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In Ramadan, watch what you eat! (I)

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Brethren, I thought today’s sermon should address an issue which we often gloss over or pay little attention to during the blessed month of Ramadan. This relates to our eating habit and schedules. You would remember that during the month, we are expected to eat early in the morning, begin our fast as soon as the fajr appears and observe fasting throughout the day. As soon as it is sunset, the fasting believers are expected to break their fast and enjoy every other lawful act till the dawn of the following day. This month consequently provides opportunities for Muslim families to bond together more than ever before.

It reminds the husband in the home of the necessity to be responsible and responsive to the needs and yearnings of members of his household. During the month of Ramadan, the Muslim wife derives new strength in His worship. She remembers that each minute she spends in the kitchen in pursuit of the pleasure of her husband and children shall be doubly rewarded by her Creator.

In other words, during the month of Ramadan we have the opportunity to examine our spiritual status. A Muslim who forsakes the pleasure of food and drinks and embarks on this fasting, a Muslim who creates the conditions of hunger and thirst for herself, simply in obeisance to Allah is actually and indirectly involved in sharpening his weapon of survival on the terrestrial earth where survival has become simply difficult if not impossible. Thus, a Muslim who fasts is like a hunter who takes time off hunting in order to sharpen his weapon of hunt. He who fasts becomes an unassailable and an inimitable fortress against the devil and its agents; you cannot be a beloved of the Almighty and still become a prey to earthly principalities.

Brethren through the act of fasting we create an artificial or temporary scarcity and want. This inculcates in us a spirit of gratitude and consequent devotion to Him. After fasting during the day, we settle down at dusk to break our fast. The meal on our table should remind us of the perpetual scarcity and want in which some of our fellow human beings are presently steeped. In other words, each morsel we put in our mouth during this month should remind us of the life of penury and want in which our fellow brethren all around the world are presently manacled.

The above brings me to the core of our sermon today. This has to do with our eating and drinking habits and the protocols that should accompany them particularly during this month. You would agree with me that across cultures and civilizations, foods and drinks are known in part by their variety, by the miscellany of their tastes and the farrago of their texture and flavor. They partake of the infinitude of entities in nature; entities that essentially image the diversities in and multiplexities of the creatures of the Almighty. These entities are referred to in Qur’ān 18: 109 as Kalimãt – words; signs and wonders of the divine in creation; words that are like pebbles in the desert or drops of water in the ocean. They could then be likened to ‘texts’; texts that are, in the words of Hugh Silverman, ‘indecidable’.

The Qur’ān portrays food as a necessity and a cognitively fundamental material culture that plays an active role in affirming, constructing and negotiating humanity’s social distinctions and identities. Thus, foods become not ends in themselves but means towards nobler ends. It is a site where identities, be it the communal or the individual are realized and transacted )Qur’ān 24: 61); it is the medium through which humans’ cognitive, affective and conative stimuli in relation to the self and other are negotiated.

During the month of Ramadan, the above discourses of food gain more relevance. One way that becomes pertinent is for every one of us to approach our meals during this month and thereafter as an act of worship. Our Creator says: “O children of Adam! Look to your adornment at every place of worship, and eat and drink, but be not prodigals. Lo! He loveth not the prodigals.” (Quran 7:31) “Eat of the good things we have provided for your sustenance, but commit not excess therein.” (Qur’an 20:81). Thus, each time a Muslim takes a good meal, he should have it in mind that he is actually following His injunctions.


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