On August 14, 2011, LiveDeen conducted a lectureshop at Marriot Hotel, Karachi, with their main lecture by Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Phillips, followed by a Q&A session, on the topic “Ramadhan Scriptual vs Cultural”. I felt that the topic was wisely chosen because we are too much driven and defined by the traditional/cultural perspective of fasting and ignore its true essence.

Lecture

The first thing he cleared up was the mind set of fasting. It’s not just a ritual where you turn on your fasting mode when Ramadan comes and switch it off when it ends, but that it is also a mind set that we should continue that spirit of God-consciousness through out the year.

He also pointed out to look at the goal of fasting. Often, we go so deep into the details that we loose sight of the bigger picture. We are always stuck “fasting is to abstain oneself from food, drink and sexual relations between spouses”. That is true but the goal that we must try to understand is that while fasting in Ramadan if we are willing to give up things that are made Halal(allowed) for the rest of the year, only for the sake of Allah, then it should be easier for us to avoid the Haram (forbidden).

The topic though was very vast, he only elaborated on only one part of it, i.e. “Ramadan is about fasting NOT feasting”. He explained that our primary focus (in many countries) is on feasting not fasting. How can that be? Because there are special dishes that are only made in Ramadan! And this is prevalent in every Muslim community. It reminded me of P-heni made specially in Ramadan and those Suhoor and Iftaar deals on almost all restaurants specially “All you can eat” deals. Nowadays, people (in general) “live to eat” instead of “eat to live”. That is further supported by WHO’s survey which stated that,

 Overweight and obesity are linked to more deaths worldwide than underweight. For example, 65% of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kill more people than underweight (this includes all high-income and most middle-income countries).1

“Cultural fast is like an animal fast”, he said. “Animals feast till they are full”, and same is true for us. Our test starts at Suhoor where instead of taking a light meal, we start off with a 3 meal course! The process of digesting takes around 12 hours and our stomach is just about to end its process, when we break fast and fill it up once again. This process continues the whole month. And people rather of losing weight in Ramadan, gain more weight! The purpose of fasting is already defeated!

Towards the end, he reminded to take Ramadan as a vehicle to Paradise and stressed that it can only be done if we “drive it the way Prophet(SAW) taught in Sunnah”.

IOU Promotion

Alhamdulillah, Islamic Online University was also promoted by the Shaykh himself, and by the volunteers present. Here are some photos:

You can get more information about upcoming seminars by LiveDeen here.

For more informarion about Islamic Online Univeristy please visit IslamicOnlineUniversity.com

References:

  1. “Obesity and overweight”, [online] Available at : http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/

3 thoughts on “Ramadhan Scriptual vs Cultural and IOU

  1. That’s right indeed… Ramadan is about the spiritual development. Eating well is not a big deal, but when eating and celebrating overrules the spiritual side it becomes an excess and Islam teaches balance.

    The difference between culture and religion is important to clarify to young people and adults alike. For young people it’s even more important as they start to develop their own identity. For them it’s important to learn that culture means habits, traditions, values and rules a group of people share that are not necessarily revealed by Allah while Islam means habits, traditions, values and rules a group of people share that are revealed by Allah in the Qur’an or in the Soennah of His Messenger (saw). It’s also important that we do value culture as Allah has made us into tribes and nations, so that we get to know each other’s different habits and traditions. However, when culture goes against Islam, religion is ought to be followed.

    I also think it’s important to help others reflect on culture and habits that may not do right to Islam or may be improved. People who cook big meals and feast instead of fast, can do it with a good intention. Scolding or mocking them will not help. However, asking them if this is what the meaning and spirit of Ramadan is, can help them. This is also a good way to do Dawah.

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