” Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, is the period when man is subjected to a supreme test. Without compulsion, without coercion, Muslims throughout the world obey Allah; and every day from dawn to sunset abstain not only from sensual pleasures but even from the necessities of life like food and drink. Some do this in shivering cold, some in burning heat, some do it where days are short and others where days are interminably long. The rich fast as well as the poor, the master as well as the servant; the parents as well as the child; the ruler as well as the subject. They all fast, regardless of the colour or their social position.
Having done this, for one whole month, today on this auspicious day of Eid Al-Fitr, every Muslim should be ready to face the year that lies ahead with renewed strength, greater understanding and universal goodwill. He has fasted to acquire piety, discipline and self-control. Now the habit of unquestioning obedience to Allah is cultivated in his heart and mind. He is now trained to accept the commands of Allah, in the remaining eleven months of the year, with the same unwavering loyalty. He has emerged from the month of Ramadan with a new personality and a stronger character, confident of his ability to subordinate his desire to his will, his emotion to his intellect.” http://www.qul.org.au/islamic-occasions/eid-ul-fitr/1118-eid-ul-fitr-serving-three-purposes
Great stuff – subordinating desire to will, and emotion to intellect. Discipline, self control, sharing with others, self improvement, introspection – all worth-emulating secular ideals. Submitting to God’s will is the central reason for my Muslim farm hands to observe 30 days of fasting. And it was truly incredible to see them work in the fields through the entire month of July in 2014, without any rain, with the merciless sun beating down at 45 degree Centigrade. I asked Sattar to take it easy, and he retorted it is Allah’s test to see them work while fasting. How could he and his men not work? No, no it was inconceivable. And so it went, each of the days of this Ramzan. No food, no water, no complaints. Yes, the tempo of work slowed down as Ramzan progressed and they were 25% less productive.
Sattar was the clearest of the four when we discussed why Ramzan ” Babuji, not eating or drinking water is simply the outward manifestation, and is a waste if we don’t fast simultaneously with our tongue, our eyes, our legs, our hands and with our minds “.
All four of them are solid, honest, hard working, decent men. It’s difficult to believe these kind exist in this world, but they truly are the final word in dependability and high character. I have had two long years to observe them closely, almost every day of the week. They work seven days a week, despite my insisting they take a weekly day off – they do take leave when they need for as long as they need without questions asked, but that they choose to work more than less is nothing short of amazing. Not once have they taken advantage of this trust.
Their oral and experiential knowledge is simply enormous – they know everything that is to be known about growing cereals and dals, about managing cattle and in general the ways of the rugged peasant passed down to them from generations. And three of them have not even attended school – yes, no school at all – while one passed the 10th grade : but their maturity in life is way beyond what I see in the highly educated and wealthy.
They go about their work selflessly, and with clockwork. One steps in for the other when death or sickness or weddings or births happen. Their prayers five times a day are a necessary and unquestioned ritual. Who am I to judge their piety – Allah gives them hope and belief in a secure life an after life. There is little in their lives that is economically secure – they each own less than one acre, have large families to feed and there is no pension or health security in their lives – or there wasn’t till they joined Aman Bagh.
I could not have re-discovered the artisanal (and incidentally organic) ways of my ancestors if it was not for these band of four sincere and hardy peasants. And my irrational belief in the ‘sincere, honest, hard working peasant’ gets reinforced. Their interpretation of Islam for the workplace is beneficial to Aman Bagh, and their adherence to the ritual of daily prayer a talisman that keeps them secure in their faith.
I was loaded with sewain and meetha chawal, and saw happy faces who could now go back contemplating their inner selves during the next 11 months till Ramzan comes around again.
How I wish the world could observe Ramzan like my band of men.