Intolerance and compulsion

One of the recurring arguments used by those who proselytize the faith is a quote from the Holy Quran: “You have your religion. I have mine” (109:6). And yet, it seems as though the ego has hijacked one of the five pillars of Islam – fasting – by turning Kuwait into a hub of intolerance and exclusivity during Ramadan.

It amazes me that everyone is forbidden to eat publicly from dawn to sunset in order to respect the laws of the country. My question is: From where did these stringent laws originate? For those who adhere to Islam, this is not a Divine decree. There is no Sharia law that stipulates this.

In fact, many Muslims you speak to here are not fond of this law, so it is not a law of the majority. Many Kuwaitis – who pride themselves on hospitality and acceptance – find it unfair, especially since Muslims who are exempt from fasting if they are traveling, sick or have not reached puberty are forced to stay indoors and eat like criminals.

Muslims know that patience in hardship is rewarded, and fasting is certainly no easy feat – especially in the summer months, so fasting while others are eating is another way to practice patience.

The majority of Muslims around the world live in countries where restaurants are open and we never hear them protesting or complaining. The way forward is to expand consciousness; to live and let live.

Sometimes, the best way to transcend an outdated law is to imagine how it would be if the restrictions were reversed. How would the lawmakers feel if they had to publicly observe Lent in a Christian nation? No chocolate or no meat in public until Easter (unless in the privacy of your home)! I am sure a protest would be in order!

Certainly, laws are made to be obeyed, and there is no objection to that. But when it comes to religion, the laws should be personal. Even Islam stipulates that “[t]here should be no compulsion in religion” (2:256). So, again, where are these laws coming from, then?

Until we find the root of these laws that we sometimes cannot be bothered to question, I would like to apologize to both the non-Muslims living here and to all Muslims who are unable to fast as well – on behalf of the majority of Kuwaitis (and Muslims, for that matter).

With Ramadan being the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, it is obviously essential that core Islamic values be held mostly in place during this annual period of God-consciousness (taqwa). And there is nothing that speaks louder than tolerance and universality when it comes to taqwa, lest one forgets.

It’s time to resuscitate the holy and leave the holier-than-thou back in the shelves of the ego-mind.

Have a blessed month all!

by Nejoud Al-Yagout
[email protected]

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