LOOKING at the surfeit of food on our sufras, it never ceases to appall me how much time, energy, expense and effort is spent in preparing, consuming, serving and clearing up elaborate meals in the name of “maintaining Ramadan traditions.”
It’s no secret that harried housewives and working women have resorted to outsourcing traditional Ramadan fare, and rather than going through the elaborate ordeal of conjuring a multi-course homemade meal every single day, they simply pay someone to supply it. After all, Ramadan “traditions” must be maintained, never mind the cost.
It makes me wonder: Who taught us the tradition of the over-laden table and the distended stomach?
“The offspring of Adam fills no vessel worse than his stomach.“
It was certainly not our Prophetﷺ whose Sunnah we are obligated to follow. Doesn’t it strike us as hugely ironic, that even as we make Ramadan resolutions to improve our acts of worship, and strive to develop ittibaaʽ (practice/following) in other areas of our lives, we tend to conveniently overlook this aspect of the Prophet’s life – his moderation to the extent of abstinence in indulging his appetite?
Are we the Ummah of the Prophetﷺ who said: “The offspring of Adam fills no vessel worse than his stomach. Sufficient for the child of Adam are a few morsels to keep his back straight. If he must eat more, then a third should be for his food, a third for his drink, and a third left for air?” [Musnad Ahmad]
Going by the statistics, which state that cases of acute indigestion and a host of other digestive disorders increase by almost 48 percent all over the world at the beginning of Ramadan, it certainly doesn’t seem so.
For curiosity’s sake, let’s take a look at some of the things the Prophetﷺ is reported to have broken his fasts with:
• The Messenger of Allah ﷺ used to prefer breaking the fast with dates, and if he did not find any, he would then break it with water.
• Anas Bin Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “The Prophet ﷺ used to break his fast with fresh dates before he prayed. If he did not find fresh dates then he would use dried dates. If he did not find that also he drank a few sips of water. (Ahmad and Abu Dawood)
• Abdullah bin Awfa narrated: “We were in the company of the Prophetﷺ on a journey and he was fasting, and when the sun set, he addressed somebody, “O so-and-so, get up and mix sawiq (a coarse mixture of ground wheat and barley) with water for us.” He replied, “O Allah’s Apostle! (Will you wait) till it is evening?” The Prophet said, “Get down and mix sawiq with water for us.” He replied, “O Allah’s Apostle! (If you wait) till it is evening.” The Prophet said again, “Get down and mix sawiq with water for us.”
He replied, “It is still daytime.” The Prophet said again, “Get down and mix sawiq with water for us.” He got down and mixed sawiq for them.
The Prophet ﷺ drank it and then said, “When you see night falling from this side, the fasting person should break his fast.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari]
There are many lessons to be learnt from these narrations that give us an insight into the sublime character of the Prophetﷺ and the intended spirit of fasting.
The Prophetﷺ preferred to break his fast with food that was easily available, and did not disdain to break his fast with a few sips of water if there was no food. It was his custom to follow a simple, macrobiotic diet and he did not order special dishes made to break the fast with – although there were some dishes which were considered delicacies in those days like tharid (meat mixed with bread), talbinah (a sweet), soups, vegetables, roasted meat and dishes prepared with cheese and refined butter – which he enjoyed occasionally.
The Prophetﷺ did not make a “tradition” of indulging his appetite – a fact which should give his Ummah plenty of food for thought. Whose “traditions” are we following when we sit down to our smorgasbords every day? And whose traditions are more worthy of being followed?