A piece by Kelly Anissa

“Be honest,” she said. “Does it bother you?”

***

The other day while our lecturer was busy preparing for class, I turned my chair around and faced my friends behind me. We had a boring start to the day, which gave us a lot of trivial things to rant about – being the sleep deprived college kids we were at 11 am that morning.

Mid way through, my lecturer openly expressed her surprise at how I wasn’t tempted by the scent of the pasta on the table between my friend and I.

I am, after all, a practicing Muslim and was fasting at the time.

That sparked the short lived discussion of whether it is morally ‘acceptable’ for non Muslims to eat and drink in front of those fasting during this holy month.

I know my non-Muslim friends feel uncomfortable having their meals in my presence and one of them even apologized for wanting to buy food – not even for eating in front of me. I’m truly lucky to be surrounded by thoughtful peers who always take my feelings into consideration. I feel grateful because I never expected that, nor did I feel like I was entitled to it.

And guess what? Neither should you.

I saw that viral post about the boy who criticized someone having lunch in front of him, demanding he be respected because he’s fasting.

As a Muslim, I want to point out to other Muslims with the same mindset that when we fast, the world doesn’t have to stop for us. They do not have to accommodate.

In fact, isn’t one of the many intentions of this holy month is to teach us how to persevere, empathize and to not be enticed by luxury and treats?

Asking someone to hide those things away so that you don’t get tempted is blatant cheating. Demanding that someone does that defeats the very purpose of what Ramadhan is trying to teach.

The poor do not ask you to put away your drinks when you walk by them on the streets because they feel thirsty.

The homeless do not ask you to buy a home somewhere away from their sight so that they don’t remember what it feels like to have a roof over their heads.

Struggling families do not judge you for eating at restaurants they could never hope to dine in.

I think the worst part from all of this, is that at the stroke of Maghrib in the evening, there are too many people out there who are still hungry, and will continue that way for days or weeks, while we get to stuff our faces with delicacies we bought from the bazaar.

Our ‘plight’, that only lasts for 14 hours, is a faint comparison.

So yes, if someone is going to eat in front of you, let them. You are supposed to know what it’s like to want something you can’t have because maybe, JUST maybe, you would come out of this challenge as a humbler character.

There is a greater purpose behind why Muslims choose to abstain during this holy month and it goes beyond the hunger and the thirst. If you understand what that greater purpose is, you’re doing it right.

So as for the first question at the beginning of this article asks, I say go ahead and eat in front of me.

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