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Retailers, respect Ramadan's meaning

The Star/ANN | Tuesday, Jul 1, 2014

It's that time of the year again.

Promotions, special offers, super discounts and best buys. Yes, the Ramadan rush is back! By another name, it is the Ramadan sales.

It's annoying how businessmen, traders and profiteers have turned this most revered month in the Muslim calendar - the month when the Holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad - into a commercial circus.

Admittedly, it is a huge boon to foodcourts, restaurants, shopping malls and retail outlets selling all kinds of things and offering all types of services, including facial, eye, nail and underarm treatment!

Relatively quiet during the day, because people are either at work, in school or minding the house, business booms come nightfall.

I am certain, as it happens here in Malaysia, it is occurring elsewhere around the globe, including in shopping capitals like London, Dubai and Singapore.

While I frown on people spending excessively on food they cannot finish, I do not include the Ramadan bazaars, which focus on the variety of local cuisine and occasional international delicacies, as part of the season's commercial pageantry.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, is essentially an ascetic month of daily fasting from dawn to dusk, prayers, alms giving and reflection on the Almighty and His prophets.

Abstinence from food and drink alone does not constitute fasting.

It consists of complete abstention from worldly things, including food, drink, foul speech, abusive words and immoral deeds.

A Muslim undergoes a rigorous regime of discipline during this month because of his faith in Allah and only for his love and fear of Him.

As it follows the lunar calendar (which is 10 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar), Ramadan will fall into all seasons and weather in the course of time.

Accordingly, Muslims all over would have the experience of fasting in winter and summer, as well as during shorter and longer days.

In Brazil this year, the fasting month coincides with the beginning of the knockout stage of the World Cup tournament, with the remaining 16 teams playing to win the coveted prize on July 14.

It is said to be scorching hot in the South American country at this time and Muslim players, like Karim Benzema (France) and Mesut Ozil (Germany), will certainly feel the heat, in more sense than one, in every match they play.

Admittedly, without the marketing hype, consumers still go shopping to seek essential stuff for cooking, decorative accessories to light up their homes and new clothes to wear when Syawal arrives.

But opportunistic merchants are rudely giving Ramadan the guise of a cultural or social event, rather than respecting it as a religious month.

Take a random shopping trip around the Klang Valley and you will see how commercialism has taken on a life of its own, as almost everything has been dressed in the cloak of Ramadan, from the sales of consumer goods to the promotion of spa and beauty treatments.

A few years ago, in its overzealousness to profit from the trend, a major hotel promoted a "Ramadan luncheon".

This was stopped quickly after the hotel received a barrage of criticisms from Muslim groups and the Malay media.

In another instance, a radio station crossed the line when it asked its listeners which was the more important event - fasting or celebrating Hari Raya?

Fasting, one of the five tenets of Islam, cannot have its decree questioned nor its merits debated.

Needless to say, the radio station faced heavy missiles.

It all does not seem right to the Muslims, who are obliged to stay away from undesirable habits, show exemplary conduct, keep a positive mental and spiritual attitude and, generally, abstain from worldly desires.

Truly, Ramadan provides a test of will and discipline for all Muslims. After 30 days, they rejoice deservedly with the appearance of the Syawal moon.

This is when the ummah celebrates the Eid or Hari Raya Aidilfitri, as it is known in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei.

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