“How many of us are really able to experience and benefit from the blessings of the blessed month? Where is the Ramadan Spirit?” Saleh Al-Shaibany, an Oman-based writer asks in his article in a local paper of Dubai. He states: “It is another Ramadan and Muslims around the world reflect on their achievements in the past twelve months. It is the month of blessings for the people with the right attitude. Let me elaborate, some people go through the ritual of fasting in a mechanized manner. They just go along with it without really believing in the month and they say ‘Ramadan Kareem’ when they don’t really mean it. There are also who take advantage of the month. One of the many blessings of the month includes short working hours, loan repayment waivers and abundance of charity. The unscrupulous see the blessings as special perks that they can take advantage of. Employees go to their offices later than usual saying that they spent the small hours of the night ‘praying’ when they were really watching late movies. Beggars knock doors asking for charity when they don’t deserve it and businessmen work out deceitful schemes to increase sales.”

Saleh Al-Shaibany continues. “I was standing behind a man enquiring about the price of meat in a leading supermarket in Muscat in the first day of Ramadan. There was a shock on his face when he was told that meat had increased by twenty percent in the last 24 hours. Insurance and transport costs have gone up”, he was told. The story states further. “The butcher did not fool anyone. Live animals are shipped into the country a month before Ramadan and there was no reason for the meat price to soar from the same stock. What about fruits and vegetables, which are grown in the country? One thing is for sure. Farmers and fishermen do not make anything extra but shop owners turn Ramadan into a cash bonanza. The silent business slogan is that if you stay hungry the whole day then you must eat in the evening. Then you must pay the asking price. You are left with no choice but to wonder, where is the spirit of Ramadan?”

The writer confides in a personal experience, his feelings. “When I was a young engineer at the airport, I caught my senior supervisor eating in his office during the day. He grabbed me by my throat and for a moment, I thought I was never going to celebrate Eid. He thought he had locked the door and was secure in his own little world of deceit. ‘You breathe this to anyone’, he snarled and sprayed my face with fish curry as he spoke, ‘then you can forget about your promotion!’ I did not expose him, partly because he was writing my annual report and for the reason that it was not my business. Many people like him go back home from work and pretend they are fasting. They would also sit with their families during Iftar just to go along with the rituals. The outrageous thing is that they would celebrate Eid unashamedly and pray aloud for God to spare them so they could ‘fast’ another Ramadan next year. The good news is that people like my old supervisor are in a minority. The bad news is, their behaviour tends to corrupt others, specially youngsters. However, we can take comfort from the fact that the majority is sincere.”

The concerned text concludes, thus. “Fasting is not about staying hungry and thirsty but it is about renewing your faith. It is also about believing, and without belief we are like an empty shell that crumbles from the weakest of sources. When you pass the test of fasting in the day, you would have the luxury to look at yourself in the mirror with greater confidence in the night. You would know that the person with a faith that stares back is no cheat. With that realization, you can walk the streets and say, ‘Ramadan Kareem’ without any guilt.”

I think, Saleh Al-Shaibany’s article with honesty gets close enough to social-wisdom. Among the unspecified infirmities in a human character, he exposes a few, through his rousing observations. Supporting him, I will say: Let us roam a little more! Let us sieve a little more! We are bound to detect these weaknesses in people all around the world. Often, mislead by our own errors, the tricks we mortals can play, on ourselves, become grave hindrances for our own advancement. We are falling on the ground, yet, we cannot see it. Alas! This by itself is a major frailty keeping us away from the path of self-realization.

For the sharp and cutting mind, the question is: so, then, where is the cure? The simple quickest way would be to go into – INTROSPECTION. The implicit function of introspection, in huge parts, is to contemplate, fix and repair our faults; find the cracks of defects, study the scope of overcoming our faults. Sooner or later, this repeated exercise will give the advantage of turning us into good self-instructors. Stratums of development will naturally programme us to extend the virtuous significance of the holy month of Ramadan in blessing all our 365 days of the year. Ramadan Kareem to one and all.

Geeta Chhabra

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