In mosques all over the country, at the time of breaking the fast, a festival of food is being served. This year, Muslim Americans will spend close to $10 million on feeding those who are already fed. On an average each mosque will spend some where between $500 to $2000 daily to serve food and beverages. Of the food that is being served, a large amount is being wasted as the believers will have no appetite to consume after filling their plates thrice the size of their normal diet. It is a different thing that every evening while listening to the Quran in taraweeh prayers, they would marvel at the words of the God that inspires us not to waste and overspend.
Ramadan has become a month of parties and food and not many are willing to challenge that concept of raveling specially when more than half of the Muslim world sleeps hungry and more than 40 percent of the world does not have a decent meal.
Imagine, if the $10 million being spent on Ramadan food is used to pay off the mortgages that many Mosques have, to finance the education of poor children, to build schools and to promote print or electronic media, how great an impact it would create on the social life of Muslims, yet few are willing to talk about it.
Ramadan to our prophet was a month of simplicity. He would break his fast with half a date and water or a glass of milk if he could get one. Eating meat was a luxury. Eating a full meal was unthinkable. Much emphasis was placed on reflections, self improvement and personality growth. Under his leadership, his companions would form circles to ponder on the ayas of the Quran. They would spread out in the streets of Medina to ensure that people do not sleep hungry and children are fed properly. They would invite people to read the divine message and think on the verses of the Quran and each would try to surpass the other in acts of generosity. They would ensure that their prayers are regular and they do not miss obligatory prayers in the Mosque. It was the simplicity that marked Ramadan during the life time of the Prophet.
Simplicity is far from anything that you would see in our mosques during the iftar today. The irony is that some people will even forego the obligatory prayers as it would interfere with their food. In many places one can see people fighting with each other over getting the best portion of the meat. If they do not find what they are looking for, they would even curse the organizers. They would even complain if the food is not of their taste. This is of course not the norm but ask any Mosque organizer and they will attest that this does happen.
Ramadan was meant to inspire in us the feeling of caring and sharing. It was meant to create discipline among us. But far from it, the iftar gathering in our Mosques have become a big embarrassment.
Ramadan is meant to motivate us to sacrifice for others. It is meant to purify us from our weakness. We are often told that that by fasting, we feel the pain of hunger and thirst of millions of less fortunate people. The purpose was that we would give preference to the needs of the poor over our needs. Yet, during the month, many of us pay little attention to the poor and needy. Very few Mosques in the country make any systematic effort to identify those who are unable to afford a decent meal and then serve them quietly.
Can we return to the simplicity of the Prophet? We can if our teachers, scholars and all people of conscious start taking a stand on this issue. Unfortunately, we are all promoting this extravaganza by being a part of it and approving of it and congratulating the hosts for adding so many dishes on the menu.
Let's try to set an example by focusing on personal growth and serving the needy and the poor from our homes and our Mosques. Let's feed the homeless of our city every day of the month of fasting. This will require a greater personal sacrifice then just abstaining from food and drink all day and only those will be ready to do this, who are willing to follow in the footsteps of our beloved Prophet.
Dr. Aslam Abdullah is Editor-in-Chief of the Muslim Observer, director of the Islamic society of Nevada, Las Vegas and acting president of the Muslim Council of America, a Washington-based newly formed groups of Muslim activists.
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