Celebrating the true spirit of Ramadan

Ramadan this year is different because of the movement control order (MCO).

Families have learnt to spend time with one another, to rebuild relationships, cope with little contact with others, do without the excesses and manage with the bare necessities.

We have learnt to enjoy each other’s company, to appreciate nature better and breathe cleaner air, and when the lockdown is over, we will learn to value social contact with others.

Instead of keeping up with the Joneses and boasting that one has gone to a five-star hotel for a breaking of fast buffet which costs hundreds of ringgit, the true spirit of Ramadan will finally be celebrated.

The real reason we fast is to empathise with the poor, who cannot afford three square meals a day. It is also to curb our excesses and desires. In other words, it is about self-control. We are supposed to encourage clean thoughts and not be emotionally aggrieved or feel anger.

Many Muslims tend to forget that the breaking of fast is not a time to gorge or show off that one can afford a lavish meal.

In previous years, we read that officers from the state religious authorities patrolled the streets, checking restaurants and fast-food outlets, to catch Muslims who were eating.

It was a waste of resources and time. The officers would have been better employed if they had checked conditions in tahfiz schools and ensured that the children were treated with respect and not severely punished for minor antics like playing football instead of attending to their lessons.

Those who smoked in public suffered the same punishment – a fine or possibly worse – as those who ate in public.

So, what will the authorities do while people are working from home and have to practise social distancing? Surely they will not break into houses to check on an errant person?

Perhaps the authorities need to have more faith in individuals. A Muslim who practices his faith will do the right thing. If he does not, then he will be punished by God, in the afterlife.

There is little need to heap extra humiliation on him, by ridiculing him and questioning him in public, as was done in previous years.

Ramadan is also about spiritual cleansing. The lockdown reminds us that it is all right to pray on one’s own, or with one’s family, rather than in a large congregation.

Many people may feel lost this year because they cannot attend group Terawih prayers, but the lockdown will finally allow them to experience the real reasons behind fasting and prayer.

Although we are forced to practise social isolation, Muslims will finally be able to rediscover the true teachings of Ramadan, which is about the inner self and being closer to God.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

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