Thursday, 1 August 2013

FIRST PERSON: A FEAST WHICH FOLLOWS A FAST IS NOT IN SPIRIT

Manzoor Moghal has written the First Person column in today's Leicester Mercury:


A feast which follows a fast is not in spirit
The month of Ramadan is once again upon us and Muslims everywhere are fasting. It is obligatory for Muslims to fast during this month, as laid down in the Qu'ran, and they refrain from food, drink and tobacco from dawn to sunset, which at this time of year would be an average of 19 hours a day in Britain.
Before the advent of Islam, fasting was also prescribed for other religions but, with the passage of time, their fasting practices became truncated, distorted and were tailored to the convenience of their followers, with the result that the whole concept of fasting in these religions became totally corrupted.
In one of these religions, a whole month designated for fasting allows its people to eat and drink everything except cooked food and a few other items during the fasting period from morning to evening.In another religion where fasting stretches beyond 30 days, its adherents have to give up one item of their daily favourite food, while allowing them to eat and drink everything else at any time.
In yet another religion, two separate fasting days are extended to 24 hours of total refrain from any eating or drinking, and it has four other days which are somewhat similar to the Islamic way of fasting.
Other minor faiths have some variations, but none of these are anywhere near the Muslim way, which has remained in its pristine purity since its inception some 1,400 years ago.
However, there is a worrying trend which has recently crept into the Islamic way of fasting and it has begun to undermine both the spirit and the letter of fasting.
The time of breaking the Muslim fast at sunset is called iftar, and Muslims do this generally by eating a couple of dates and drinking tea or a glass of milk or water, followed by the fourth obligatory prayer of the day called maghrib.
After this, they disburse to their homes where they eat a modest meal before they go into the long night prayers at their mosques.
Unfortunately, the breaking of the fast time iftar is being turned into feasting by well-heeled Muslims – and it is becoming fashionable practice among many Muslims in some countries, including Britain.
Arab Muslims in the Middle East gorge themselves routinely with large quantities of food every evening after breaking their fast, and Muslims in places such as Pakistan have big iftar parties in restaurants, hotels and community centres.
Of late, a national Muslim organisation is encouraging Muslims in Britain to organise such iftar parties, inviting non-Muslims to participate in order to socialise and promote better understanding between different faiths.
The month of Ramadan is for fasting and not feasting!
Manzoor Moghal is an author and social commentator

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