By Dr Mohd. Rizwan

Ramdhan, mistakenly pronounced as Ramzan, or more popularly Ramjan , is an Arabic word used in ancient Arabic , and is derived from Ramz , a rock which was used to dry clothes in scorching heat so as to kill all the hasharaat (microorganism producing disease )on it . the concept of germs was ,of course, not in vogue at that time .the meaning has implication in the actual l concept of Ramadan which implies that it is a training month to kill all the disease causing hasharaat in our behavioral makeup. The guiding motto is: practice self restraint, and evolve one’s self. This conceptual angle echoes in the famous verse of Quran mandating the saum or roza or roja on all healthy, right minded Muslim men and women, barring children pregnant and lactating women and travelers:
“O ye who believe fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that ye may (learn) self restrain”. (Qur’an 2; 182)
Saum (commonly known as Roza or roja) again a conceptual word, stands for restraining from any form of food, water and sexual intimacy.
Interestingly, Ramadan has become more of eating than fasting.
The lavish iftaar of the royals to the overcrowded dining tables of middle classes, Ramadan, and saum is the classical example of how religious practices become merely rituals having any significant appeal to thoughtful minds.
The sahar or the time when the saum or roza starts is marked by the arrival of the brink of dawn. It has a special breakfast. The Hyderabadi sahar includes myriad varieties of “Nawabi food”.
The iftaar which literally means to break or more precisely rip apart has endless varieties of dates, haleem, kebab, feernees, samosa and many types of juices, fine enough to give you a hyper glycemic shock after a real twelve hours hypoglycemia.
The veggie iftaar the diet iftaar the continental iftaar and more recently calorie economical iftaar are making way in the west, but eastern iftaar is still all about dates and fruits and samosa ,kebab , and off course the biryani combo.
But on a serious note the iftaar of the prophet have never been more than a couple of dates and a simple meal and a couple of fruits in his best times when he was a popular and omnipotent leader of Medina with a great GDP and a flourishing economy booming trade.
Ramdhan has a much larger message for humanity: it’s about evoking compassion for the hungry, it’s about restraining yourself from all that which you believe you should restrain (for good)

Ramadan is about yearly training to get yourself corrected at all levels; physical and mental, inner and outer, behavioral and habitual. And imbibe restraint so that it gets firmly rooted in the mental psyche so that in the coming years you are strong enough to overcome temptations.
Ramadan essentially should evoke responses from Muslim individuals, billions in number Muslim governments ,official or unofficial, around 54 , be it monarchies, democracies, puppets or otherwise ,not for the token activities of feeding poor only in Ramadan , offering iftaar to the needy , hosting political iftaar parties . Rather, Ramadan should evolve a pledge among Muslim masses and government alike to eradicate hunger locally, regionally and globally, because fasting teaches individual what does it mean to be hungry for 15 hrs , how does it feel to be missing all your three guaranteed meals!! This understanding should starts at individual level from your neighbor be it Muslim or non Muslim, and if you are living in the posh colonies your neighborhood, because it’s just not humanitarian to eliminate hunger. Feeding hungry is directly related to the belief system (or faith) of Muslims. Both the basic sources of Islam viz The Quran and the hadeeth (saying of Prophet Mohammed may peace be upon him), have clear mention about feeding hungry. The famous verse of Quran and many hadeeth compel them to feed hungry orphans and others irrespective of who they are Muslim, non Muslim, atheist .
“Have you seen the one who denies the Day of Judgment, that is who repulses the orphan (harshly). And urges not on feeding the poor. (Quran 107: 1-7.)
The famous Hadeeth in Saheeh Muslim book of hadith goes like this.”Feed the hungry, pay a visit to sick and free the captives.”Ramadan also teaches us about the thirst game; the looming global water crises .A thirsty individual can bet on water with anything in the world, the countdown before iftaar while the fragrance of Rooh afzaa and host of sharbat and lassi melts your mind, one should pause and feels the thirst of those who walks’ miles to get a pale of water in sub Saharan Africa , in the deserts of Rajasthan and many more places on the globe, and their crowns are not on their heads which may be broken, when they tumble;, instead they have broken hearts and long two miles to be conquered to get another pale of water.

Ramadan also trains the observant to be compassionate and mindful about what he intends what he speaks what he see and off course what he do!!

So next time when you meet your Muslim buddy, your colleague, your boss your delivery man your car mechanic don’t ask him what he had in sahree or what’s there in today’s iftaar or how hungry craving and thirsty he is? Or how hard it is to sustain for 12-15 hrs a day with ought food and water? Instead ask him about what behavioral changes he intends to develop in this Ramadan? Will he be going to feed his poor neighbor? How he is planning to conserve water? Is he going to use the same shaving and brushing method with running tab water? Or will he change it after having fast with furious thirst and realizing how important water may be to the ones who don’t have access to it. Ask him about his personal contribution which essentially Ramadhan mandates on him in term of being more compassionate and tolerant to his fellow human beings , more humble after being realized that essentially his wealth can buy many things but certain compulsions can make him deprived of all his resources as the compulsion of saum is.

One can only imagine the gargantuan impact if even a fraction of Muslim population can imbibe this real spirit of Ramadhan. Muslim preachers , fatwa issuing mercenaries, self proclaiming preachers, YouTube activist and drawing room Muslim intellectuals, probably, will do great service to the community if they can spread the awareness and evolve effective communication and understanding among masses of what exactly Ramadhan is all about! What it is meant for and how the practice of saum should produce the tangible results both at individual and at society level.
Practitioners of Islam and in turn its third tenet “the saum,” are probably more accountable for the efforts to eradicate hunger, alleviate water crises, evolve high level of civic etiquettes and environment than anybody else . This is what their religion teaches them and this is what their third tenet of Islam demands from them as individuals as societies as governments.
Till this happens, I am for the change !! Who else is accompanying me oh my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters and for that sake all of those who want a a ral change on this beautiful globe called ‘earth’, inhabited by humans!!

(The writer is a father, holds a Ph.D in Biochemistry and was a Professor by grade in Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering Department RTM Nagpur University)

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