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Ramadan: black, white & everything in between

Pitfalls of Ramadan

Another year rolls in, and the Muslim community gears up for a whole month of piety and self control before celebrating the biggest festival in our religion. Since this month brings about some major lifestyle changes for as long as it lasts, there are bound to be some traps one should worry about. Some of these problems are things that we can avoid, or change, others are situations that leave us helpless. However, since we believe that being forewarned is being forearmed, let's take a look at these pitfalls.

Water loss worries
Since fasting involves not eating or drinking for long periods of time, there's a huge risk of dehydration. Not only do we drink less water, but we also end up gorging on fried fatty foods during iftar, which exacerbates the problem. Added to that is the fact that the weather hasn't turned cold yet, so even if the days are short, we still have hours of crushing heat and humidity that makes us sweat, which leads to more water loss.

To compensate for the water that is lost during the day, one has to drink lots of fluids during and after iftar, and also during sehri. Fried and greasy foods should be avoided as far as possible. Instead, opt for fleshy fruits, tchola, sprouts, and soothing sherbet.

Unless you have a diabetes problem, you should also consider having a little extra sugar during sehri to prevent migraines and headaches that often occur during the fasting period as a result of glucose shortage.

The diner's dilemma
In the light of the food court's recent findings, it's better to avoid eating outside as far as possible. After a hard day's fasting, why would you want to eat something that could land you in the hospital or worse, right? Stick to nutritious homemade snacks instead.

The Ramadan period will also see an increase in traffic congestion, as everyone tries to get home before iftar. A wise person once said 'There are three things that are beyond one's control: birth, death, and Dhaka traffic". So even if you leave work a little early, there's no guarantee you'll reach home in time. Instead of giving into the temptation of diving into the nearest open-air iftari stall (and there will be many), just carry some water and/or snacks with you to break your fast with.

Wallet wasters
Two words: price hikes. The weather is changing, the festival season is coming up, and there has been a recent hike in oil prices. These and other factors will inevitably lead to rising prices of commodities. This, again, is something that the general masses can't really do anything about. Your best bet will be to budget even more carefully.

While it becomes harder for us to manage the bare essentials, there are other threats to the wallet. Ahead of the festival sessions, you'll find a lot of people trying to weasel a little extra out of you. The traffic policemen will show a sudden burst in activity and tickets and fines will fall faster than the unusually late rain-showers we've been having of late. Telephone lines will suddenly get disconnected; nothing that a little 'fee' can't correct. Your daily milkman/paperboy/postman will suddenly accost you for a 'baksheesh', and pick-pockets will lust after your mobile phone with a new passion. If you are the giving sort, just a word of caution: be very careful when you're giving alms to beggars when you're on the go; there have been numerous instances in the past when a well-meaning alms-giver has literally been mobbed by frenzied beggars, occasionally leading even to violence. So if you plan to be generous, make sure you have your escape route plotted out.

Finally, let's not forget that Ramadan is about abstinence and self-control. We refrain from eating, drinking, and other acts of indulgence, so that we may appreciate what those less fortunate than us experience on a daily basis. We see a lot of raised tempers and irritability around us during the fasting period, probably because of the hunger and fatigue. It's so easy to be blown away by what one might perceive as one's sacrifice. Let's not lose the lesson, shall we?

By Sabrina F Ahmad

The Flip Side

The blessed month of Ramadan is one where we have the opportunity to find out who we really are and it is one where we can find out if the above really holds true. It is a month where we fight for our souls and desires and defeat them. Ramadan is a 'stop to recharge one's spiritual batteries' - to acquire one's provision for the rest of the year...

For when will one take a lesson and change for better if not in the month of Ramadan?

How far does Ramadan change us? Really? Granted it plays havoc with our daily routines and many are not happy because of that. But, every day as we go through the same old routine of life, getting up, praying/or not, going to work or school, dealing with people, going home, sleeping, studying etc. How easy is it for us to walk with blinders on our eyes or for that matter get lost in the bare monotony of it all?

Ramadan changes us and opens our eyes to the world around us. I first said this to a friend of mine some years back and went on to tell him that it is this aspect of Ramadan that makes it so very special. Nearly four years on, I have not been disappointed.

Ramadan jolts us out of our daily lives and helps us to open our eyes to what is going on all around us. It is first and foremost about "abstinence" and I was honestly surprised to find how many in our native Bangladesh practice exactly that. Abstinence can be a great eye opener. Staying from sunrise to sunset without the basic necessities of food and water amongst other things serve to make sure that your perspective on life grows that little bit broader.

Men who would not be dragged to the mosque with a ten foot pole in other times suddenly find themselves wearing traditional clothing and making the mosque almost their second home. Albeit, most of those changes are only in practice for all of a month but it is still encouraging to see. Ramadan teaches us Taqwa, patience, jihad, mercy, forgiveness and freedom from hellfire. But most of all it teaches us kindness.

In its simplest form, kindness is an attitude shown towards others. Kindness is an elixir to get rid off all the evil feelings against each other. It is kindness that determines the character of an individual. Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) was an excellent epitome of Kindness. A true Muslim must always be kind towards others. Even if anyone is not treating him well, he must treat him kindly. During Ramadan most take that attitude to heart and pass it off by simply saying " Are rojar maash to...." Simple it may be but yet heart rendering to see.

Examples of this can be found by viewing the daily life of most people. It is a rarity to see even the poorest beggar on the street without food during Iftaar time. It is almost guaranteed that someone or the other shall provide him enough food to have his Iftaar. Travelers on the street can stop by at any shop and they shall be almost sure to receive food without having to pay for it. Kindness increases almost ten fold.

Ramadan also transgresses borders. This particular facet struck home for me once during Maghrib prayers at a prominent mosque. Whilst the mollah went about reciting the munazaat at the end of the prayer I looked around and saw that many of the men attending prayers were working people - some in business suits, others distinctively cab drivers. But many also seemed like wanderers or street people- with no clue as to where they would be come days end. However for that small amount of time, they/we were all one, united under one common goal and one ummah or belief.

And when they passed out the food, meager as it was, all of us ate in unison.

By Quazi Zulquarnain Islam



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