Tuesday, October 04, 2005

YARP 2005: Remember the Forgotten

“You know,” I told my dad, while we were having dinner last night, when they announced that Ramadan would begin on Wednesday, “For a little while, I forgot what fasting during Ramadan was for.”

“That’s an odd thing to forget,” he said.

Yeah, it was.

Less Than the Best.

I’m not even close to being a devout Muslim. I know what being drunk feels like, I’ve done things with the ladies that could be described as… interesting and educational1, I occasionally blaspheme, and sins upon sins, I am often liberal and irreverent about my religion.

I could put blame on it on my upbringing. My dad’s pretty much a liberal Muslim too, with pockets of conservatism. But hey, he grew up in the sixties, and idolized Tariq Ali2.

But I’m not going to. It was a decision I made, I guess, a long time ago.

Times Change.

Yeah, and it’s harder to be a Muslim now. I mean, they blew up fucking Bali again. I mean, what’s the point of it? People die, Muslims take a PR hit.

Farish Noor ’s article, as usual, stands out as a fairly good piece of writing from a fairly moderate Muslim, but he’s lost the point again, hasn’t he?

Yes, it’s about the Muslims versus the West. It just gets to the point where you bring up the litany about how the West wants to bring down Muslims, force it to assimilate into what it believes is the global culture, and go along in its business.

Well, maybe that’s true.


But that’s not the point again, is it? Yes, focus on the conflict. Focus on the ideological battles Muslims have with the West, and with themselves and each other. We’ve entered an age of soul-searching, we Muslims, and it’s often not pretty.

But what has this got to do with forgetting what fasting is for? Well, everything. What is the Ramadan fast for?

The Ramadan fast is an injunction from God. Oh, great, argument settled, let’s go home. But that’s not just it, is it? When I was a kid, we were told that the fast was to remember the suffering of the poor, of those people who often did not have enough to eat and drink, the ones we walk on past whenever we go to work, or go home from work, or on Jalan Sultan Ismail, on our way to a night of debauched revelries.

Forgotten and Forsaken.

The fast is for the forgotten. Yeah, I know, it’s symbolic, but we’re weird that way. Humans, I mean; not Muslims. We’re weird in the sense that we need symbols to start something. Reason doesn’t cut it, and frankly, I don’t think it ever will.

So we commemorate the sufferings of those we forget so often by depriving ourselves of what they are every day deprived of—food, drink, comfort and pleasure. And every year, we do it, and try to become better people, by remembering.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily happen any more; but that’s semiotics for you.

Forgotten, and Forgetting That We Have Forgotten.

It’s easy to forget these things when you’re afraid, or defending yourself. It’s easy to just say, “Oh, we’re Muslims, we don’t do this sort of thing,” or “Oh, those Muslims, they’re always doing this sort of thing,” or whatever.

When we’ve got elephants running around in our heads, important things—like democracy and freedom, real freedom, not this McDonalds-Starbucks piece of shit we’ve got masquerading for freedom—get forgotten.

And life goes on. And people get trampled. And no one remembers.

Safe Fasting, ya’ll.

So. That’s a reason to fast—it’s not necessarily a religious and cultural thing Muslims do, but also a political thing3, a social thing anyone, Muslim or not, can do. Sure, you’re fasting because it’s an injunction from God, and you must do it if you are able. Think less of the ritual, and more on the mindset behind fasting.

But that isn’t it, as well, is it? Remember the poor. Remember the people who don’t have anything. Remember the forgotten. Farish’s article was a call to not forget what Islam stands for, and to fight for those things.

And to never forget.


1 And quite, quite private. No luck getting anything out of me about that any more.

2 And it was no suprise where he got my name then.

3 Muslims don’t usually separate religion from politics, which usually scare the shit out of people who are experienced with Christianity, who’ve had shitty several hundred years worth of religion and politics mixing together.

Anonymous Giant Sotong said...

...Yet Another Random Post?

10:17 AM  
Blogger T-Boy said...

Architeuthis: Hover your mouse cursor over the acronym, and the name should appear in a Tooltip.

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Giant Sotong said...

Thank you, and pardon me for not recognising such an esoteric HTML tag.

Selamat berpuasa, 'K?

11:38 AM  
Blogger T-Boy said...

Architeuthis: Why apologize? It's a common enough query. Frankly, I need to get a FAQ.

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Giant Sotong said...

It's a character flaw - probably to hide something I'm not sure I have (or not have). I confuse myself often.

IreneQ has problems with that (my constant apologies) too.

3:04 PM  
Blogger T-Boy said...

Architeuthis: Huh, right. So why is it a character flaw? I always thought character flaws were either worse… or illusory.

3:35 PM  
Blogger xaph said...

An excellent post. It accompanied me while I was breaking my fast today.

6:54 PM  
Blogger thquah said...

An article with substance, perhaps I will try and fast for a day.

8:14 PM  
Anonymous Giant Sotong said...

T-Boy: Because it feels that way to me. ...Aren't we digressing a little from the real point of this post?

11:14 AM  
Blogger T-Boy said...

xaph: Er, good for you!

thquah: Well, if you are, remember to follow some basic rules for your personal health and safety while fasting.

Just because you do it doesn’t mean you must kill yourself doing it.

Architeuthis: Well, you really can’t say that this blog takes itself too seriously.

OMG I just called it ‘this blog’! Waaagh! Next thing you know I’ll be referring myself as ‘this blogger’ and the people who visit as ‘fellow readers’, and then nothing will stop the downward spiral! T_T

11:59 AM  
Anonymous lionel said...

Yeah the fact that Muslims — officially? &madsh; want to mix religion and politics does scare me, as a freethinking church-justgoanyway-er. What scares me just the same is that some Christians — damn Yankees! — want to mix religion and politics all over again too.

I see you're questioning a religious ritual you practice, but at least have (I hope) the integrity to practice it anyway while you're still not murtad or anything. I've ran such musings in my head since very young myself.

> giant sotong = Architeuthis

Tariq you are awesomely geeky like that.

> and nothing will stop the downward spiral!

I've been having the same exact thoughts about my own blogging. (Aaarghh I did it again!)

1:22 PM  
Blogger T-Boy said...

lionel: Well, for one thing, there isn’t such a thing as the Official Islam. Do note, while most denominations of Christians have a central governing power that determines what exactly that particular any particular denomination believes…

...Muslims don’t. Instead, we have reams and reams of documentation and interpretation that, technically, we must know and sift through; and, amusingly, most of this documentation references practice and ritual, not belief.

Even when we do come near dogma, the nature of more or less explicitly political. And what significant population of people can agree on politics? Not Muslims, for a start ;)

And yeah… I’m in that stage of life where I at least in the surface know why I’m doing this particular religious ritual. And the why? Ho ho ho, aren’t you are the particularly nosy one.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous lionel said...

Maybe "officially" isn't the most accurate word... I only gather that the Quran covers politics and nation-running, which is why, I think, some Muslims aren't as adverse to combining church and state (mosque, if anyone insists).

10:27 AM  
Blogger T-Boy said...

lionel: You'd be surprised. It's actually an epic poem, and a guide, and it legislates far less than you'd expect.

And sure, they're up for combining the state and the mosque. Which mosque, though? And who runs the mosque? Who dictates policy? It's all very fuzzy.

What's worrying, mind you, is that modern muslim fundamentalist movements are trying to reduce the relationship between the mosque and its community into something clear-cut, unambigious and very possibly totalitarian.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous lionel said...

What of hadiths? I'm sure those are more legislative, but how in your opinion should a Muslim treat them in relation to the Quran?

12:55 PM  
Blogger T-Boy said...

lionel: As useful supporting secondary sources, except when it can be argued that the ruling of that particular hadith seems obsolete. The Qur'an can be eternal, fine… but the hadith? Not all the time.

2:41 PM  

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