Friday, July 11, 2014

A Matter of Perspective

Who are we to judge who makes a "Good Muslim"?

Different Spin: 11th July 2014
The Star Metro
(Original draft)

Like many of my Muslim friends, I look forward to the month of Ramadan. It is the month I can exclusively dedicate my relationship to God - a month of initiation that ideally breaks down our lack of consideration for others and encourages sympathy for the weak, the vulnerable and those in suffering.

I am not what folks would refer to as, "a model Muslim”. I have the tendency to swear (I melatah, it's not INTENTIONAL) and I don’t don a headscarf nor am I always dressed as modestly.  I wish I could do at least the Umrah, if not the Hajj.... and I hate to admit this, but I've missed a prayer or two in a day. (bows head in shame). =(

[I have made numerous excuses for this; no point rushing my prayers if I don't  berniat ikhlas right?] 

(But surely it is our niat ikhlas or our pure intention that is the foundation of what we say and do right?) So yes, I do take heart in the Islamic view that sincerity in intention is the foundation of all we say or do. 

Now, during Ramadan, I am “good’. I love fasting, the reflection, the meditation, the communal prayers, and the anxious purr of anticipation right before the breaking of fast. I am able to stick to my 5 prayers a day routine (on time!) and enjoy my quiet time with my Quran, reading a Juz a day. Am I then, what some refer to as a “Ramadan Muslim”?

A “Ramadan Muslim” is a term I found out about a week ago. It apparently describes one who is only a “good Muslim” during the fasting month. I was taken aback with the label calling. For starters, isn’t our relationship with God a personal one and should we all not assume well of others and allow our creator to judge our doings, especially during the month of forgiveness?

I like how Malaysian Jazz singer, Datuk Sheila Majid retorts to that “God-awful term” on her instagram post:


Ramadan should be the time when neighborliness is boosted. My Odu, upon returning from Church would stop by the Tamu to buy local kuih for my Muslim relatives and neighbors. They would reciprocate by exchanging their buka puasa menu with Odu. There was always this excitement of waiting to see what the neighbors would offer in exchange. This tradition of exchanging buka puasa fares amongst immediate neighbors is something I’ve carried on in my own capacity living in the city.

My grandmother: Odu

My neighbors sends pictures of the food they’ve cooked to me sometimes, asking whether my family has any dietary concerns over some of the more exotic dishes prepared for our “food exchange”. I share these pictures to a colleague of mine who jokingly says, “Eh! You better don’t  show (the pictures to) XYZ. She just scolded someone on facebook for posting a photo of a bowl of cendol up on her timeline, saying that person was insensitive to those who were fasting!”
(Actually it was my friend Elfie yang kena marah for posting a status update saying she wants to eat cendol, and then she kena maki. Didn't want to mention names though. Punya main bidak)

Whoa! Hold on a sec.

Isn’t the whole point of abstaining from lawful food and drinks, a way to demonstrate the highest degree of obedience as well as a regiment for excellent spiritual and moral improvement? It sorts of defeats the sole purpose if we not ‘exposed’ to the realm of “challenges” thrown to us during the Holy Month. I know I am perfectly okay with my non fasting friends (be them Muslim or non) eating or drinking in front of me, although admittedly, none of them won’t “out of respect”.

And speaking of respect, a tweet went viral on social media recently, suggesting the non-Muslims to schedule their dinners after the buka puasa time to allow those fasting to have seats at makan places.

I prefer to break fast at home, but if I were to berbuka outside, I’d make reservations and be there on time. If I’m late or the restaurant is fully reserved, then I will just have to suck it in and wait or look for another place.

I know of some media personnel who complain when PR companies invite them for afternoon events during the Ramadan month saying they need to leave by 3.30pm to prepare dinner.  My friend working in PR told me they’d usually advice their clients to postpone activities and events to after the Aidilfitri celebrations, of fear that no media will show up.
("Takde otak ke company ni nak suruh orang datang cover event durang..dahlah aku puasa! Mesti kafir!" (So RUDE!) )

Let us bear in mind that just because we are fasting, things or people should not solely accommodate us or allow us Muslims a special “privilege card” just because we are required to observe our spiritual obligation.  I don’t think that is fair nor sits well with the whole purpose of us fasting.

I pray, through fasting, we are able to come to grips with our salacious selves by taming our physical appetites so we may suppress our greed and lust and to develop self-discipline and kindness in thoughts, words and actions, so ideally, we become better people. God-willing. Amin.

Daphne would like to wish all Muslim readers Selamat Berpuasa and apologize if this article (which is the writer’s personal opinions) has offended anyone. Follow her rants on instagram @daphneiking or tweet her @daphCLPT.

P/s: Why are they are so many Islamic police so kiasu checking to see if Malaysian Muslims are fasting or not? Again, shouldn't this be between God and the individual? And surely Muslim food operators serve food to the non-muslims too ... and there are Muslims who are not able to fast due to health reasons etc. Reminds me of a time in boarding school when the ustad didn't believe I wanted to go out to buy tampons (when I told him I had my mensus) and made me say some arabic prayer to prove otherwise. (I was not even Moslem then!)

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