The Cost of Ramadan

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There’s something I never understood about Ramadan in Jordan. Originally Ramadan is supposed to be one month of the year completly devoted to the worship of God. Now it’s also one month of the year when all the night clubs and bars close (out of respect?). I don’t understand this, I really don’t. For some reason it feels like the prophet Moses coming down from the mountain to find the Jews worshiping the golden calf after being absent for a few weeks. I mean it’s one thing to commit sins like lying and what not throughout the year, but it’s another to endulge in massive hypocrisy. Is it enough to simply cover up these places during Ramadan? Doesn’t covering it up imply shame? I also wonder what this must look like from up above. It doesn’t make sense to me at all.

What suprised me during my recent 4 month stay is the new mentality of business in Jordan, which states that no socially-oriented business idea can function without alcohol. Meaning you cannot open a resaraunt, a cafe, or just about anything that requires people, without selling alcohol. In fact it’s gotten to the point where even the best of business ideas can fail if there isn’t alcohol involved. NOT selling Alcohol has actually become the new risk. Does this sound strange to anyone?

Even the night clubs are closed. What is this about? Is prostitution put on hold during a month of worship or do they use that month to rennovate?

In this abu-mahjoob cartoon the idea that it’s more than just alcoholic drinks that need to be covered up, rising prices of goods need to covered as well. Though I’m scared of seeing a Ramadan where everywhere you go there are giant white sheets to cover up something we would normally identify as shameful or sinful but nevertheless acceptable for 11 months of the year where God and religion and any grain of decency is no longer an issue; no longer a priority.

Are giant white sheets the new social indicator of chastity? Will we in the future measure our progress by a thread count?

I think people forget that the progress of a nation is the progress of it’s people, and all the political and economic progress in the world is useless without social progress.

38 thoughts on “The Cost of Ramadan

  1. Yes, I totally agree with you. Although I must stress that I am not a religious person, I strongly believe that it God would appreciate honesty about lack of spirituality than hypocricy 3ashan irda2 il mojtama3. The levels of hypocricy in the Arab world disgust me.

  2. I see your point Nas, but what’s the solution that you propose? Banning alcohol and closing clubs all year round or keeping them exposed all the time (including Ramadan)? In Jordan, sometimes you have to find a middle ground….

  3. These days are the days of the middle grounds, as there is no black or white or a clear view of right and wrong, the gray area is just enormous anything away from the middle ground is considered as extremism. I donâ??t know what the solution is, to open up all year or close all year or if anything in between is appropriate.

  4. I have not been in Jordan for five years, but I can imagine the situation you describe. It seems to me that business is what is driving the cover-ups. I guess that customers, who are more holy in Ramadan, will choose to stay away from places that display alcohol; but, this implies that these customers are hypocrites. Perhaps customers don’t want to be seen in such places during Ramadan, or maybe the shop owner does not want to offend people. I am unclear.

    — nar

    PS Most interesting post I have seen on Jordanplanet in a while 😉

  5. Nas,

    While I was living and working in the Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia, they used to close all businesses during the praying times, I got stuck many times inside restaurants for the duration of the prayer which could take any where from five to fifteen minutes until the restaurant reopen again. In India the procession of fleet of cars transporting high level heads of states must stop if a group of cows happened to be crossing the streets during that moment of time, the cows take precedent over heads of states. We stop our cars in the USA to allow the funeral cars to proceed a head of us so they don’t get interrupted while they are on their way for a burial task. Some times we wait up to five minutes until all the cars pass by. We stand for a moment of silence when we are asked to do so although some of us may not want to do that, we stand when the national anthem is heard. Case in point: To each its own, and like Natasha correctly stated you got to find a happy medium some where, especially when you can’t ban something altogether. By draping the alcoholic beverages, we accommodate a large segment of the Muslim population in the country, and at the same time we didn’t deprive the others from obtaining what they think to be their right to drink. In other words, this group is happy, and that group is happy too. What else do you wan, so long as we were able to accommodate all segments of the society, I think that we are on the right track.

  6. Alchohol is just part of the “hypocracy” taking place. Not mentioning smoking and not listening to music to dealing with people on heigher moral ground becuase of the “seye2aat” one can get if not!

    Thats what I find ironic and what really unfolds our society “as is”. A Society that seeks a “moment of reality” rather than comming down to reality itself. The reality that Ramadan is supposed to be a highlithing of our lives for a months period, which means that what we’re supposed to be doing in Ramadan we’re supposed to do all along but now with a heigher voltage flashlight being fixed upon our deeds.

    So at the end what we’re supposed to know is that that flashlight is always there, but its power is not always as heigh as it is in Ramadan…

  7. A 6 year old child would say that if Jordan is an Islamic country and their constitute is Islam, then alcohol shouldn’t be allowed in as beverage. I tend to agree with him.

  8. Thanks to all for your interesting comments.

    We first need to understand who we are accomodating and thus what middle ground are we hoping to achieve.

    If nearly all restaraunts and cafes in amman serve alcohol who are they catering to? christians? tourists? are these two groups alone the driving force for these businesses? my guess is no.

    A few years back it was illegal to open an alcohol shop on the main street. Now I’ve thought about this law for sometime. It was legal to open a shop…just not on the main street. If we are to advertise blindly it will encourage the consumption of alcohol. This is the reason that most of these shops were in the backstreets. Location Location Location.

    So it stands that we are essentially NOT catering to a segment of society, NOR are we looking for a middle ground. What we are catering to, is money. Alcohol increases business but it also encourages consumption by its sheer availability. Sort of like ciggerette commercials and billboards in north america during the 60’s. They banned those in the states and canada for a reason although those that choose to smoke still can, they are catered to, and that is your middle ground.

    I read an article the other day about a hotel in morocco that is alcohol free. Can we stop for a moment and think about the state that we’re in when it’s so suprising a hotel would ever open up in an Islamic country that doesnt serve alcohol. When this bit of news actually makes headlines because its so suprising. The reason being? No one can fathom a business opening up that does not serve alcohol at this point in time. 15 Years ago, this bit of news would not have been news at all. To where has the social paradigm shifted?

    When I drove by Amasi a few months ago, a restaraunt in swefieh that is right next to a mosque, I saw a family restaraunt. Only a few weeks ago they put up large neon sponser signs with their name in front of a huge banner for beer. My perception, along with the perception of others change.

    Here’s what I’m getting at. If we were simply reaching a middle ground, i.e. to cater to all segments of society, then no one was complaining about the lack of alcohol 10-15 years ago. Why should the decrease of these places be any different? Secondly, what is the point to Ramadan if the moment it’s over the sheets come off and the bars and night clubs are re-opened for business. business being the key word

  9. Alcohol has not only really invaded the business side in our societies, it is actually very deeply entrenched nowadays. Even a person’s ability to have fun without alcohol consumption is now questioned and deemed outside the norms.

    When I was at a family dinner last summer, one of my elderly relatives (a parent in the family) asked me if I don’t drink. Notice she didn’t ask me whether I drink, she asked me whether I don’t drink. I said “No, I don’t drink” so she asked “ah .. sha66oor” with a smile and a very curious look. A smile that tries to tell you “great, I’m happy for you” but a look that seems to say “you know you’re being the odd ball here, don’t you?”.

    The other thing I notice is when I try to argue with people that you really shouldn’t have the need to drink alcohol unless you think it just tastes good. In which case, even the special taste that pure alcohol can add to a fruity drink can be simulated in a non alcoholic drink. But the most common argument you always hear from people is that they drink socially and only to get in a the mood. Now, I usually try to convince people that I personally do not need chemicals in my blood to be in a good mood and that I know many people who are the same. Honestly, I cannot remember a time when I was out with my friends and those of them who happened to have a few drinks had more fun than I did, and the best part of all is that while it would take one of them to get completely wasted to start acting funny and have a big grin on their face, I would at least be able to remember every moment of the good time I spent that night, and remember every reason I had to have a big grin on my face. And the strange thing, is that when you’re in the middle of having fun with your friends and you have this big smile drawn on your face, and you’re laughing, dancing, and joking around, someone would come and ask “how many drink have you had?” with a wink meaning admit it, therefore tying even your smile to drinking!! What’s really interesting is that if the person was intoxicated, they would smile and they would go into this dramatic confession about how cool it is to be someone who can have so much fun and fit in with others (ie. coz you fooled them into thinking that you’re drinking supposedly) without actually having to rely on a substance, but the next day, if you see someone else who is completely sober and they ask you the same question about the night before, and you give them the same answer, they would give you that smile and weird look that I talked about earlier. It’s really funny, when we’re sober our norms are polluted with the social prevailence of alcohol, but when we’re drunk we’re sort of .. pure.

  10. I dont know why you’re only concentrating on the Alchohol issue, its just part of whats being “covered up” in Ramadan.

    Anyhow,what we should realize actually is that its a social probelms just as its a religous one. Our lifestyles have changes, its not the same as 10-15 years ago. Globaliation has its effects. If we want “Starbucks”, “Champions”, “Hard rock cafe” (naiive examples), then we ought to deal with the side effects of these foreign bodies also!

    On another note, A few weeks I was in germany we were in the main street of Munich, anyhow. Each like 3 meters there was a sex shop! with this large banner, not mentioning the “e3” pics. And 3adi it was like a supermarket or something. People comming in and out, not covering up the issue even. That wasnt the case a few years back.

    My point is what we’re experiencing is a change in the perception of things;and thats worldwide; each in its own limits, Alchocol might be what we’ve reached for now. the bigger question woudl be, what will it be for the comming years?

  11. p.s: like your new site logo, definately feels more “homelike” than the other one. and the black iris in the corner just makes it perfecto

  12.  Promises, i chose alcohol because its a main element thats clashes with the ramadan culture in the country. also because of the mahjoob cartoon. thank you for your insightful comments, you make a valid point.

    thanks for liking the logo 🙂

  13. Hey Nas, great of you to point out this issue. You know, also here in Tunisia people suffer from the same problem of hypocrisy.
    I believe you are so right, this whole covering up is so pointless and reflects the hypocrisy and weakness of society!!

    As a quick reply to Natasha and Hatem, I believe what Nas is criticizing is accepting something, then considering this very thing shameful and must be covered up during a certain period of time.
    Can you believe that I see MANY “MUSLIM” people who actually buy loads of alcohol before Ramadan to be able to drink it AFTER BREAKING THEIR FASTING!! yes, yes, another picture of hypocrisy and lying to one’s self, they fast, and then drink! Why do they fast in the first place!
    Anyway as an answer to your question Natasha, I believe the best thing is for Muslims not to sell something that is forbidden in Islam. And leave it to Christians (or Jews if present in a country) to sell these things (alcohol, pork…etc.) And since Jordan is a Muslim country, then the non-Muslims can cover-up these goods out of respect during Ramadan, but they donâ??t have to in my personal opinion.
    This way, Muslims will get rid of their double-standards, and will stop selling anything just for money, and at the same time non-Muslims will still get what they need and won’t feel oppressed.
    And most important of all, we wont reach a point where an alcohol-free hotel (for example) would be considered strange!

  14. Dear Eman,
    In Jordan, only Christians are allowed to sell alcohol. So let’s say you are a Muslim owner of a restaurant and you want to serve alcohol, then you have to get a Christian partner so that you can get an alcohol license. Also liquor stores are only licensed to Christians.

  15. SC,
    Jordan has a Christian community, yes it is small, but it plays a major role in the development of this country. You can’t impose Islamic rules on the whole society when not all of its citizens are Muslims. You might not agree with me, but non-Muslim communities in Jordan should be accommodated. Jordanian Christians have been living in Jordan for centuries and they are an integral part of this community. They are entitled to have their rights protected since after all they are part of this land and among its indigenous inhabitants. Jordan plays an impressive role in accommodating them and it sets an example for tolerance and co-existence. Thus a middle ground might be the solution in this case in order to keep all religious segments of the society satisfied.

  16. Wow, a very interesting post indeed! I have never thought about things from this perspective, but actually you are right, it is about hypocracy, it is about double standards, it is simply the way we live our lives in Jordan. We have double standards about everything, Ramadan and Fridays prayer ( I can’t tell you how many people pray only on Friday, because of what people will say). Relationships, man woman, and gender role. even the big Salon in every house, which is the best room and the less used room, it is made for “visitors”…. you gave me something to think about.

  17. Dear Natasha, I wasn’t talking about Jordan alone, I was talking in general, sorry for not making it clear. For example here in Tunisia Muslims are allowed to sell alcohol. Anyway, back to Jordan, I know that’s the law, but if a Muslim investor -whether Jordanian or not- wants to open a hotel, or a supermarket, he finds ways to fool the law by â??on-paper-partnersâ?, or by connections (wasta).
    See the problem is very deep, it’s in the Muslim themselves Natasha, they sell things they know are against their religion just for money, and then cover them up in Ramadan. Isnâ??t this just irritating? I still believe Muslims must be more honest and stop fooling themselves and others.
    Not to mention that many hotels in many Muslim countries are not granted the ranking of 5 stars unless they sell alcohol, and this is an international law that is built on international standards!

  18. Yes it is hypocritical to serve alchohol all year and then shut the places down in Ramadan, but guess what? the larger community that consumes alchohol in Jordan is among the majority of Muslims and not just Christians or tourists. Most young people who happen to be minors are the ones who consume alchohol…So i think we should be discussing the enforcement of laws that prohibits serving alchohol to15 year olds instead. The problem is, its not just hypocracy concerning alcohol, its everything else in our lives..just as Madas said… Another point i think is worth mentioning, is closing the restaurants during the day in Ramadan which is ofcourse out of respect for people who are fasting? But HELLO , i think we should wake up and smell the coffee..There are people that dont fast..They want to eat too. And dont tell me that the majority of people fast..When i was in Uni..all the places where we used to hang out around the university where closed and most of the guys actually didnt fast so you would find them hiding in some corner eating chips or chocolate…And one more thing…Everyone knows that a girl cant fast if she has her period, so she has to hide from all the males she knows in her life in order to eat (which the religion has allowed). And for what?because she is shameful of admitting something that has to do with the biology of her body for gods sake????? Ya3ny that is hypocracy!!!!!! Religion is a personal matter and it has to do with your won beliefs without imposing its rules on others…Besides i thought fasting was a test to see how well you can practice self-restraint…so if all the restaurants are closed and we dont see anyone eating or drinking in front of us What Kind of Self Restraint is that????

  19. I am not denying the presence of hypocrisy and I can give more shocking examples of it: A friend used to pause porn movies during the “athan” and another used to hide “pictures” in his “tilaweh” book since this was the last plat his parents would think of looking (btw, this guy is a bearded sheikh with a 3amameh now). But also hypocritical is attributing the whole alcohol sales in Jordan to 5% of its population as well as denying Muslims the right to sell alcohol but allowing them to buy it from non-Muslims! This said, it is also unacceptable to force a Wahabi- or Taliban-style government that bans the sale of alcohol in the country. No one is in the position of forcing religion onto someone else. If a Muslim wants to drink, let him drink and leave it to the superpower that one believes in to judge him. I am by no means endorsing heavy or underage drinking, but since I also feel that there is some sense of hypocrisy in banning alcohol sales during Ramadan, I suggest Jordan stops practicing this “hypocrisy”. Just think of the added “thawab” a fasting person would get from passing by the pub and resisting the temptation to go in. The last two points I would like to make are (1) I believe alcohol sales should be regulated and it may not a bad idea to prohibit it near schools or places of worship (out of respect), and (2) allowing alcohol sale in a city is not by all means followed by allowing gambling, prostitution and drugs.

  20. Natasha, ofcourse I realize the fact that not only Moslims reside in Jordan. Islam guaranteed them their rights, and I agree on the middle ground, in fact, Islam provided that middle ground not me or anyone else. The question is, what middle ground we’re talking about here?
    Christians can drink as long as they drink alone, if that was guaranteed then its no one’s business to deprive them that right, even though I’m not sure about the technicality (where does drinking stand in Christianity). Having said that, it doesn’t matter who’s the owner if consumers can also be Moslims.

  21. Bottom line is NO ONE CAN FORCE RELIGOUS BELIEFS ON OTHERS..at the end of the day its a personal matter..The next thing you know we would turn into KSA….And its a very dumb law that only permits non-muslims to see alcohol while in fact many muslims do consume it…

  22. SC,
    You say “Christians can drink as long as they drink alone”, and I would like to ask what is this subjective sentence based on? Theological texts, or your own opinion? In reply to your comment, if you do not like the sight of Christians drinking, then I advise you to stay away from this sour scene.

  23. I just wanted to make something clear about my post. This isnt about coersion of minorities in Jordan. There is no compulsion in religion. There are religious freedoms in Islam which allow religious minorities in an Islamic nation to consume, produce and sell products forbidden to Muslims as long as it does not effect the latter in a negative way. Obviously this is happening and the solution for it is not one i have at hand. If one is not allowed to sell to Muslims then everyone would end up having to show their National ID card as proof of religion. But that is something else.

    What I was commenting on was the level of hypocricy. Think about it this way, what is the point of repenting for a sin which one knows fully well he or she will commit again in the near future? Ramadan is not about how long you can go without drinking alcohol! Islam is about not drinking it at all. Hence the white sheets we see are a reminder of something we, by default, find shameful.

    So I do agree with Jameed that there is a need to regulate these things if we are to achieve a middle ground of catering to minorities and tourists as well as maintaining a healthy islamic nation.

    If the west has managed to ban ciggerette ads from the public forum for health reasons then we should be able to do the same thing with alcohol for religious and ideological reasons.

  24. Natasha,
    by alone I meant they can drink as long as no Moslim is harmed by this, meaning, no Moslim will buy from their shops or is going to their bars. I didn’t mean they should hide and I haven’t the slightest clue where did you get that from. And please, don’t use this tone with me because I’m neither fanatic nor ignorant.

  25. Oh I’ve just read what Nas wrote, Natasha if you don’t understand what I mean by alone please read what Nas said, thats exactly what I was trying to say.

  26. SC,
    Thank you for taking the time to explain your point of view. By “aloneâ? I thought you meant they should hide in their homes while doing so which I found offensive. I apologize for the misunderstanding.

  27. Ok, so we all agree there’s a problem. And if I had to make the call as to what is the one factor that contributes the most to this problem I would have to say it’s alcohol. Not for any religious reason, but simply for logical reasons. For us, alcohol simply cannot fit in smoothly within our society if we still wanna call it a Muslim society, but that’s only us. There is a bigger picture, and that is that alcohol really shouldn’t fit at all, what’s the case for it? There is none, I argue.

    But don’t be fooled, fighting alcohol is not achieved by just banning it, that never works. It’s done by convincing people that they don’t need it. The more people you win against alcohol, the smaller the size of the problem, and the slower its rate of growth, the easier it is you can contain it, and the easier it is that you can fight it even more.

    It’s always better to go after the root of the problem. And in this case, it is simply alcohol. Not in an Islamic context, but in the pure standpoint of “is it good for you?”. It’s not!

  28. Hamzeh
    Okay, Alcohol is maybe not the healthiest thing u can consume…but if we are discussing this away from an Islamic point of view…you cannot treat alcohol the same way you treat ciggerattes or drugs from the standpoint “that its not good for you” I personally dont think you can put it on the same level…

  29. Basboos, I did not mean to turn this into a discussion about alcohol itself, but I wanted to keep in the minds of people who are talking about this particular case of contradiction within our society, that the root of the problem is really alcohol. And that it really is no use talking about finding a middle ground, because this is (as Hatem explained) the most middle you’re gonna get. This should instead be about changing people’s minds and nurturing in them the correct clean cut mentality that essentially steers them away from such contradictions that lead them to exhibit hypocracy in such a manner. And this is essentially what Naseem’s posting is about; the hypocracy in our societies.

  30. basboos, actually recent studies have shown that 4% of the global burden of disease is attributable to alcohol as compared with 4.1% to tobacco and 4.4% to high blood pressure.

    you have at least 60 known diseases in which alcohol plays a role, cancers of the mouth, liver, breast, strokes etc.

    also factor in alcohol-related deaths such as murders, suicides, accidents, drowning, poisoning, drunk driving.

  31. I think that the people ought to be free to do whatever they want provided that they don’t violate the rights of the other people. If they want to drink in Ramadan or no Ramadan, whether they are Muslims or not muslims, they should have their own freedom to practice the choice that they want, whenever they want it, and however they want it. In the end, the individual himself/herself are ultimately responsible and accountable for their own actions. No one should judge no one else, no one should act on behalf of Allah. Let freedom prevail all year around, those who want to fast, let them, those who don’t want to fast, let them.

  32. I think Hatem’s preposition is the most objective one. I don’t see the point in forcing people to live life the way God wants them to, because doesn’t that defeat the purpose of religion?

  33. Hatem, you’re totally right in the point that people are free to do what they wish as long as they don’t violate the rights of others. This isn’t what we’re against, we are against hypocrisy. If you want to drink, and you are Muslim, then ok, but why pretend like you’re a real Muslim in Ramadan only! Why coverup the alcohol (and alcohol is just one example) when you know you’re drinking very soon? out of respect? as a Muslim the only respect you’d show to your religion and yourself in the first place is believing and respecting the limitations! not covering up!
    My point is, people should reconsider everything, and stop fooling others and lying to themselves and the ones around them.

  34. In Bahrain, prostitution is put on hold during Ramadan so that the girls will get some rest and recoup from the 11 months toil. Once ramadan is over, worship is put on hold until next ramadan.

    Also Ramadan is the time all night clubs take to renovate their places. Sign new contracts for the coming year.

    Pimping and prostitution contracts are signed from Eid to start of next Ramadan.

    Pretty cool, otherwise everything else about the country is damn cool.

  35. Honestly this is another way the bigbrother control us ! 2 years ago in ramadan i was able to go out for lunch each day of the week in a different place with alcohol being served ! and i am not ashamed of it at all at least am better off than those hypocrites who act like the prophet in ramdan ou bi7fazoo 7adeethain aw bifta7oo 3a ikra2 ! ou bseeroo ysoogoha !

    if i am going to miss anything in ramdan its going to alcohol because lets be clear am kind of an addict and am fine with that ! ou btw christians dont respect muslims in this country and if you need a proof roo7o 3al f7ais honak il 5amarat fat7aa ma3 ino aktaar sokaan il f7ais muslims ! think about that and i would love it if anyone can reply to that !

    peace

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