One of the puzzles I've never been able to answer throughout my 8 years in the Gulf, is that during this one month of Ramadan, the sales of food items increases phenomenally throughout the GCC region - despite the fact that this month is supposed to be the fasting month! What could be the reason? More influx of foreigners to expereience Ramadan? Food offered to more poor and hungry people during this period (who are otherwise ignored throughout the year)? Or is it that more Muslims congregate in GCC countries to experience Ramadan closer to the place of birth of Islam? Or is it that people tend to waste more food more often?
Any statistical insight available from any of the contributors on this forum?
One of my Muslim Friends sent me a very thought provoking piece on the Spirit of Ramadan, which I wish to share with all bloggers contributing to this forum. Many of the Muslim brethren would already be aware of what's mentioned here. Nevertheless, no harm in repeating good words :) :)
I'm reproducing the full article from my mailbox (Thanks AH!!):
Fasting in Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, is generally taught with ritual precision: abstaining from food, drink and intimate relations from dawn to dusk. Ironically, Ramadan is best known,whether by Muslims or others the world over for its exotic culinary delicacies.
Ramadan, however, has nothing to do with feasting. The spirit and intent of Ramadan lies in a human transformation, with hunger and thirst being merely the first stage, the external dimension, in a month-long inner journey of struggle and discovery.
For starters, fasting is not solely about hunger and thirst. The prophet taught that God has no need for the hunger and thirst of someone who hurts others, violates their dignity or usurps their rights. The fasting of the stomach must be matched by the fasting of the limbs.The eyes, ears, tongue, hands and feet all have their respective fasts to undergo. The tongues temptations, for example - lies, backbiting, slander, vulgarity and senseless argumentation - must be challenged and curbed to maintain the integrity of the fast.
Consciousness of behavior and vigilance over action are meant to lead to the most profound dimension of fasting: the fasting of the heart in focus on, and attachment to, the divine. It is then that Ramadan really becomes a source of peace and solace.
Fasting is meant to impart a sense of what it means to be truly human.
We are more than the sum of our parts, more than mere material creatures or a series of conditioned responses. Different traditions have different names for it - soul, spirit, heart - but almost all argue that we possess an essence beyond our physical body. It is perhaps this recognition that accounts for the fact that fasting is a common practice in other faith traditions.
True fasting is self-purification and, from this, a rich inner life embellished with values such as justice, generosity, patience, kindness forgiveness, mercy and empathy - values that are indispensable, especially mercy and empathy, to communal life as we know it.
The world has shrunk but so, it seems, has our empathy for one another.
Perhaps we should ask why is it so difficult to connect with others?
One reason is that knowing about hunger is different from knowing hunger. Empathy is not an intellectual equation; it is a human experience. In our ivory towers, we are typically spectators to the human drama around us. Our hardness of heart often springs from our distance from the human condition of others. The poor, sick, disenfranchised, oppressed - we have rarely walked a mile in their shoes, or even just a few footsteps. "Rest assured," cautioned one teacher, "if you do not taste what it feels like to be hungry, you will not care for those who are."
That 1.2 billion Muslims are fasting concurrently speaks to the universality of fasting in transcending the barriers of geography, colour and race. For fasting to be truly universal, however, its benefits must extend beyond the fraternal ties of Muslims and must extend to forging a common humanity with others. Each one of us must look within.
As an abrupt break in our annual routine, Ramadan will come and go with such stealth that we cannot but be reminded of our mortality. What is it that we value and why? The food and drink, previously indulged in with a sense of necessity, even urgency, were reduced with no dire consequence. Habits, customs, obsessive behaviours like smoking, too, were curtailed with relative ease in the face of a higher calling. What does it mean to be a global citizen? How much of me is really an algorithm of consumption?
Though the annual ritual of fasting takes 30 days, its true destination is endless.
May we always have hunger to discover our heart!