June 2010: I thought that over the years, with so much awareness through media (including social media), people would be avoiding lavish ‘iftars’ (breaking fast at sunset) dinners during ramazan.
I was invited by a friend to meet in the evening and have iftaar cum dinner together, at a hotel. I reached there around an hour early, but there was a long queue of cars to enter, some of which were worth 10 times my car and full of people, took me 15 minutes in the queue. Gave the car to the valet and entered to see my friend. While I was waiting at the lobby, I saw many people around. It turned out, there is some corporate invitation and one restaurant was completely booked for it. Here comes my friend, excited, greeted and hugged, since we met after quite some time. It was very nice seeing him. He took me inside one restaurant downstairs, but we were stopped at the entrance, asking for a booking. It was a fairly large restaurant, but was fully booked. Then, my friend used his selling skills and somehow managed to convince the manager and we got the table for 2 at the corner, btw he was staying at this hotel as well. Minutes later, the whole restaurants was filled with families and children and it became so noisy. We grabbed some food, I started off with my favourite starter for ‘iftaar’ – Pakora (anyways most favourite dish for iftaar). Then added some ‘channa chaat’ (chickpeas mix), fruit chaat and ‘dahi baray‘ and returned to our table, where ‘Rooh Afza – sharbat (common drink from flowers) and other drinks were already placed for us.
Here’s a how a typical home-made ifar dishes looks like. I have labeled each item. They are the most common dishes used in Iftar in Pakistan.
I hardly saw people saying duwa (prayers), as it was actually high time for prayers getting accepted. Instead everyone was running, to grab his/her favourite food in time to bring on the table 🙂 Some, were running to enter the restaurants, as they must have got late in the traffic. I saw many people sitting alone on the table, as if their dates have ditched them 🙂 , but actually they were waiting for others to join (who might be stuck in the traffic). ‘Azaan’ (call for prayer) said, at the time of sunset, and we break fast, start eating dates and then the food we had brought. Many people entered the restaurant as late as 20 minutes, past the time of iftar. I thought, there would be many people from companies, but they were mostly families.
Obviously, it is an amazing feeling of having the luxury of eating anything you want (buffet of 50+ dishes), after 16 hours of fasting (not eating). Everyone, including myself wanted to eat as much as possible, or at least taste everything. However, soon everyone realizes that after eating 5-6 items, you feel completely full. And then you overeat, when you want to eat, while your stomach is full. Additionally, everyone wants to make the most of the occasion and make the most of their money spent.
The per head cost of the buffet dinner was Rs 1700 and we were discussing, there are around 1000 people, which means Rs. 1.7 million is spent in just two hours, in one restaurant and we were astounded ourselves at the figure.
While driving back home, I started to reflect back on the event. Fasting (one of the obligatory ritual in Islam) is supposed to instill a desire to help those who are less fortunate, by sharing food and wealth with them. I thought, we learn to sacrifice our hunger for the will of God, learn patience, learn to abstain from all evil acts and control our desires, and specially learn, how it feels like to be hungry and better relate to the poor, who can only eat one or two times a day. This way we would appreciate the blessing of God, who has provided us with food and resources sufficiently or abundantly. It’s a month for us to be humble and give charity. Then, I compared my friend paid Rs 1700 per person for that meal (yeah he insisted on treating me:). Imagine, there are around 200 such restaurants in Karachi and almost all would be full in the same way. So, 200 restaurants times say 200 average capacity, times Rs1000 average cost, which means we spend Rs. 40 million in just one day in Karachi, in fact one meal and that is on a lower side estimate.
Imagine, if I multiply it with 30 days of Ramazan – Rs.1,200,000,000 (1.2 billion), money we spent in eating one meal in Ramazan in Karachi ??
I had started food charity drive with friends, for the past 5 months, where we provide poor people with dinner for Rs. 5, while it cost us Rs. 30. So, for Rs. 1.7m a day, I can feed around 1.3 million poor a day. We could virtually eliminate hunger in the country, in a month. Now compare this, the charity food is healthy, and filling and cost Rs 30, while we ate at a lavish restaurant by spending Rs 1700 (we spent 5600% more). Do you still think, it is not extravagance and you will not be questioned by God, how you spent the money, that ‘He’ provided. Everyone is tested in this world, different test for rich and different for the poor. Rich naturally, are accountable more, as they are given more, more power, money, resources, children etc, another reason, I tend not to have more.
Let’s look at some of the crazy facts of Ramazan:
- Almost everyone say, we gain weight during ramazan ? What,Gain! After staying away from food for 15 hours out of 24 hours daily, you gain weight ? Fasting month 😳
- Price for food items increases, during the month of ramazan ? I thought, we are supposed to fast whole day, ie not eat and there would be less demand for food overall. Then, how come the price increases ?
- People make quarrels in the market while buying food items and specially while driving close to the hour of iftaar, in order to reach on time st home. What quarrel ? Isn’t the basic idea of ramazan was patience in the first place?
Money spent by rich vs money available to the poor. And then we wonder, why there is so much poverty, why there is so much hunger, why there is so much unrest in the society, why there is so much inequality and why there is so much hate? Aren’t we inflicting injustice in the society ourselves, this way. Spending wastefully in food is just one example. How do we spend on clothing, cars, homes, furniture and the list is never ending. First we accumulate money and stash it, to accumulate it. Then, we spend it wastefully. Aren’t we told to keep the money in circulation. Aren’t we told to distribute the money among poor, aren’t we told to pay zakat (2.5% of our savings) and aren’t we told to spend wisely from the wealth, God has entrusted us ? Then, these facts must not be surprising, when we follow all social customs of iftar, while ignoring the teachings and principles of Ramazan and Fasting, how could we possibly get the benefit of Fasting – both spiritual and worldly.
Here are some background quotes, supporting these points, from Quran:
“Look how We have favored [in provision] some of them over others. ” Quran 17:21
Meaning in this world, so that some are rich and some are poor, and others are in between. Poor will be tested for their patience, while rich will be tested for how they use God’s bounties.
“Truly, your Lord expands the provision for whom He wills and straitens (for whom He wills).” Quran 17:30
This verse is telling us that God is the One Who provides or withholds, the Bestower Who is running the affairs of His creation as He wills. He makes rich whomever He wills, and He makes poor whomever He wills, by the wisdom that is His.
“O Children of Adam! Take your adornment (by wearing your clean clothes) while praying and going round the Ka’bah, and eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes not Al-Musrifin (those who waste by extravagance).” (Quran 7:31, Surah Al-A’raf)
Explanation: There were people who used to perform Tawaf around the House while naked, and Allah ordered them to take adornment, meaning, wear clean, proper clothes that cover the private parts. people were commanded to wear their best clothes when performing every prayer. Hadith: “Eat what you wish and wear what you wish, as long as you avoid two things: extravagance and arrogance.” Prophet said: “The Son of Adam will not fill a pot worse for himself than his stomach. It is enough for the Son of Adam to eat a few bites that strengthens his spine. If he likes to have more, then let him fill a third with food, a third with drink and leave a third for his breathing.”
“And give to the kinsman (relatives) his due & to the Miskin (poor) and to the wayfarer (traveller).”
According to Prophet Muhammad (saw): “Your mother and your father, then your closest relatives and the next closest.”
But spend not wastefully in the manner of a spendthrift (extravagance). Verily, the spendthrifts are brothers of the Shayatin (devils), and the Shaitan is ever ungrateful to his Lord. And if you [must] turn away from the needy awaiting mercy from your Lord which you expect, then speak to them a gentle word.”
(17:26 , 27 & 28 Surah Al-Isra’, Qur’an)
So, these are some points I was thinking about and wanted to share. Btw, I wrote a blog earlier, if you want to read as well, on similar topic: Extravagance or ‘Israaf’ something we need to be careful about
Want to learn more about Fasting or Ramadan: