Come Ramadan, I panic. I panic, first, about the rising prices of essential food items, and secondly, about how consumers waste food during this holy period.
As far as I have seen in the last 52 years, we Bengali Muslims squander a massive amount of food every day.
Our attitude to waste food has worsened since an iftar culture was nationally introduced by a head of state during the mid-80s.
Although we tend to squander and waste in almost everything we do, wasting food is more noticeable, and it’s quite difficult to accept that, being a Muslim-majority society, we don’t think twice about this.
The Muslim scriptures clearly mention not to waste anything. As far as I could interpret, the purpose is to restrain oneself from all kinds of extravagant activity. It’s not only that we stay unfed all day, we also need to be very careful about restraining ourselves when we are breaking our fast.
That we refrain ourselves from all kinds of squandering is not only to be practiced during the day, but also when and after we break our fast.
I believe the teaching of Ramadan is to become discreet and wise while spending. Wise spending is the way to sustainability.
The teaching of Ramadan tells me to use our wealth sustainably so that it can feed all mankind. As far as I have read from the Islamic scriptures and the advice of the Prophet, I could fathom that one has to show control over oneself about not wasting any food and wealth.
They taught me that we should share our food with those who don’t have any. We should also share wealth with the poor to balance out wealth in society.
Unfortunately, what we see is the exact opposite. I firmly believe that the amount of food that we collectively waste during our iftars would be enough to feed the poor of the country.
We buy what we cannot even eat. That’s sheer unsustainability.
Come Ramadan, according to media coverage, the rates of bribery in important offices increase. We see many so-called “pious” Muslims engaged in this practice. That’s not the true spirit of Ramadan.
On the contrary, our greed during this month increases. We talk about the spirit of Ramadan and we look at the people who don’t fast with contempt, but it is us who get ourselves engaged in all sorts of acts that go against the teachings of Ramadan.
That’s sheer hypocrisy. Those of us who squander, engage ourselves in corruption, and get impatient with others should stop taking pride in fasting.
I think people who don’t fast but don’t waste food and are honest are far better human beings than the ones who don’t give a damn about the spirit of Ramadan.
We should also mention how we sell impure food on the occasion of Ramadan. We do sell poor quality food all the time but, during this month, the vigour with which we sell rotten and sub-standard food multiplies.
It is as though we have been waiting for 11 months in order to make money during Ramadan. The real teaching of Ramadan says otherwise.
Oh, how impatient we are! Our Ramadan business outlook seems to suggest that God has created this month for us to make money by any means possible.
Talking about impatience reminds me about our behaviour while driving vehicles.
Everyone has to be the first to pass through, leaving no room for others.
So, when everyone tries to do this at the same time, there’s a deadlock.
I see the chauffeurs fighting each other almost every day. Although this is our normal practice, the impulse to fight one another increases during Ramadan.
I don’t think we truly follow the spirit of Ramadan, even if we say that we do. We need to learn about this spirit rather than just follow tradition.
First published in Dhaka Tribune.
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