Fasting and Holiness

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I was intrigued by the thoughts and comments on Samer Marzouq’s blog in her blog entry titled, “Is Ramadan Losing Its Holiness in Jordan?”. The question that is implied is whether Islamic rules of fasting should be imposed on those who are non-Muslim during the month of Ramadan? Oddly enough, I was discussing this topic with a friend yesterday so rather than post a comment on Samer’s blog, I decided to address the issue here.

A Personal Choice
Or is it? The reason for fasting and for celebrating the month of Ramadan is for man to become closer to God. If that is the case, it should be my personal choice whether I want to become closer to God or not. And why is it someone else’s matter whether I go to Paradise or not? Can anyone force me into Paradise? If not, why twist my arm into performing a bunch of religious rituals that may or may not secure my destiny? Conclusions lead me to believe that this is not a personal choice, as some would have me believe, but rather a religious community choice.

So if true religion is between individuals and God, why enforce and regulate who fasts? Is it man’s job to make sure that others are conforming to God’s commands? Is God not powerful enough to do the job Himself? All it would take is for God to smite a few people with lightning and we would all become extremely devout, fasting as if our lives depended on it.

Secondly, why should fasting be enforced on non-Muslims? Not only does a policy of enforcement (complete with consequences) go against the whole “religion of peace and tolerance” mentality, but it also implies an attitude of weakness. If a non-Muslim eating during Ramadan is enough of a temptation to cause a Muslim to stumble, how strong is the faith in the first place?

Losing Holiness
While I come across many devout Muslims who are actively pursuing a strict regimen of fasting, there are just as many who cheat during the month of Ramadan. Many Muslims will eat, drink and smoke throughout the day, especially when no one is looking. In an honor-based society, these actions are acceptable as long as you don’t get caught. But why would someone do that if God is watching? What this tells me is that the opinions of the community outweigh the commands of God.

A Matter of Respect
Some of have brought up the idea that non-Muslims should not eat or drink in public as a matter of respect for the Muslim holy month. Such an argument can easily be reversed by saying that Muslims should have enough respect for non-Muslims as to abstain them from fasting requirements (or the appearance of fasting, at least). The door swings both ways on this one. I personally don’t eat and drink in public during Ramadan as an act of respect, but it’s my choice not to do so and should not be forced upon me by religious bludgeoning.

A Caveat
These thoughts were not written to enflame (although some may become quite irate after reading this), but rather to honestly question the logic and motivation behind the religious attitudes that affect our day-to-day lives. Some would have you believe that questioning one’s religious beliefs is wrong; I tend to disagree.


Anonymous Samer Marzouq said...

Well Dave, as I said before it's all about respecting the majority, no said we have to force others to fast or not to eat. Anyway I believe we have discussed this issue a lot, thanks for bringing it up.

By the way I'm a Male :)

9/26/2006 10:28 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Samer, sorry about the male/female thing. I know a female Samar. My mistake.

I understand what you are saying concerning respect. While I respect the majority, I also respectfully decline to fast during Ramadan. The majority should respect my minority wishes.

9/26/2006 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Samer Marzouq said...

No prob Dave ;) And again thanks for sharing your point of view.

9/26/2006 2:46 PM  
Blogger NAR said...

Dave, I am a Jordanian in America and I fast Ramadan. (the counter example to your situation).

I agre with all the points you make. Mutual respect and understanding should be the basis of all interaction.

9/29/2006 6:06 AM  
Blogger Dave said...


I respect your position. I assume it is more difficult to fast in a situation where everyone else is able to eat, as opposed to fasting where everyone is not allowed to eat. If holiness is measured by the amount of temptation one must overcome, you'll be in good standing.

9/29/2006 8:34 AM  
Blogger Crazy-Cobain said...

Dave i agree with u at all the points u said there.....

its someone's own choice,own faith,own destiny.

even if someone is a muslim, u have no right to tell him what to do...

10/01/2006 4:11 AM  
Anonymous Adel Najeh said...

If you are non-muslim, don't fast..but don't eat in public !

10/01/2006 10:04 PM  
Blogger Dave said...


Is that a command?

10/02/2006 5:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave the American, let me put it this way, if there's a general consensus among a group of people to do something in their own place while everyone seems to be very happy about it, then an outsider of the group in their place should not only respect but also adhere to what this group of people have consensually agreed upon! I would happily take off my shoe and wait for a strolling cow blocking a highway to pass by in India if this is what it takes to respect other's beliefs, haven't heard much fuss about that one though…

On the other hand, the thrust of your reasoning seems to come from two distinct aspects: the daylight hypocrisy of some born-as Moslems and the heretical freedom-of-choice premise, as for the latter I have yet to comprehend how respecting others' beliefs and its outcome in their homeland collide with practicing what you believe (or the lack of). As for the former, even if at one point they become a majority, this does not affect the general consensus, as long as they decide to remain as daylight hypocrites and not speak out of their discontent with such Islamic-cum-cultural burden of not being able to go about business as usual in Ramadan.

But I must admit that Moslems now days tend to be far too sensitive about their fasting and practicing it, I lived in the west and saw Moslems festively fasting in total conscious obliviousness of their non-Moslem surrounding that is obviously not fasting, fa I find it hard to feel offended or disrespected by a non-Moslem who pull out a fag or munch on a sandwich in daytime Ramadan, unless of course it was ill-intentioned.

As for punishment, I'm not sure how toughly enforced is this in Jordan, but even if you look at the felony description, it won't mention Ramadan or disrespecting it, I think it'll go down in the line of "public insult" or some other generic felony, I'm not sure what's the proper agreed-upon Islamic decree on eating/drinking in public during daytime Ramadan for Moslems or non-Moslems and if its actually punishable or not in the first place!

10/03/2006 11:00 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

The basic jist is that I’m not attracted to any sort of government that forces the religious ideals of the majority onto the entire citizenry of the state. I understand that as a foreigner and outsider (read guest), I have a responsibility to respect the established government and religious beliefs. Non-Muslim Arabs, on the other hand, are forced to comply with the majority decision concerning the religious holiday, which I disapprove of.

This isn’t a question of majority; it’s one of equality and mutual respect by all parties, majority and minority.

10/04/2006 7:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Dave and the rest:
You are forgetting a very important thing... Islam is not only a religion... it is a system of life and guidelines for a society... A whole civilizations and I empires were built on Islamic rules... Because simply Islam is not a religion only... but unfortunately today the case is not and we are only considering Islam as a religion... this is why what you’re saying makes sense Dave… but if you know that Islam is not a religion only, well I guess the whole discussion will be deferent.

10/17/2006 4:02 PM  

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