Bangladesh Slideshow

14 September, 2008

Month of Ramadan

This is the month of Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic year, and the holiest of months for Muslims. Ramadan ends with the festival of Eid ul-Fitr.

Ramadan is believed to be the month in which the Qur'an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad by Allah, via Angel Gabriel.

It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which Muslims do not eat or drink anything from dawn until sunset. Fasting is meant to teach one patience, sacrifice and humility. Those with severe health problems are exempt from fasting.

During Ramadan we ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance into the future, ask for help in refraining from everyday evils and try to purify ourselves through self-restraint and good deeds. Ramadan is also a time when Muslims focus on self-reformation, spiritual cleansing and enlightenment, establishing a link between ourselves and Allah through prayer, supplication, charity, kindness and good deeds.

Since Eid-ul-Fitr is a festival of giving and sharing, we buy gifts for family and friends and also for the poor and needy. We are required to pay the Zak’aat (Islamic tax) during this month. This can involve giving money to the less fortunate...

buying them new clothes...

and sharing Iftar (the meal to break the Fast) with them.

Sadly, Ramadan has become too commercialized nowadays. We fast, it is true, but our thoughts are on feasting. Kitchens are busy from noon onwards preparing item after item for Iftar – chana, lentil fritters (piyaju), aubergine fritters (beguni), jalebi, haleem, cucumber, puffed rice and dates are considered essentials. Not a very healthy diet on an empty stomach.

Every restaurant sells Iftar items, sometimes at exorbitant prices

and one would be hard pressed to find a table during the Iftar/dinner buffets.

Every street corner, from the most exclusive neighbourhood to the poorest of slums, has a makeshift Iftar stall.

Old Dhaka has the best Iftar in town.

But going there and coming back is a big hassle.

We all want to wear new clothes at Eid, and there are shops to cater for every budget and every taste. From designer boutiques selling the top global and local brands...

to the hawkers on the footpath.

We tried to buy the best gifts for our circle of family and friends.

A saarie and a kurta in different shades of green. And the jamdani that just begged to come home with me.

The men would look absoluetly dashing in their crisp white kurtas with intricate embroidery.

The favourite cousin visited the 'cool' stores for clothes, and got an Iftar treat at KFC.

And the blogging girl would be pretty in pink.
And blue... and a host of other colors...
And it is a sign of my maturity (finally?!) that I am putting photos of my Eid collection on a blog for the world to see, weeks ahead of Eid. As a child, I remember hiding Eid clothes in the deepest recesses of my Mother's locked almirah, for if anyone outside the family saw them, they wouldn't be 'new' anymore, you know.

Prices of every essential commodity also soars during this month, despite efforts by the government to keep prices in check. For the affluent, this presents no problem, but for the low-waged workers who are hard pressed to make ends meet during normal times, Ramadan’s ever escalating prices, plus family expectations for new clothes, create a severe burden.

Islam however, is a very egalitarian religion. Apart from general charity, Islam has made compulsory a tax on one's wealth, known as Zak’aat, to be spent on the welfare of the disadvantaged. Zak’aat is one of the five pillars of Islam and consists of giving a specified fraction of one's wealth every year. Paying Zak’aat is a religious duty - given out of obedience to Allah and sympathy for people. However, things given in charity must have been earned or acquired lawfully by the person giving them away.

If eligible people of Bangladesh all paid their Zak’aat properly, and there was a properly managed Zak'aat fund, we would perhaps no longer have such high levels of poverty.

No comments: