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Ramadan’s excesses 6, September 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Islam, Kuwait, Qatar.
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After living in Kuwait I confess that I was left with a slightly sour taste during Ramadan. As far as I understand things – please correct me if I am incorrect – Ramadan is a time of reflection and a time to think of those who are less fortunate that yourself. This is primarily why people fast; to foster a feeling of hungry empathy, so to speak.

Therefore, to binge on food at a gloriously laid out opulent banquet every evening (countless such examples can be found across the City) seems, to me, to miss the point.

Figures from Qatar reinforce the point. Apparently, food consumption increases three times during the month with small families (5 people) spending on average £2700 on feasts.

Dutifully not eating and drinking with the full knowledge that there’s a whopping meal in x hours doesn’t seem to be overly pious to me.


1. David lepeska - 7, September 2010

Yeah, ironic and unfortunate, and sadly pretty standard across much of the Muslim world – from South Asia, to Lebanon, to Qatar and Kuwait.

Is it the same in Saudi, home of Islam? Maybe we should ask Jared.


2. Anonymous - 7, September 2010

You should rename the title to “Arab Excesses” ….ramadan is observed by muslims all over the world….the title gives a wrong impression about the holy month rather than the group of ppl practicing such pompous nature!

davidbroberts - 7, September 2010

That’s a good point, thanks for taking the time. I think that I’ll leave it, however. This is the Gulf Blog, after all. Also, I’m very specific about discussing Qatar and Kuwait here.

davidbroberts - 7, September 2010

I’d bet my bottom dollar that it is! (Is that a phrase?)

3. The Qatari Imam - 8, September 2010

I wouldn’t be too quick to judge the Gulf, or any culture, in this way. I think it’s quite offensive to make blanket claims that “Ramadan is a time of reflection and a time to think of those who are less fortunate that yourself” and that the phenomenon is “ironic and unfortunate.” Is that so? It is easy to criticize a religious group if you create your own simple and limited definitions. Ramadan, and Islam, are far more complex than these cliched understandings of religious practice. Islam is not just a religion–it is a multilayered culture, a people, a civilization. Reducing Ramadan to this basic moralism as a basis for condemnation is unfair, insensitive and condescending.

davidbroberts - 9, September 2010

Plainly Ramadan being a “time of reflection and a time to think of those less fortunate than yourself” is not “ironic and unfortunate”. No one is saying or implying that. What is unfortunate is how seemingly disjointed from Ramadan’s original reason/point/ethos modern-day Ramadan is (or, rather, appears to me).

What is Ramadan, then, if it is not – at its core – about this?

I am patently not criticising Ramadan as an idea or, for that matter, Islam.

The only way that the tenor of your argument can stand up is if you are defending the egregious consumption of food in Gulf States during Ramadan as somehow a part of Ramadan itself; that stuffing one’s self, spending staggering amounts of money on buffets with which comes commensurately enormous waste is, actually, what Ramadan is about. If that is what Ramadan is for you – i.e. conspicuous consumption – then ok; not a problem. Just, as I have said, as far as I understand it, this is not remotely in line with its core ethos.

4. Cosmic Teapot from Kuwait - 10, September 2010

“time of reflection and a time to think of those less fortunate than yourself”

That’s not quite true.. Ramadan is about bringing you closer to God and your community. The pains of hunger during the day give you a sense of your fragility and mortality . The feasting at night provides social facilitation. I would say that mortality is at the heart of all religions. So Ramadan is more of a religious recharge than a month of empathy towards the poor. Consider it a form of self-flagellation. A pious man does not whip himself to feel for those who are tortured (I’ve never heard of torture incidents being lower in communities that practice self-flagellation).

Non-Muslims are told the story of empathy because it’s more palpable. Empathy is certainly not the main point of Ramadan. In that context, I think you would find that the feasting makes more sense. Actually, my opinion is that Ramadan is more egocentric than empathetic in it’s core values.

5. Cosmic Teapot from Kuwait - 10, September 2010

Also, in so much as the individual’s ego being immersed in piety and in reflection of his minuscule presence in the greatness of God, the treat at night is a trick Pavlov’s dog can tell you all about.

davidbroberts - 10, September 2010

You’ve put that very well (much better than me), thanks. I still, however, have trouble understanding the opulence of the feasts.

6. ringo starr - 23, September 2010

the way its practiced in kuwait and many other muslim communicates is, i find, reprehensible. i used to be among those that indulged in endless meals post-sunset but thankfully (thank god?) i became aware of both my health and the lot of those less fortunate in the world and how antithetical to any godly faith it is to gorge ourselves unnecessarily. in my family i’ve seen a significant improvement in terms of moderating the quantities of food served with every passing year and it could not be more refreshing and joyful.

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