Today, ATP published this post of mine that attempts to look at some of the uncomfortable aspects of the way Holy month is practised by the believers. I have to state here that SA’s blog inspired me to write this, even though I am not half as qualified to comment on such issues.

“O you who believe, fasting is decreed for you, as it was decreed for those before you, that you may attain salvation.”Al Quran- [2:183]

“….in all fairness we need to be a little truthful particularly in the month when we need to take a closer look at our conduct. Each year, Ramzan generates much of the usual piety and loud proclamations about how the Satan is chained in this month and the doors of repentance are let open upon the believers. We have grown up internalizing these views and therefore a majority of Muslim population across the globe fasts and prays for Divine mercy.

Essentially this month is a time of cleansing one’s soul as well as the body. However, every Ramzan witnesses some distasteful activities by the believers that come hand in hand with the rituals of the holy month.

First, the consumerism: forget about the cleansing of the system “ there is an overemphasis on food when it should be the last item on our priorities. There are Iftaars galore and rich fatty foods are added to the diet like never before. A lavish Iftaar (across the board) is followed by a sumptuous dinner. There are Iftar packages everywhere from small stalls to five star hotels. And, the whole purpose of the exercise is somewhat undermined by the food-fest[s] indulged in by all and sundry.

A few words on the despicable behaviour of the profiteers and hoarders nowadays defined as the ultimate magic bullet  the market. This year the prices of basic staple diet atta reached the skies when a sack of wheat flour was sold at Rs 320-340 much higher than the fixed prices. Not content with this, there was an average increase of 10-11 per cent in all the food items. Now if this is the official statistic, then the actual figure is bound to be higher. I have no estimate but judging by stories in the media it was much much higher.

Imagine the poor of Pakistan who constitute 24-34 per cent of the total figure (depends on the measure and source one adopts). They have had a tough time this Ramzan. And, then all this piety and repentance? The Federal Bureau of Statistics has reported an increase of 12.61% increase was seen in the ratio of dearness for the low income group during this time in comparison to the last year.

I can even imagine that those benefiting from the hikes would give massive amounts of charity, offer all the prayers (perhaps more through the nawaafil) and think that they would wash away their crimes and misdemeanours. Indeed the ultimate arbiter and decision maker of their deeds is the Almighty but one cannot help notice the irony of this situation.

The spirit of Ramzan also stresses the redistributive aspect of Islamic practices. The giving of Zakat at the end of the month is also mandatory for Muslims. In the past a hash was made of the Zakat system put into place by the Zia regime where all these funds were diverted and used for political and strategic gains. This trend has been somewhat arrested but pilferage continues. And, I will not say more on the new status symbol of the elites  an Umra towards the end of the holy month “where hundreds and thousands of rupees are spent while a majority of poor put up the posters of Kaaba on their cracking walls.

Road rage is also another trend during the month and many a people think that fasting has to do with starvation “our speech and thoughts need to fast as well. Do they? Rumi rightly said:

Wash your hands and your mouth, neither eat nor speak; seek that speech and that morsel which has come to the silent ones.

There is much too much emphasis on the ritual and the spirit of our great religion is the real casualty of the way we practice religion in the land of the pure. About time someone explained the words Taqwa and Tazkia-e Nafs in their entirety. I end with these words.

There is more to be said here but may God forgive me for this rant. Perhaps I am also a victim of that impatience that I am supposed to contain.