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RAMADAN MUSINGS: In love with Difficulty

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Asian Lite marks Holy Month of Ramadan with a special series of Ramadan Musings

with Masarat Daud

HOLY RAMADAN: Afghan women read holy book Quran during the holy month of Ramadan in Nangarhar province, eastern Afghanistan
HOLY RAMADAN: Afghan women read holy book Quran during the holy month of Ramadan in Nangarhar province, eastern Afghanistan

There is an epidemic. People love difficulty! If there is a convenient way to do something, why would we not choose it? A few days ago, at a relatives’ house, an elderly woman got up to pray. She struggled as her knees were clearly in pain. I told her that she could sit on a chair and pray; in Islam, you could even pray with sign language if your body is immobilized to that point. Yet, the elderly woman insisted that she would stand, bend and bow because it will give her more religious brownie points. Or perhaps they are in a secret race to collect the most sky miles that guarantee them a comfort ride to Paradise—who knows?

I see this as an increasing habit that our discomfort and pain is correlated to our piety. It is this glorification of sacrifices that we have so willingly accepted and ingrained within ourselves. The way a woman would look down upon other woman’s dish at a dinner party because ‘it was so simple to cook’; it is not a big deal. Culturally too, we seem to embrace the complicated. Are you an Engineer? Ok, that is usual. Are you an Imagineer at Disney? Very cool. Must be a tough job, no?

Religion is a way of discipline and specifically, Islam is a way of life. Its value lies in its daily practice. In that, there are many concessions. A woman gets a break from religious rituals during menstruation, people with health problems can avoid fasting, people with physical disabilities or pain do not have to pray long prayers standing—you can be seated, sat or even do so lying down; the poor are not obligated to fast, neither do small children, yet many do.

Ramadna-MusingsSure, everyone has personal reasons. I remember fasting as a child because of the sheer excitement but at the other end of the spectrum are people who suffer physically, yet insist on pulling their bodies through pain. Difficulty does not lead to bigger real estate in Paradise. Having said that, there is an unspoken stigma in not fasting or praying, the fear of being judged by others. It is heroic for the ill to fast but if you choose to listen to your body, your faith is branded weak.

Here is another lesson this Ramadan: we need to respect and prioritize ourselves. With the hot weather in UK and the usual scorching summers in Middle East and South Asia, I hope that we can make sense of piety and choose to respect and protect our bodies, which only in good health can be available for pious purposes.

(Masarat Daud is many things. A cook, a girl’s education campaigner, a TED speaker, a TEDx curator, a politically-incorrect humourist currently based in London and a recent SOAS MA graduate)