Why I ‘fast’ but do not ‘feast’

What is really exhilarating about Ramadan is the abundance of food all around. What is disturbing is that it keeps circulating chiefly among the ‘have all’ and not the ‘havenots’. Sadly, those who follow the dictates of Allah in this Holy month and remain off from food and water even in the sternest of weather seem to feast after sunset as their religious duty. It makes one wonder, whether the new scientific finding- that 25-day at a stretch fasting is healthy holds any water here. Frugal eating during Ramadan is observed by very few. While all day the rozedaar shows extreme restraint, the lavish iftaar in the evening — from Korma, pulao, zarda, sheermal, nihari can put many a waistline to quiver in distress.

Now, this brings to another new aspect of Ramadan, the ‘iftaar parties’. I strongly object to the word iftaar parties. What is surprising is many Muslims organises iftaar parties to break their fast, which by all account is actually a very solemn and spiritual affair.

There is a certain sanctity attached to Ramadan fasting. You stay hungry and thirsty all day, fulfilling Allah’s raza (Will). Richest of the rich Muslims, who would have otherwise,never know what it is to experience hunger and thirst even observe fast. When you break your fast the aura of piety all pervades your soul. It is a spirituality that comes from doing what the Almighty wanted you to do, it is certainly not a ‘party’ feeling. While Islam believes in ‘community’ concept and eating together is certainly a way of creating bonds. Calling iftaar a ‘party’ is most objectionable and misleading.

Why do we have these sumptuous affairs at all? In the good old days, breaking of Ramadan fast was just iftaar, there was no ‘party’ attached to it. In fact, for iftaar, ‘iftaari’ used to be sent to different mosques, relatives and friends, comprised of basic eatables- dates, dahi phulki (pakoras in curd made with gramflour sans any onions or other vegetables) and chanas. This was welcome and the rozedaars would enjoy this in the comfort of their surroundings without having to make long journeys to home to ‘break fasts.’

This trend of sending iftaari is fast dwindling. People are now organising iftaars at home or hotels. This can be justified to an extent as it is generally done by relatives and friends so one gets the chance to meet and exchange pleasantries. What is trending now is the political and social iftaars. Politicians in their zeal to garner support and to increase their vote banks have been organising lavish iftaars in five-star hotels but, it is the socialites and businessmen who have scaled up this trend. One may find people putting invites on Facebook (FB). Needless to say that the iftaar parties offer perfect picture opportunity to social media lovers, splashing pictures all over FB and WhatsApp groups. They also get a chance to show off their designer pre- Eid attires and jewellery. You will find a lot of socialites preparing for these iftaars much in advance, in fact, many pay more attention to preparing themselves for these iftaar parties than for Eid.

Here, I will go as far as to add that these are totally ‘un-Islamic ‘as they blatantly violate the basic principle of charity where it is said that alms should be given in the manner where the right hand should not know what the left hand is doing. Islam promotes the kind of charity which is silent and which is done with dignity, and not for publicising one’s philanthropic deeds. I am all for the great gesture of distributing food and gifts to the less privileged, not just during Ramadan but, throughout the year. All religions preach ‘giving without publicity but, seems that this part is being totally ignored in the age of virtual world. Hope that this article will help curb this fake way of getting a notch higher on the social media ladder.