“Ramadan Buffets” – an oxymoron?

Its that time of year when Muslims practice both spiritual and physical detoxification. A time of inner reflection to improve our sense of humility, patience and kindness towards others around us – especially to those that are less fortunate. The holy month of Ramadan is a time when we demonstrate to ourselves that having less is more through increasing charity and enhancing community bonds.

But wait a minute,  here come the Ramadan Buffet promotions – “All you can eat, with free flow of  juices”. A spread of cuisines from various parts of the Muslim world. The cost: from as low as 15 bucks  in little restaurants to 140 bucks in fancy hotels.

In what way does this even demonstrate people having less and foregoing extras?

And why is there always a fraction of people at buffets that just need to rush for the food, and take two or three plates full, as if there were a scarcity of food? This strange tendency to do so is no exception during Ramadan Buffets.

Got enough shrimp, there?

Where is the sense of community and consideration here? Moreover, can you really eat that much after a whole day of fasting? Its often the case that while we are fasting, we feel like we could eat 2 cows. But come Maghrib time, our stomach can often only take in half of what we had initially set our eyes on.

One, of course, cannot deny the convenience that Ramadan buffets provide, especially when hosting Iftars for big groups of people with minimal preparation time.

But the issue goes beyond just Ramadan buffets. Reports have shown how the consumption of food and electricity (and inevitably wastage) have actually increased during the Ramadan season than other times in the year – from Egypt to United Arab Emirates to Indonesia. This also includes the tendency for people to cook or buy more, and also  includes the cultural tendency to provide excellent hospitality by ensuring that your guests have [more than] enough  to eat.

There is no quick fix for this trend, as habits are the hardest to change. Some countries have sought to reduce the wastage, but the extent of the issue requires way more than just government intervention. Consumers must be willing and proactive in reducing their wants first (as is the whole point of Ramadan). This is further complicated by the fact that we are often obliged to attend iftar invitations from family and friends. A refusal to attend an iftar on the basis of “Sorry, you’re serving too much food and it will go to waste” is clearly not going to put you in a good light.

It is therefore important that Muslims are aware of other options available to them during Ramadan, and also try innovative ways of celebrating Ramadan rather than go with the flow of consumerism. For instance, one could reduce patronage at Ramadan Buffets and opt to go to restaurants with ala-carte or set menus. By doing so, we would at least be able to control the amount of what we order and eat. After all, it was our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that spoke of the importance of a balanced diet and not to consume in access.

“Nothing is worse than a person who fills his stomach. It should be enough for the son of Adam to have a few bites to satisfy his hunger. If he wishes more, it should be: One-third for his food, one-third for his liquids, and one-third for his breath.”

– Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) via Tirmidhi & Ibn Majah

If time is on your side (or rather if you make time), then a home-cooked iftar would be the most ideal. Muslim brothers and sisters from Good Tree Village in Washington D.C. have  recently shared some tips on how to go about having a Green Ramadan, such as eating local or organic, using re-usables and encouraging your guests for iftar to travel green.

The ways of going green during Ramadan are endless, but just takes a sincere level of effort to do so.

Ramadan Kareem to one and all, and may Allah bless our deeds and efforts during this holy month.


2 responses to ““Ramadan Buffets” – an oxymoron?”

  1. JazakAllah khayran for taking the time to think and compose the post.

    The most convenient foods are also often the unhealthiest (and not good for the soul either, as you pointed out).

    And so I agree with you: innovation is necessary to combat – as you beautifully penned it – the “flow of consumerism.”

    I think the options include 1) make convenient foods inconvenient 2) make healthy food options (and smaller portions) convenient

    Your suggestions may fall into option 1: the a la carte menu makes things more expensive while the set menu creates limitations – both inconveniences.

    And the article you cited – http://goodtreevillage.org/2011/07/30/10-ways-to-green-your-ramadan/ – falls into option 2

    The hadith you mentioned is very clear. If only we followed hadiths as soon as we heard them…


  2. hey, greenbush! thanks for stopping by. hope your ramadan was greener this year.


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