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I Fast, Therefore I Am

OurIndonesia – Awakened. The sound of percussion was banging the walls of my room, dangerously loud. Opened my eyes to nothingness. It’s holy dark in here. I looked at my wrist, adjusting my eyes to see the watch. A weak glimpse of greenish blue fluorescent light catched my sight. I watched the 12 number on it, trying hard to grasp the time. “It’s 2.19 am,” I said to nobody.

I pushed the soft, flower-printed blue thick blanket aside and got up from bed. Half asleep, I reached the curtain and peeked outside, looking for the source of this deafening sound. Accross my terrace I saw kids, all smiling and grinning, dragging a gerobak (wooden cart) with a bedug (a big, wooden drum covered with animal skin) on it. They screamed and screamed while one of them strikes the bedug.

DUG! DURUDUGDUG! DURUDUGDUG! DUG! DUG!

“Sahuuuuuurrrrrrr…. Sahuuuuuuuurrrrrrrr.”

DUG! DURUDUGDUG! DURUDUGDUG! DUG! DUG!

“Sahuuuuuurrrrrrr…. Sahuuuuuuuurrrrrrrr.”

At any point in my life, I would have called the police for this kind of sound. Instead I smiled, and I felt a warm hunch touched my heart like a morning light kisses the dew. It’s the first day of Ramadhan, the holy fasting month. And the kids were doing the tradition of bedug keliling, to alert people that it was time for sahur (pre-dawn meals consumed before fasting).

Indonesia has many traditions during Ramadhan, and bedug keliling is one of the most common. For all the years I can remember, Ramadhan, has always been a festive month. But, in recent years, some people have been forcing (sometimes using violence) restaurants to close their business during daytimes in Ramadhan, disturbing the holy month’s festivity. “Respect us! We are fasting!” they oftenly justify their violent acts.

To me, this is very uneasy to digest. As long as I can think of, respect is earned, never forced. Forced respect is an oxymoron at its best, and has an authoritative sense –so much for the religion-of-peace statement Islam always claim.

I, myself, always think of Ramadhan as the sea, the ocean. You know what people constantly say, “rough seas make the best sailors”? I suppose it is a perfect analogy for Ramadhan. When people force restaurants/entertainment spots to be closed during fasting month, it means they want an easy journey, a fasting day with no distractions.

To me, a person fasting with no distractions is like a sailor without the sea: worthless and futile. For should not Ramadhan teach us something about perseverance? Should not fasting help Muslims become stronger towards every distraction to their faiths?

As I see Ramadhan as the sea whose water can determine the quality of a sailor, of course, I believe that the rougher the Ramadhan, the better off I would be as an ‘abd (believer) after completing the holy fasting month.

Rather than removing any fasting distractions by force/violence, why don’t all of us say instead “come what may, Ramadhan! The rougher you be, the merrier!” So that at the end of the holy month we can say to ourselves convincingly: I fast, therefore I am.

Happy fasting !

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