Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ramadan in Gulf Countries

‘On Sep 16th 2008, a salesman and a female visitor who publicly drank juice during daytime in Ramadan were each fined Dh1000 for breaking article 313 of the Federal Penal Code of the UAE.

A Public Prosecution source explained that eating or drinking in public before sunset during Ramadan is classified as a crime, which offends religious faith and rituals. "

The punishment against such a crime is a maximum one month imprisonment or a maximum Dh2,000 fine... it depends on the judge's discretion," said the source.

An Arab witness, identified as T., spotted the couple drinking juice in a station. He reported them to the police, who referred the duo to court.’

That was a news report on Gulf News, a leading newspaper in the UAE.

Saudi law goes to the extent of terminating work contracts and deporting the Ramadan law violators. All this because they believe that Non-Muslim residents must respect Muslims' feelings by refraining from eating, drinking or smoking in public places, in the streets and in workplaces.

During Ramadan, in all the Gulf countries, restaurants are closed during the day time. They cannot serve food, only supply take-away parcels that people eat in closed rooms. The only exception to this rule are the best and the most expensive hotels that house the VVIPs who pay a fortune.

Ramadan is the holy month for muslims when they’re supposed to self-abnegate, introspect, lead a simple life – renouncing their indulgences – and observe a month long fast wherein they’re not supposed to eat or drink between sunrise and sunset.

Gulf countries observe the month with a lot of fervour and faith. In these Islamic countries, the government enforces a strict observance of these fasts through an honest police, an efficient legal system and religious zealotry of the citizens.

However, these countries have grossly misunderstood the spiritual commandments. Shouldn’t fasting be a call from within rather than be enforced from without by the government, the police or the legal framework? Shouldn’t fasting be a free choice over a coerced and pompous ban on eating and drinking outdoors lest you tempt those who observe the fast? And wouldn’t a fast that is ‘truly’ a divine inspiration from within be impervious to the temptations from the display of foods which is banned to cover for the imperfections in the self-control of the fasting people? Only a vacuous and shallow law can force the non-muslims to not eat or drink in public. A truly spiritual call doesn’t need collusion with the governments, the threat of imprisonment or monetary fine for its observance. A true fast would not want to control the external display of foods or drinks much less control the behaviour of another person only to bask in the false glory of a strict observance of fast. An honest introspection would command controlling oneself before controlling others. True spirituality should be a free choice. In the absence of that choice, there is no spirituality. Sadly, in the enforcement through the law, they cheat the spirit of the fast; in punishing the law breakers, they kill their own spirituality. Spirituality is no slave to any law and yet the misinterpretation of the same necessitates a law to begin with. The non-believers (Kafirs) are made to suffer because of the imperfection in their own self control.

If you want to see a more free and unforced environment of fast observance then visit India. I want to stick my neck out and say that the fasts of those Indian muslims are much purer than the pompous fasts observed in the middle east.

In the open streets of India,
my Ramadan fasts are truly tested.
In the enticing display of sweets at shops,
my tongue is tested.
In the heat, dust and non AC ambience,
my perseverance is tested.
In my donations despite poverty,
my sacrifice is tested.
In the people eating around me,
my determination is tested.
In my not forcing heathens to stop eating,
my self-control is tested.
In my acceptance of this difference,
my spirituality is tested.