by Mack Zulkifli of Brand New Malaysian (http://www.brandmalaysia.com/) Originally posted on October 26, 2005
Something happened to me recently, which set a few of my friends to put aside their routine to come visit me. As it happens, most of them came during the day, and while I am fasting, those of not my faith were not. When I offered them refreshments, they looked alarmed and asked if I was not fasting.
My reply was always the same. “I am fasting, but you are not.”
I feel it would be very rude of me to deny them any refreshment, as it seemed like a pretty hot and humid afternoon, and they probably would have been driving for some time to reach my place. What sort of a host would I be?
I even made a friend of mine burgers. Did I feel like having one myself. I bloody well did, to be honest. I love those things and there’s always a pack in my freezer, waiting for me to flip them on a hot plate enroute to my tummy.
But that’s not the point.
A question of respect?
I have thoughtful colleagues and friends who respect the fact that I am fasting, and refrain from eating and drinking in front of me. Don’t get me wrong, for this they have my sincere appreciation. More than that, they have my admiration for being the kind souls they are.
However, sometimes they might forget. Like what happened recently.
I was in a friends office during lunchtime, playing chess. It gets boring in the afternoon, and I needed something to keep my mind sharp. As he humoured me with a game, his colleague came back with a Mickey D value meal. As he was probably thinking about his next move, he slipped open the packing and munched on his Big Mac (the burger, not me.)
I did not think much of it. We continued our game of chess until I had to rush off for an appointment.
As I reached the exit, a malay friend of mine tapped me on the shoulder. He remarked what an ass my friend was for eating in the office, in front of other Muslim staff who were fasting. He demanded to know why I had not said anything, as he was my friend. I shrugged and left, late as I was for a meeting.
As I sat in the car, I thought about it. Why must we be insulted by the sight of another person eating? It’s his right. He did not steal our money to buy his burger in the first place, did he? All he did was have his lunch, at his work cubicle and for what it’s worth, he probably did not give it much of a thought, so engrossed was he in the game against what must be at least a small-time grandmaster and high wizard of the chequered boards. (Incidentally, that would be me.)
Look at it this way. We are supposed to understand what it means to not have what we take for granted normally, during Ramadhan, and that includes food. Put ourselves in the place of a person who cannot afford a Big Mac, let alone basic food as sustanence. At one time or another, he might be in the company of a person who is munching down a Big Mac. How would he feel?
Instead of ranting about how said person was being disrespectful, we should reflect on how people who have not lives side by side with the haves of this world.
How these would like a decent home, but live in a shack while working as a gardener in a sprawling estate, whose guard house is probably bigger than his home.
How a person who has to take the bus to work, sometimes in the pouring rain, has to clean the Mercedes of his boss in the morning, before he drives him to work.
You get my point.
Respect is given, and seldom gotten by asking
So the non-muslims around us respect us enough not to eat in our presence during fasting month. Do we. at the end of it all, just spare a second to thank them for it? Perhaps not.
Yet, irregardless if it was intentional or otherwise, should they eat in front of us, why do we reserve the right to chastise them. It’s their right. They do not owe it to us to go hungry, just because our religion dictates that we cannot eat at that time. Why impose on them? Why bitch about it. If we do, I think my Muslim breathrens have completely missed the point of Ramadhan.
Life must go on as usual. Fasting should never be a reason to inconvenience others, and whatever comes our way, we should take it within our stride and with humility. In fact, that should be the case all the time. That’s one of the reason we fast, for realisation. It’s not merely not eating, drinking, smoking and shagging (amongst other things.)
It is a time for self exploration. Let’s explore with an open mind.
Eat, drink and be merry
Coming from a Mamak household, my grandfather taught me that we should always make our guests leave feeling like they had a wonderful time visiting us. Whenever I entertain guests, it’s all about making them enjoy the hospitality of my humble abode, and my company. Eat, drink and be merry. While I tone that down during Ramadhan, I cannot see myself denying them a drink to quench their thirst, or a small bite for their kids (and themselves too) should hunger pangs strike.
They need not even ask, for knowing them, they would never do so. However, I feel for them. It’s hot and they took the trouble to drive in the hot sun to visit me. I owe it to them.
Ramadhan should not disrupt the lives of those around us. It should not even disrupt ours. We fast because we want to enrich our lives, in thankful gratitude for what we have.
I might not know a lot, but this Ramadhan, I know I am learning quite a bit.