4 weird things that (apparently) invalidate the fast

Spending 3 important years of my life as a student in India gave me a new perspective on practicing my religion. There’s much that fills me with pride, and things that I believe are flash points for a burgeoning Muslim population in India.

While lies in the middle of the spectrum is humour. Many Muslims – and non-Muslims who have inquired about the traditions and rituals of Ramadan – gave away an innocent and naive understanding of the holy month. While I’m unaware of other societies harbouring similar beliefs, I rely on the consistency of my personal experience to cite India as a place where these things abound. It’s weird, but it’s hilarious!

Here are the top 4 (wrong) rulings that apparently invalidate your fast.

4 – pablo (2)

I know what you’re thinking. You’re trying to recollect all the moments you spent time with someone who was fasting, hoping he/she hadn’t followed this. I empathize with the intention here, but as long as you’re not deliberately trying to sneak in a few drops of water in, a cold shower is just that – refreshing!

3 –

pablo (3)

As a school kid, I saw a friend getting furious at other classmates spraying deodorant all over (yea, we got excited at the smallest things) citing that its fragrance would break his fast. This really infuriated me as it developed a wrong perception of Ramadan and ran this (mis)conception through a religious scholar. He confirmed that ‘smelling’ anything doesn’t affect the fast. I took a whiff of the ittar that the Imam was sporting[PS – Ramadan etiquette requires one to abstain from pronounced extravagance, like dousing oneself perfume and giving everyone a headache.]

2 –

pablo (5)

In an auto-rickshaw ride to the campus, my conversation with the driver drifted into Ramadan that had arrived the same week. The paraphernalia (spot for everything green and shiny) clearly suggested that he should ideally have been fasting. Explaining his reason of abstinence, he said, “Humare dhande mei gaali galoch bahut hoti hai. Toh Roza rakhne ka faayda nahi.” [In our line of business, using abusives and foul language is very common. Keeping the fast is of no use]

Quite funny, because fasting is about self-restraint and developing new habits. While using foul language is against the spirit of Ramadan, a religiously (punnn…) foul-mouthed person can use this month to overcome the hardness of his tongue.

1 – pablo (6)

This takes the cake (after Iftar). At first, I would be dumbstruck at the notion, after about 5 people asked me about this, I realised naivete related to Ramadan is viral. Saliva is a natural formation that lubricates the throat. And thanks to this, it actually allows us to complete our fast without invoking a Thar Desert feeling in our throat. I wonder if there’s anyone who reconciles fasting with this almost impossible requirement.

I’m sure these 4 things are but a mere snapshot of many more misconceptions. What only worries me is that these things can easily become excuses for ignoring the fast.

Have you come across other imaginative reasons that invalidate the fast in your culture? Share it with us in the comments below!

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Armchair Cleric

Mac

In an article I read in one of the dailies, I noticed another instance of capitalism making inroads into religion. While I don’t wish to be seen as a wannabe doomsayer, it could help to caution at the sight of bad idea germinating in someone’s mind. While instances of Ramadan becoming commercial are rife, these views came from ‘clerics’ in the region.

It was opined that working hours during Ramadan need not be reduced for those who work from enclosed offices as they are in an environment conducive to longer time of work even in fasting conditions (Islamic countries have reduced working hours for Muslims and Non-Muslims alike during the holy month). Clerics said productivity during Ramadan instead increases during the month, and the physical toil of salaried employees in offices was far less in comparison to the wage earners who work in the open. The article also carried financial figures to indicate the loss in revenue due to reduced hours.

While their justification may be right, and pointing out the exertion of outdoor workers to be more certainly is, they have missed one of the essential reasons for reduced hours. Infusing the articles with numerical measurement of loss accrued to organisation gets my frustration first, and then some sympathy if there’s any left.

One of the wisdoms for reduced hours of working during the month is that Muslims can spend more time in prayer and worship, or rest during the time to prepare for prayers they may be involved later in the day.

Working for the organisation’s goals is a commitment one lives by almost throughout the year and providing for some private and spiritual time for a month every year may in fact work in the organisation’s favour. Spiritually rejuvenated employee can hit the ground running by the end of Ramadan. Ramadan also is an opportunity to iron out the creases that blemish ones personality and an employee who makes the most of the extra time off can become a better team member.

The importance of strongly objecting to any ideas of regular times during Ramadan is to ensure that the clout of such clerical thought does not materialize into reality. It is not naive to say that anything lucrative and ‘profitable’ meets little resistance and is always ready to be implemented.

There are some things money cannot and should not buy. Some extra time spent in worship is certainly one of them.

Packaging Ramadan – ‘The Stream’ discussion on Al Jazeera on commercialism in Ramadan – (7:00 has my video comment on air and 13:10 carries my tweet discussion by the panel of the show)