I missed the 2011 post for the occasion, so in an effort not to miss an Aidilfitri post, I thought I’d prepare a scheduled write-up so it would show up on Hari Raya itself.
Instead of talking about Aidilfitri itself (which traditional for many of us, I suppose), I thought I’d write a bit about Ramadhan. It’s day 29 as I’m writing this, and I’ve discovered that Ramadhan this year has been a most enlightening one, particularly because I’ve been reading Ramadhan stories from other countries, particularly non-muslim majority nations such as America, China and European countries.
It kinda sheds light on how much I’ve been taking Ramadhan in Malaysia for granted. I started fasting when I was around 5, so it’s been over 20 years that I’ve been fasting here, and nowhere else. I’ve gotten so used to the festive air of Ramadhan, how every Malaysian looks forward as though it’s a month-long celebration of food, shopping and jokes.
Of course, when we take a step back from all the grandeur, we privately observe what Ramadhan means to us as individuals. Muslims in Malaysia look forward (yes, they do) to this time of the year for many reasons. The basis of the practice is simple: refrain from food and drink from the first rays of light till the last bit of light disappears.
There is, however, another layer to fasting that we often overlook. I spoke a bit with my friends about their fasting rituals. I learned that theirs is often a fast for penance or atonement. Sometimes even as an offering to their deity(ies). I must admit that it’s very different from the Islamic practice of fasting.
Whenever I read up or listen to sermons about fasting, it’s always centered on the individual. That fasting in Ramadhan is not about inflicting punishment upon ourselves but rather as an opportunity to work with a little handicap. Let’s say you’re playing a game, and you’ve beat it in normal mode. For a bit of a challenge, you increase the difficulty or give your opponent a little edge. It’s that kind of thing.
Of course, there’s the spiritual aspect of Ramadhan. After buka puasa, Muslims around the world are encouraged to take part in tarawih prayers with their community. Admittedly, it’s been a long time since I went for one. Then again, it’s been a long time since I went looking for God in the first place.
My friends would know that I’m the least religious among them, which is funny considering that I feel that I’ve made my peace with God. Many would think that I’m a lost cause and that there’s really no way to ‘bring me back’. I don’t know what I’m writing about anymore at this point, to be honest, but I guess being in a contemplative mood is what Ramadhan does to you.
I’ve gotten so used to fasting that it doesn’t really affect me anymore. As a matter of fact, being overweight as I am, Ramadhan has never been more welcome.
Eating at 4am? Oh, big deal I’m used to yumcha at ungodly hours.
Skipping breakfast? The last time I had a breakfast routine was when I was doing my internship.
No lunch? Welcome to the life of the penniless student.
No water? That’s easy to fix.
I read/hear many stories of fresh mualaf (Muslim converts) dealing with their first Ramadhan. It always amusing to read about how life-changing it is and how it has lent them a fresh perspective and then realising that I never notice any of those things because I’ve been taking them for granted all these years.
Some of them discovered a sense of focus.
Some of them felt a sense of solidarity.
Some of them have developed a retrospective look.
Some even say they’re feeling physically better.
To be honest, I kind of envy them for experiencing spiritual enlightenment. For many years, Ramadhan to me has been an excuse to meet up with friends for get-togethers and have a big feast and catch up with each other. Especially when there’s buffet involved. Speaking of which, there was a Google Trends report recently, that ‘buffet’ is the most searched keyword during this period.
In Ramadhans past, I’ve always looked forward to splurging somewhere between RM30-60 on luxurious buffet spreads with friends and stuff my face with so much food that I completely forgot what it truly meant to be fasting. So much for appreciating the value of restraint, la kan?
This year, however, I try to spend as little as possible for buka puasa. Of course, on some occasions I splurge a bit like the time I went to Las Vacas for some fantastic lamb chops or Yellow Cab Pizza for the interesting anchovies and salsa toppings. Though they weren’t buffets, they were rather luxurious but I still try to keep it as modest as I could.
Perhaps my take away from Ramadhan this year is modesty. I did refrain from verbally abusing people, through my mouth, but eh… I compensate for that with berating idiots on Twitter so I guess that cancels it out, lol. I don’t know. I’ve been through this entire Ramadhan without attending a single buffet, but I’m about to break that record tonight when my sister suddenly decided to splurge on hotel buffet for all of us in Putrajaya. We’ll see how that goes.
For now, though, might I suggest we all take a step back during this festive season. In the midst of joy and cheer, of colourful clothes and bountiful food, let us look back to what Ramadhan has done for us, and what it means to have spent a month restraining ourselves from the luxuries we so often take for granted. Let’s take some time to be thankful for what we have received, what we have gained, and what we have earned.
With that, I’d like to wish you Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, and I humbly ask your forgiveness and blessings for my shortcomings. May Aidilfitri this year find you in good health, bright spirits and simple happiness.
but I am too busy thinking about myself.