The Sanctity Of Ramadan

First came this. Then came this:

AMMAN (Petra) – Minister of Interior Eid Fayez on Saturday issued a circular banning the sale of liquor in bars, liquor stores, nightclubs and restaurants during the Holy Month of Ramadan. In addition, restaurants and coffee shops will be closed during the day. The minister stressed the need to preserve the sanctity of the holy month in public and private institutions, roads and public places. In the circular, sent to all governors across the country, Fayez underlined the importance of compliance with the new regulations, saying legal measures will be taken against violators.

By the way, I don’t have a particular stance on the issue. Obviously I’d prefer to see this kind of stuff restricted to some extent but I’m a realistic person and I know that will never happen. Which is why I could care less if they close them or open them. Because I also know that Ramadan will be full of alcohol consumption, as Arabs (not tourists) scour the city in search of a drop to drink. The reality is that most people who drink in Jordan are in fact Jordanians and would by any other definition be considered drunks if not borderline-alcoholics. The ‘casual drink’ is non-existent. Liquor cabinets are probably being filled.

As for Ramadan, well what can I say…

Nothing is sacred anymore.

That doesn’t surprise me.


  • Well it really doesn’t make any sense to me. You see, people end up actually smuggling drinks into the places that do not serve alcohol during Ramadan. Some stores sell liquor to loyal clients, and most stock up on drinks before Ramadan. The point is, people will not really stop drinking during Ramadan, they’ll just get more creative in trying to find ways to drink. And the government knows this: So why impose the ban? It defies the purpose really.

    It’s funny how our government is almost apologetic when it comes to social freedoms and liberalism, and how it is aggressive when it regards economic and taxation issues. Y3ni you can’t be a capitalist and a conservative country at the same time for God’s sake.

  • “‘casual drink’ is non-existent” because our people do not have a culture that developed around drinking so they DO NOT KNOW HOW TO DRINK.. They abuse alcohol.. They can’t till the difference between drinking and alcoholism..I am by no means defending drinking, but what I mean is that they lack the manners of drinking because they did not grow up in a drinking culture.. ok, I know I am being redundant over here but hope you got what I mean 😀

    Well, I personally like the decision of banning the sale of liquor and closing restuarats and coffee shops during Ramadan– even if there are people who will find their ways around. It is a holy month and I would love to see it, at leats in public, granted the respect it deserves.

  • Pheras, you always have the best say 🙂

    I can’t see what is the difference between Ramadan and other months, Alcohol is forbidden in Islam whether it is Ramadan or not. If they really want to honor Islam, they should ban it all over the year, not just in this month.

    When will our government start to listen to the voice of reason, instead of the voices of people who only shouts without a real logic behind it!

  • Dear Pheras and Observer,

    I believe that banning Alcohol during Ramadan is the least that the government can do. There is no doubt that people will continue to drink. However, we must not forget that we are an Arab and a Muslim country and that although alcohol is banned all year round, it should be more so in Ramadan as it is the holiest month of the year. Serving alcohol in Ramadan is like banning the celebration of Christmas. I mean I am all for Westernisation and all that crap but give me a break!!! Selling alcohol in Ramadan is NOT THE SAME as selling it during any other month!!!

  • Sana – Why do you think selling alcohol during Ramadan is part of a *westernization* process? Yes, we’re an Arab country – Muslim, sure, but not exclusively so. But winemaking, for example, probably started in the *M.E.*, not the west.

    “The earliest alcoholic beverages may have been made from berries or honey (Blum et al, 1969, p. 25; Rouech, 1960, p. 8; French, 1890, p. 3) and winemaking may have originated in the wild grape regions of the Middle East. Oral tradition recorded in the Old Testament (Genesis 9:20) asserts that Noah planted a vineyard on Mt. Ararat in what is now eastern Turkey. In Sumer, beer and wine were used for medicinal purposes as early as 2,000 B.C. (Babor, 1986, p. 1).”

    Question: Why can’t alcohol be available during Ramadan? Those who don’t wish to drink, don’t have to. It’s as simple as that. I’m not trying to be disrespectful – I honestly don’t understand.

  • Sana, how do you relate selling alcohol in ramadan to banning christmas celebration?!!! In banning you take the freedom of action for some people while selling alcohol would violate no body freedom. Those who dont want to buy it, can simply dont do it!

  • Nas, the only thing left to us these days is to find the sacred in our personal lives. And often, if you want to keep it that way, you keep it to yourself.

  • Sesame and the Observer,

    Jordan is a predominantly a Muslim country whether this fact follows what you believe in or not!!! it is a fact! It is one month long so what is the big deal in banning alcohol, if you have a strong need to drink then stock up before Ramadan starts! I mean, come on, since when was alcohol culturally acceptable in Arab/ Muslim countries? I do not understand this new wave of young rebels trying to challange everything!! I do not mind change if it is based on strong grounds but selling alcohol for the sake of doing so and argueing that Jordan is not exclusively a Muslim country is sad! It is all for the sake or respect! Do u get drunk and come home and sit with your parents? probably not! thats cuz you respect them so why can not you just extend your respect circle to the whole of the nation for God’s sake!!!!

  • Sana – Why are you getting so upset over this? My intent was certainly not to distress you with my question!

    First of all, I’m not part of any ‘new wave of young rebels’ – I’m in my 40s. Secondly, I drink alcohol, but very rarely – as in once every 6 months or so. So I don’t even think about it during Ramadan – I rarely think about it all year long. (And I wouldn’t dream of either eating or drinking in front of a faster out of respect)

    But it’s not all about me. There are others who are either non-fasting Muslims, or non-Muslims who would like alcohol to be available. Why is that wrong?

    Umm Zaid above talked about the sacred being a personal experience. I couldn’t agree more. And what I’m trying to understand is the following: Why is it important for some to have the whole nation validate/mirror an experience that is essentially intensely private?

  • This is just weird. I can’t grasp how alcohol is a borrowed-from-the-West-phenomenon, especially that Arak is widely known as a traditional Middle Eastern drink. And that even in the Prophet Mohammed’s days, alcohol did exist. People are so hasty when it comes to labeling things as borrowed from the West.

    I agree that Jordan is a predominately Muslim population. But what if most of the drinkers in Jordan are in fact Muslim? To be honest, I think that perhaps nightclubs should not operate during Ramadan (although it still sounds a bit hypocritical to me), but why ban bars that are within the vicinity of hotels? I’m sure that many tourists would love to see Amman during Ramadan, and I’m sure that many business travelers need to be in Amman during this time. So why ban food during the daytime and why ban alcohol from being served at hotels? It just doesn’t make any sense. And so what if some Muslims drink along the way? They’re still going to drink in their houses, and just ask liquor stores here on how people start stocking up on drinks.

    To me, banning is the same as censorship. No matter what you do, people will find a way to get around it. Why not just let it be available and let people have the choice to whether they should respect Ramadan’s sanctity or not. You really can’t force respect, no?

    And that’s what I really love about Lebanon. There, you would see an unveiled lady carrying the Quraan and reciting it while sitting in her shop. You pass her shop by a couple of blocks, and you see a couple of people having beers. That’s what I call diversity, and sadly, we live in a country where one religion prevails, and everybody has to follow that religion to a certain extent. There really isn’t any room for diversity, or for being different.

  • The whole point of Ramadan, it seems to me, is that one willingly forgoes food and drink, among other things. There is no one to stop us from going into our kitchens and grabbing a quick drink of water when no one is looking. We fast because it is an exercise in self-control and discipline. We fast because we want to learn what it is like to do without the things that we are accustomed to and prove to ourselves that we are capable of self-restraint.

    Keeping in mind the concept of self-control, which is an intrinsic part of the spirit of Ramadan, it seems very strange to me that we cry out for the government to ban alcohol and prevent restaurants from operating before sunset. Not only does this defeat the purpose of Ramadan, it conveys the sense that Islamic society is rigid, intolerant and discriminatory.

    Imagine what would happen if a foreigner visited an Islamic country during this month and found that food and drink were readily available to him, that he was not judged or scorned even if he ate in public or went to a nightclub, and that despite all this, the Muslims did not partake of any of these activities simply because their faith gave them the strength to abstain. I think that would cause a paradigm shift where the focus of Ramadan would cease to be a notion of prohibition (which is negative) but one of dignified and voluntary restraint (which is positive).

    In addition, if during this month we also managed to be more caring towards other people, to be more helpful to strangers, to be less quick to anger, to be more forgiving and understanding, all of which are different facets of self-control and the mind-over-matter essence of Ramadan, then I think the world’s perception of our faith would be very different indeed.

    After all, a Muslim living in a non-Muslim country goes through the same month of fasting without all temptations having been obliterated by government decree. Which fast is worth more? One where all temptations have been removed even if this inconveniences minorities or one where the Muslim has to deal with temptation and still abstain owing to the strength of his beliefs? I think that by instituting prohibition during this month, we are depriving ourselves of discovering its true meaning.

Your Two Piasters: