Laws that Prohibit Restaurants to Open during Ramadhan Hurts Islam

Disclaimer: This writing is not mine. It belongs to an awesome (former?) debater friend of mine, Buna Rizal. He shared this post on his Facebook account and I have asked his permission to share it on my Medium account, as he doesn’t have one, and I believe this theological perspective deserves to reach a larger audience.

I first read about this idea in 2015 during my Umroh trip to Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia. There was a push for The Indonesian Minister of Religious Affairs to close restaurants during Ramadhan to “respect and tolerate” Muslims who are fasting during that holy month. I totally disagreed with the idea and had faith that most Indonesian Muslims would as well. I was delighted to see most Indonesian Muslims disapprove the idea judging from the numerous social media posts and articles that were against the idea. Eventually the Minister of Religious Affairs did not pass such discriminating law.

However one year later in 2016, the Municipal Government of Serang decided to take this agenda into their own hands and started implementing a law that prohibits restaurants to open during Ramadhan. This law hurts Islam.

1. This Law Hurts Islam because it hurts the most vulnerable group of the Muslim population, which are the sick, the elderly, pregnant or nursing woman, and those on a journey. As explained in QS Al-Baqarah verse 184:
[Fasting for] a limited number of days. So whoever among you is ill or on a journey [during them] — then an equal number of days [are to be made up]. And upon those who are able [to fast, but with hardship] — a ransom [as substitute] of feeding a poor person [each day]. And whoever volunteers excess — it is better for him. But to fast is best for you, if you only knew.

By prohibiting restaurants to open during Ramadhan it violates the rights of vulnerable Muslims, who are not physically capable to fast, in gaining access to food and nutrition within their proximity. A double edged sword indeed. They have been given a relief from Allah SWT as stated in the Quran so why won’t us fellow man give them a break too?

I was even appalled by this law having witness that restaurants are open in front of Masjidil Haram. The very mosque which surrounds the Ka’bah, the very direction each Muslim in the world pray upon, the same country which gave birth to Wahhabism Islam and applies Sharia Law to this day. You could see food stalls selling ice cream on freakin’ broad daylight during Ramadhan! Islam is not a religion that tortures their followers by letting those who are incapable to starve, reliefs are given when you are going through a holy Umroh pilgrimage during a Summer in Saudi where temperature goes up to 48 degC / 118 degF. So if Islam in Saudi Arabia does not prohibit restaurants to open during Ramadhan, which model or law that the municipal government of Serang base their justifications upon?

2. This Law hurts Islam because coercing tolerance destroys the dakwah (preaching) of tolerance in Islam which has been done by Muslim scholars and Muslim activists for centuries. Tolerance and respect cannot be demanded but it is earned. Should it be done with harsh methods then it does not reflect tolerance at all but is merely an abrupt display of power from the majority religion. We have to understand that tolerance, much like consent, goes for both parties.

Tolerance is practiced when a fasting Muslim still continue their daily activities, or even better excel in performance, despite the deficit of nutrition intake as compared to those who do not fast. Like when a Muslim colleague is pleased to participate in a lunch meeting and still manages to contribute innovative ideas to the group. Respect is earned similar to how Charles Barkeley (Phoenix Suns) admired a Muslim basketball player Hakeem Olajuan (Houston Rockets) for still being able to become the MVP in the 1994/95 NBA season, despite having to not drink a drop of water during the games in Ramadhan.

When government pass laws to prevent temptations for Muslims during Ramadhan then it is a disgrace because they underestimate the faith, determination, and submission one have towards God’s orders. Their faith alone should be enough without the help from any law or government. Fasting was meant for those who believed and pray to become righteous.
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous. -QS Al-Baqarah 183.

In the end, this piece is just a self contemplation of what is going on in Indonesia. To directly help the poor owners who had to close their food stalls, you may sincerely donate to the truthful ladies and gentlemen who are collecting money throughout the nation for them. Your contributions can be sent to BCA No 5315110189 under the account of Dwika Putra Hendrawan before Sunday 12 June 2016 at 12 PM afternoon.
Marhaban Ramadhan. Happy Fasting.