FASTING will end in three days. The month of Ramadan is supposed to be a month of reflection, subduing of the desires and a chance to get closer to Allah.
For me, it is beyond the act of refraining from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk. I imagine that at the end of Ramadan, Muslims will celebrate Aidilfitri because they have emerged victorious in overcoming or at least being more aware of their own personal weaknesses and shortcomings. After all, in the Quran, the greatest jihad is the struggle within to evolve into a better human being.
When I was a teenager, the day of Aidilfitri always depressed me. I realised only in Form Two when I went to the mosque for Raya prayers that Penang had a lot of beggars!
All the while I had been going to the mosque for Raya prayers and it never dawned upon me that outside the mosque were many beggars in tattered clothes even though my father used to make me take charge of giving them alms (being older, I now realise the big difference between seeing and being aware).
The sight of the beggars lining up the mosque pathway always saddens me. I could never enjoy the Raya feasts from that day onwards.
I recall taking out food from my house and bringing to some of them. It disturbed the teenager a great deal because he could not reconcile the fact that he was dressed up smart and a feast was waiting for him while there were other adults and children begging on the day that was supposed to be a “celebration”.
It also disturbed me a great deal that some of them had to resort to reading verses from the Quran to motivate others to be charitable.
My whole family knows that other than performing the prayers and hugging my late mother, that was Raya for me. I used to think that Aidilfitri accentuated the difference between those who have and those who don’t. While we are celebrating, it makes those who are unable to celebrate feel more deprived.
I suppose it was the guilt that made me and some of my friends spend most of Ramadan identifying the lower income group whom we can assist to the extent we can.
It is really no fun doing charity just to have the feeling of doing a good deed instead of feeling you have not done enough. However, we believe a little help is better than none.
It was always my hope over the years that Ramadan will make Muslims more compassionate and more well-versed in the teachings of the Quran instead of being obsessed with the “pahala” of fasting. My personal view, of course. I believe that while ritualism may have its role, it is the substance of what we do that makes a significant change within us. I also believe that obsession with religious rituals alone may divert the person from the true purpose of the rituals.
We live in Malaysia. We are blessed to live in a country which is multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural and multilingual. For the true believers, this is indeed a sign from Allah that there is diversity and plurality in His creation and it is indeed a test for us as to how we manage this plurality and diversity.
The Quran is clear that this diversity and plurality is created for us to learn from one another. At the end of the day, we are all required to embrace each other in peace and work together for the better good.
In this spirit, I wish all the Muslims “Salam Aidilfitri” and may we all celebrate together as caring Malaysians.