it difficult for them to perform solat, especially solat tarawih in the masjid.
The atmosphere and practice of breaking fast in hotels as mentioned above does not reflect the effectiveness and sacredness of the fasting that among others demands followers not to overeat, resulting in wastage.
Remember Nabi Muhamad SAW’s commandment, "Fight the yearning for food and withstand hunger and thirst as the reward is equivalent as jihad to Allah’s path. There is nothing greater to offer God than resisting hunger and thirst."
In relation to this and in the occasion of this good month, let us all return to true Islamic teachings and practices and not be influenced by wastefulness and guile.
Let it be known that Ramadan is a sacred month among all other months and Allah SWT wants all his followers to fulfil the month with obedience and taqarrub to Allah SWT. The continuous satiety of an individual’s life will fulfil and enhance the soul with obstinacy and extremity. We hope that Ramadan will help develop loving and caring Muslims.
In conclusion, please think about thorough consumption of food of your daily diet either in Ramadan or normal days. Proper cosumption including give to poor or needy people is the best amongst any sadqa (charity)