June 6, 2016

"What is the ideal Muslim approach to Ramadan? My city, Istanbul, offers a good model."

"Here, we have no laws governing Ramadan. Many people decide to fast, many people decide not to fast. The latter can enjoy restaurants and cafes during the day, and some perhaps even enjoy bars at night, even though Islamic law prohibits alcohol. The pious, meanwhile, fast for the right reason: They are not forced to stay thirsty and hungry by the government. They freely decide to do so out of their sincere faith in God."

Writes Mustafa Akyol, author of “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty.”

 ("During Ramadan last year, more than a thousand people died in Pakistan from dehydration under extreme heat, despite calls from some more flexible clerics to cease fasting. Even those who did decide to give up the fast because they were in danger still could drink water only in private because of the social pressure they faced — a big problem for people who lived on the street.")

46 comments:

David Begley said...

It is foolish to suggest Islam can modernized or secularzed in the near term. The fundamentalists run the show. The fundamentalists also have force of arms to enforce the rules. There must not be a religious police force in Instanbul like there is in Riyhad.

MadisonMan said...

I see the link goes to the New York Times, not to Al Riyadh -- where its publication would actually mean something.

Sydney said...

My son is working in a relatively liberal middle eastern Muslim country, but he is expected not to eat or drink even water in the presence of Muslims during Ramadan. He can eat or drink in privacy, but not in public and not in the same office space as Muslim co-workers.

Jane the Actuary said...

I've often wondered about the conditions in Arabia at the time of Muhammed. Was Ramadan was less grueling then? I could see there being a general practice of siesta, perhaps extended sleep-until-it-cools-down, which meant that the difficult wasn't felt, and people woke up and worked when night hit. Was the fast instituted during a year when Ramadan fell in the winter, so was easier (shorter days, though not as extreme as the US, and more moderate temps), and then fixed as a mandate that couldn't be altered once the calendar cycle meant that it began to fall in summer?

Anglelyne said...

Also, Istanbul is always packed with non-Muslim tourists and business people, so shutting down restaurants and the ubiquitous water vendors during the day would annoy tourists and choke off tourist revenue, which must be huge. (Never been to Lahore, but I suspect it's not quite the tourist draw that Istanbul is.)

Anglelyne said...

Jane the Actuary: I've often wondered about the conditions in Arabia at the time of Muhammed. Was Ramadan was less grueling then?

In the desert, especially back in the day, you probably got used to going without water for long periods, out of necessity.

I had a tour guide once in Istanbul who was observing the Ramadam fast, in the miserable heat of August. He was holding up gracefully, considering his full, active work schedule. So if an urban academic can handle it, tough desert rats surely could.

David Begley said...

Sydney:

Churchill was right. Islam is the most retrograde force in the world. It will NEVER be reformed.

Expat(ish) said...

I lived in Istanbul in the early 80's during the summer, so experienced Ramadan. Many shops were closed during the day but several times we went to a famous cafe under a bridge on the Bosphorus and had beer and fries and doner kebap. Nobody cared. I think we did not walk around eating on the street from vendors as it was considered impolite. No sense of danger though.

I was back in the summer of 1990 and overlapped Ramadan by two days and it was much the same, though the beer was now more expensive and served colder. I did not eat street vendor food this time as I was smarter than when I was 17. :_)

-C

Fernandinande said...

"My city, Istanbul, offers a good model."

That's mighty white of them.

Anglelyne said...
I had a tour guide once in Istanbul who was observing the Ramadam fast, in the miserable heat of August.


Mid-eighties is hardly miserable: "The month of August is characterized by gradually falling daily high temperatures, with daily highs ranging from 86°F to 83°F over the course of the month, exceeding 92°F or dropping below 79°F only one day in ten."

Bob Ellison said...

You can live without food, but you cannot live without water. In the desert, you need a lot more water than elsewhere.

Mark said...

When I lived in Pakistan it was the same way - no eating or drinking in the presence of Muslims during Ramadan.

When the lunar calendar means summertime Ramadan, overall productivity goes way down. When I was in Lahore in June, the sun and heat were absolutely brutal with even nights uncomfortable - likely this year will have a high death toll.

Travrlers, the old/young, and anyone sick is exempted but the public attitude is much like the bravado of a football coach and people try not to claim reasonable exceptions because of that ... and thus deaths.

The folks I worked with knew to leave me alone when I stepped out with my lunch bag for a snack or drink. The best food in Pakistan is found by getting an invite to someone's home to break the fast in the evening, a lovely slow social meal filled with every flavor available.

A few weeks into my first Ramadan someone pointed out the few coworkers who still took bathroom breaks in the afternoon every day. As was pointed out, if you aren't drinking water or eating you don't need to pee every couple hours ... unless you are cheating. Plenty did, at least for water.

Jane the Actuary said...

I also read once that, if you are exempted from fasting, for whatever reason (sickness, pregnancy, even menstruation), you have to "make up" the days later or else you won't get to heaven. Don't know exactly how this works, though, and I tried reading about this a while ago. On the one hand, I was reading claims that Allah balances out good vs. bad deeds -- but then the appeal of Islam to felons in prison wouldn't make sense, since it'd seem pretty difficult to do enough good deeds to balance out a murder.

Rick said...

David Begley said...
There must not be a religious police force in Instanbul like there is in Riyhad.


Yet. Turkey used to be the model as a non-Islamist Muslim country. But Erdogan has shown us how unstable that model is. They've been heading the wrong direction for a decade and those claiming to know how far it will go are either trying to fool you or themselves. If a country which began with a strong commitment to a separation of mosque and state can so easily be returned to the traditional model what chance do other countries have?

mockturtle said...

Theocracy never works. It attempts to impose legally what can only be spiritually derived.

Alexander said...

It is therefore a LIVE SAVING and HUMANITARIAN necessity that we allow more Muslims into Europe, as it is much easier to survive Ramadan during a summer in Germany or France than in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.

You don't want to be responsible for the deaths of innocent people because of your xenophobia, do you, bigot?

cubanbob said...

Alexander said...
It is therefore a LIVE SAVING and HUMANITARIAN necessity that we allow more Muslims into Europe, as it is much easier to survive Ramadan during a summer in Germany or France than in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.

You don't want to be responsible for the deaths of innocent people because of your xenophobia, do you, bigot?

6/6/16, 9:12 AM"

On the other hand the Muslim world could invest heavily in air conditioning and thus keep their loved ones home.

Owen said...

Jane the Actuary: "...since it'd seem pretty difficult [for a Muslim felon] to do enough good deeds to balance out a murder."

Maybe if they kill an infidel, that would clear the account? Is it 1:1, I wonder?

coupe said...

Mustafa has some pretty radical ideas there: "government letting the people freely decide..."

D. B. Light said...

I was in Istanbul two years ago during Ramadan. It was great for a non-Muslim (easy seating in restaurants, etc.) People would pack baskets of food and wait in parks for the evening call to prayer then picnic. Never felt threatened, not even near Taksim Square.

Real American said...

...a good start!

SteveR said...

I anticipate the month-long European vacation model will transition to a Ramadan/vacation model. Win-Win for everyone although rape and pedophilia will still be in play.

MikeR said...

In Judaism, those who could possible be endangered are not allowed to fast on Yom Kippur. If they do it anyhow they are considered to have killed themselves.

Richard Francis Burton on "Ramazan", during his famous Journey to Mecca (https://archive.org/stream/personalnarrativ1874burt/personalnarrativ1874burt_djvu.txt, see chapter 53 or search for Ramazan):
'This year the Ramazan befel in June, and a fear-
ful infliction was that "blessed month," making the
Moslem unhealthy and unamiable. For the space of
sixteen consecutive hours and a quarter, we were for-
bidden to eat, drink, smoke, snuff, and even to swallow
our saliva designedly. I say forbidden, for although
the highest orders of Turks, — the class popularly described as
"Turco fino Mangia porco e beve vino" —
may break the ordinance in strict privacy, popular
opinion would condemn any open infraction of it with
uncommon severity. In this, as in most human things,
how many are there who hold that
"Pdcher en secret n'est pas pecher, Ce n'est que l'eclat qui fait le crime."
The middle and lower ranks observe the duties of
the season, however arduous, with exceeding zeal: of
all who suffered severely from such total abstinence, I
found but one patient who would eat even to save his
life. And among the vulgar, sinners who habitually
drink when they should pray, will fast and perform
their devotions through the Ramazan.
Like the Latin, Anglo-Catholic and Greek fasts,
the chief effect of the "blessed month" upon True
Believers is to darken their tempers into positive gloom.
Their voices, never of the softest, acquire, especially-
after noon, a terribly harsh and creaking tone. The
men curse one another and beat the women. The
women slap and abuse the children, and these in their
turn cruelly entreat, and use bad language to, the dogs
and cats. You can scarcely spend ten minutes in any
populous part of the city without hearing some violent
dispute. The "Karakun," or station-houses, are filled
with lords who have administered an undue dose of
chastisement to their ladies, and with ladies who have
scratched, bitten, and otherwise injured the persons of
their lords. The Mosques are crowded with a sulky,
grumbling population, making themselves offensive to
one another on earth, whilst working their way to
heaven; and in the shade, under the outer walls, the
little boys who have been expelled the church attempt
to forget their miseries in spiritless play. In the bazars
and streets, pale long-drawn faces, looking for the
most part intolerably cross, catch your eye, and at this
season a stranger will sometimes meet with positive
incivility. A shopkeeper, for instance, usually says
when he rejects an insufficient offer, Yaftah Allah,
"Allah opens" viz., the door of daily bread, a
polite way of informing a man that you and he are
not likely to do business; in other words, that you
are not in want of his money. In the Ramazan, he
will grumble about the bore of Ghashim ("Johnny
raws"), and gruffly tell you not to stand there wasting
his time. But as a rule the shops are either shut or
destitute of shopmen, merchants will not purchase,
and students will not study. In fine, the Ramazan,
for many classes, is one twelfth of the year wantonly
thrown away.'
Read the whole thing.

William said...

It's heartening to learn that a generation ago one could have lunch in Turkey without mortal peril. Life doesn't get any better than that.

damikesc said...

It is foolish to suggest Islam can modernized or secularzed in the near term. The fundamentalists run the show. The fundamentalists also have force of arms to enforce the rules. There must not be a religious police force in Instanbul like there is in Riyhad.

People, myself included, have long hoped for a Muslim Reformation.

It looks like this massive uptick in violence and oppression IS the Reformation.

Anglelyne said...

Fernandinande: Mid-eighties is hardly miserable: "The month of August is characterized by gradually falling daily high temperatures, with daily highs ranging from 86°F to 83°F over the course of the month, exceeding 92°F or dropping below 79°F only one day in ten."

IOW, the month of August in Istanbul is miserably hot.

(I really hate hot weather. That the weather in Istanbul in August is nowhere near as miserable as places in the tropics or the desert doesn't mean it isn't miserably hot. Plus, the long summer days means more hours of fasting.)

Mark said...

That's not hot. Lahore has an average low temp in June of 79, average high is well into the 90s and averages at least a few days in the 100s.

And that's civilized Lahore. Karachi is hotter, has ten million more people, and is a mosquito hell at times.

That's the month when you head to the mountains, just like the British and Mughals did.

Johnny Sokko said...

Bet this guy gets whacked like those Bangladeshi bloggers who were mildly critical of Islam.

This isn't even mildly critical but some extremist loon will take offense. Just like they took offense with a bunch of cartoons.

Not all of the 1 billion Muslims are like this but it does seem like religion has been hijacked by crazies.

coupe said...

When the thief on the cross next to Jesus asked to be remembered, Bam! Jesus said you will be with me in Paradise.

No baptism, no catechism, no dunking in water, no wearing a burka, etc. Bam! just like that he had eternal life in paradise. He merely accepted Jesus as his savior.

The best thing a Muslim woman can do is to slice the throat of her child, so that it won't have to suffer the suicide cult she is enslaved in.

Smilin' Jack said...

During Ramadan last year, more than a thousand people died in Pakistan from dehydration under extreme heat, despite calls from some more flexible clerics to cease fasting.

I salute the faith and courage of those Muslims who held fast (hee!) to their beliefs, and hope they inspire many others. "Flexible" clerics are the tools of Satan, and those tempted by their lies should consider how much thirstier they'll be burning forever in hell.

Titus said...

Interesting. I just interviewed Muz and he was fasting for a month.

They can eat and drink at night.

No sex either!

Titus said...

I couldn't make it a month without sex-

mockturtle said...

No sex either!

Does that mean European women and girls [and boys!] are safe during Ramadan?

AReasonableMan said...

Titus said...
Interesting. I just interviewed Muz and he was fasting for a month.

No sex either!


I am not familiar with codes of conduct in modern HR departments but enquiring whether or not a job applicant is available for sex would seem to fall outside normal bounds of behavior. Maybe not in a weak job market, but with close to full employment this seems somewhat questionable conduct. I must concede, dear reader, that I am not as urbanely sophisticated as the Boston crowd and I could be off base on this one.

Unknown said...

What, are you kidding? How long have you been here? Titus isn't real!

Michael K said...

"Bet this guy gets whacked like those Bangladeshi bloggers who were mildly critical of Islam. "

If Erdogan leaves him out of jail long enough.

AReasonableMan said...

Unknown said...
Titus isn't real!


Heavens no! Another Nietzschean moment on my path to the grave.

Drago said...

ARM: "I am not familiar with codes of conduct in modern HR departments but enquiring whether or not a job applicant is available for sex would seem to fall outside normal bounds of behavior."

ARM, you come across as British in your understatement.

Well played.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

I'll bet none of them wore shorts, though. So there's that.

Achilles said...

I love how this story pops into the nyt trying desperately to portray Muslim culture as remotely decent and tolerant.

No mention of pocket boys. No mention of female genital mutilation. No mention of what they do to gay men. No mention of what happens to apostates. Or underage female rape victims. Or Jews.

Nope progress is not beating people who eat during ramadan to death on government orders. Ok then. Totally good.

Marc Puckett said...

As Richard Burton suggested, we Catholics used to do abstinence and fasting quite seriously, too, in a way that made the larger society make allowances for us, I mean; even these days, there are pockets where e.g. fish is put onto restaurant menus on Fridays because many of us continue to abstain from meat on those days (or at any rate because someone has a 'cultural memory' that there should be fish on Fridays' menus). I don't know if local governments were ever implicated in this but do recall that some public school districts would plan their cafeteria menus on Fridays in a way to respect this practice. Anyway, from that specific perspective, of spiritual discipline, I suppose, I admire the Muslim faithful who keep the Ramadan fast.

Jupiter said...

So if two lesbians order a cake from a Muslim baker during Ramadan, can he refuse to bake it? What if they start to eat it right there in front of him? Hell, what if they start to eat each other right there in front of him?

Two Muslim lesbians walk into a bar during Ramadan ...

Morsie said...

Just started my first Ramadan in Kuching , Sarawak, Borneo ( part of East Malaysia ).It will be interesting to see how it goes.Minority Muslim population but people are grouped in separate areas.

tim in vermont said...

Titus is all too real, I fear, or as I call him, Booty and the Blowfish.

Titus said...

We did not talk about not having sex during the interview-geez-I am very professional and not a complete idiot!

My hubby told me they don't do it during fasting.

Titus said...

I am actually real too. I have become a grindr addict and need help.

I am like cancelling plans with people because a hot ass is 50 feet away.

One of my best friends called me a dick last weekend because I left him waiting for me at a restaurant because a 20 year old hottie wanted me.

I need to stop.

I think the first step is acknowledging you have a problem.

But when a stud is 50 feet away it is HARD to say no.

Mark Caplan said...

This morning's headline: a car bomb targeting a police bus in a busy market square murdered 11 people in Istanbul's Faith district.