Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ramadan reminder

Muslims will do without food and drink from dawn to dusk during Ramadan, but after a day of fasting, they will want something refreshing to quench their thirst and good to eat.

When people have been starving all day long, they expect cooling drinks and tasty food at the breaking of fast which takes place just after sunset.

Watermelon juice is a popular thirst quencher for breaking fast.
A long menu of Malaysian delicacies such as bubur lambuk (savoury porridge especially prepared for Ramadan), mee rebus (noodles with thick gravy), the various types of soups, piping hot rice eaten with ikan bakar (grilled fish), sambal tempoyak (fermented durian condiment) and ulam (local raw greens) are usually hot items on the buka puasa (which means breaking of fast in Malay or iftar in some cultures) table while the best-liked thirst quenchers include cold sirap bandung (a concoction of syrup water and evaporated milk), coconut water and watermelon juice.

Mosques and suraus (places of worship in residential areas) throughout Malaysia undertake to cook huge quantities of bubur lambuk which is distributed to families living nearby everyday of the month.

Mee rebus is my preferred comfort food.  
Apart from drinking and eating, Muslims are also required to refrain from smoking, idle gossip, bad behaviour and sexual contact during daylight.

There are only two meals during the fasting month: the first is taken at sahur, which is just before dawn, and the second at berbuka puasa or the breaking of fast.

Preparing food for the breaking of fast is a major activity during Ramadan, and yet that is NOT the most significant ritual of Islam's holiest month.

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables will boost your energy.
More importantly, Ramadan calls on believers to spend more time in prayer and religious contemplation.

A month of prayer and contemplation! Why is that necessary?  Muslims must do this if they want to receive the light of Ramadan, a religious teacher often tells me.

That means praying five times a day and more. In addition to the obligatory prayers, supplementary prayers are encouraged besides reciting the entire Quran at least once during the month, performing the Dhikr (Remembrance of God) and giving alms to the needy, among others.

Carrying out the extra devotions usually takes believers well into the small hours.

The result is a lightness that only practitioners understand.

I am writing this post to remind myself that Ramadan is essentially a period of self-restraint and NOT TOO MUCH about hearty meals and NOT AT ALL about merrymaking.

Good bread and dip. I like this a lot.
The act of abstaining from meals reminds Muslims of the poor for whom going without drink and food is a daily occurrence. For people living in poverty, hunger is part of everday life.

Charity, generosity and kindness are in order.

Do we look in on our elderly neighbour whose children have long vanished? Do we make an effort to visit our elderly relatives who live in another town? Are we aware that our aging parents miss us?

Elderly people easily become socially isolated and they are fearful of being abandoned by their loved ones.

Newspaper reports confirm this; many aged parents were deserted by their children. That is a scary scenario.
 
Ramadan is also an excellent time to strengthen feelings of friendship between people especially family members and friends -- Muslims and non-Muslims. This is particularly useful for those who have not met in a while.

Drink plenty of warm water after breaking fast.
The breaking of fast is a suitable occasion for bringing Muslims together. The simple ritual has grown into small and large gatherings of amity between relatives, friends, colleagues and neighbours, who are members of the same mosques or suraus.

Is the basic meal of dates and a favourite beverage followed by comfort food at home a thing of the past for many urbanites?

Do city dwellers prefer Ramadan buffets with the sumptuous spread of dishes from around the globe offered by small and big hotels?

Apparently so. You have to book early to avoid disappointment. For many corporations Ramadan buffets are perfect for informal meetings with staff and business associates.

For that reason you see Muslims and non-Muslims mingling happily during breaking of fast.

That is indeed a wonderful sight.

Still, the emphasis on food and the commercialisation of Ramadan (many hotels in Malaysia are taking advantage of the fasting month to make money by charging ridiculous prices for Ramadan buffets) can negate the good intentions of believers.

They do not want to become blind to the true purpose of Ramadan which begins tomorrow in Malaysia.

Selamat berpuasa to Muslims throughout the world!

1 comment:

justmytwocents said...

This is another sad area where Ramadan is treated with a completely wrong perspective. As you pointed out, there is nothing wrong with having a nice iftar with a group of friends and families as it strengthen bonds but why does it have to burn your wallet? Why not, for a change, if you really have all that money and won't frown paying over RM 100 per person for a Ramadan buffet which looks very tempting but right after finishing your second helping you feel as full as a stuffed phyton, use all that extra money to help those in need. Do your old parents need a new roof to replace the leaking one? Do you mind buying your young relatives new school uniforms when you know their parents can't even afford a new pair of shoes? When you start looking around and realize there are hungrier mouths to feed than yours, maybe that will cause a change in thinking which hopefully leads to a change in behaviour.