“And eat and drink, but waste not in extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes not those who waste in extravagance” [Qur’an 7:31]
During one recent Ramadhan in Saudi Arabia, the huge lobby of a hotel had been laid out with tables all set for iftar (the breaking of the fast). Then the thing went on and yet there was no feeling of satisfaction, peace, or fulfillment at all. People simply ate. I asked myself, have these people really been fasting? A certain friend later told me that many of them had not, although they still went through the motions of iftar every evening.
I grew up in an extended family; and I had come to accept the sanctity of this moment, as our families gathered and praised Allah by tasting all together His bounties after a long day of abstinence and struggle in Allah’s Way. There was always a feeling of holiness about these moments, for those waiting quietly for the iftar, as well as for those performing the iftar itself, and thereafter performing our congregational Maghrib, Isha’ and the special Tarawih prayers.
The mosques had often been broadcasting Qur’anic recitation for ten or fifteen minutes, which also added to the sublimity of that moment when the call-to-prayer first came to announce the end of fasting for the day. There was really nothing like this experience in any other culture or experience of my being, and I came to cherish the iftar among my family and university friends in those earlier days.
Of late and here in Malaysia, the iftar has become so commercialized and secularized, and the families – and yes, especially the ‘modern’ parents of the families – have become so lazy, (or occupied with the jobs they insist they need) that many families wish to reward themselves with a hotel iftar at the end of the day.
And yet what is wrong here? How much do the hotels take in from all these people who cannot even go home to praise Allah SWT as a family unit? More than that, what is the spiritual NATURE of the food they eat in these hotel lobbies? Such food is not MEANT for anyone in particular. It carries no blessing for mother’s family. It carries no love for the children, helping to hold that family together or to keep the family intact and faithful. Regretfully, it is part of the increasing cold-heartedness of certain segments of our Malay-Muslim society, who are so spoiled that they come and go to Makkah and Madinah as if on a minor holiday, and they love to have a grand “feed” at Maghrib time among hundreds of other people in public whom they don’t even know.
Could this possibly have been part of Islam, which we claim to value and follow? And where is the dialectic or debate in the matter? Is ANYONE questioning the suitability of the hotel extravagant “buka puasa feast”? Is ANYONE questioning the spiritual purity of eating food that has the characteristics which are very much against the true spirit of Ramadhan?
Soon enough, perhaps, we Malays will end up like some of our brethren who observe the Ramadhan fast by not letting anyone SEE you eating or drinking during the day. And then the iftar is demonized beyond recognition, having been filled with the meaning of the worst sort of hypocrisy. Perhaps this is the “end of the road” of the hotel iftar‘s we see now, a meaningless “show off” of disposable wealth, with all the features of public display of our western capitalistic accumulation.
Search your souls, mothers and fathers. Is THIS what you want your children to learn and follow when they have their own families? Is THIS what Prophet Muhammad (may Peace and Blessings be upon him) intended by his loving teaching that we should perform our Ibadah as we see him performing his?
2 Ramadhan 1431H|Pinggiran Putrajaya