Ramadan, month of overconsumption and….waste

Ramadan, month of overconsumption and….waste

The paradox is striking! The month of Ramadan, a month of abstinence and transcendence, has nevertheless become the month of overconsumption and….waste. In almost all Muslim countries, the month of Ramadan now rhymes with a considerable increase in spending, unbridled consumption, waste, so-called Islamic nighttime musical festivities… So many evils in perfect contradiction with the Islamic philosophy of Ramadan and its deeper meaning. Faced with such nonsense, it is high time to correct the misdirection that led to these deviations so far from the true purpose of Ramadan.

Ramadan no longer escapes the trap of the consumer society, and becomes a great period of commercial opportunity.

In the neo-liberal conception of society, any opportunity is good to sell better and encourage individuals to consume more. Even the fasting of the month of Ramadan, an act of devotion, of transcendence and of going beyond our instincts, is now trapped in the sacrosanct neoliberal doctrine of the all market. It has become a major event in the marketing plan agendas of major commercial brands, particularly in the food industry.

In most Muslim countries, it is difficult during this period to escape the advertising hype of these companies, ostensibly displaying food products (ready meals, broths, milks, etc.) with the usual stamping “Ramadan Mubarak”! These commercial advertisements designed especially for Ramadan seem to have more resonance with the population. In fact, the feeling of hunger caused by fasting whets appetites and makes fasters more audible to the subliminal messages of advertisers. This “Ramadan-consumption” idea association is total nonsense and a betrayal of the spirit of Ramadan!

The blessed month of Ramadan has become especially so for major retail brands, who for the occasion are setting up sections of “Special Ramadan” food products, stormed by consumers, whose propensity to purchase is boosted by the fast. In Senegal, a manager of a distribution chain reveals that during this period “the increase in family consumption is spectacular…the turnover achieved during Ramadan is comparable to that of the Christmas holidays (50% increase compared to the normal period)…”(1).

This constant desolation is nevertheless observable in most Muslim homes. In Morocco, the High Planning Council (HCP) reveals that in 2016, during Ramadan, food spending increased by 37%. In Tunisia, according to statistics from the National Institute of Consumption (INC), the consumption of all basic food products increases during Ramadan: +60% for sugar consumption, +41% for poultry meat, +420% for tuna consumption!

In France, according to the results of a study carried out by the Solis firm, food expenditure among Muslim households increases by 30% during the month of Ramadan.
It is true that during this month, the surge of generosity and sharing is more marked. This can lead to additional expenses, which is perfectly understandable. But what is at issue here is this consumerist tendency in our societies which is accentuated during Ramadan and which often causes very significant waste.

The month of Ramadan…month of food waste

This tendency towards overconsumption has the direct consequence of waste, because a good part of food supplies ends up in the trash, since the quantities purchased are often greater than actual needs. According to the report from the organization France Nature Environnement, “… in Algeria, during Ramadan, of the 10 million quintals of vegetables purchased during this period, 500,000 will be thrown in the trash; just as the baguettes of bread of which 120 million out of 4.1 billion purchased will be thrown in the garbage or even for the 12 million liters of milk out of 150 million purchased. In Bahrain, more than 40% of food prepared every day during Ramadan could end up in the trash(2)“.

Is it still necessary to remember that waste is formally prohibited by the Koran: “…And waste not unduly, for the wasters are the brothers of demons…” Surah 17 verse 26/27 or even “…Eat and drink, but do not waste! Because Allah does not like wasteful people » Surah 7 verse 31.

Ramadan evening and festivals

A new trend noted during the month of Ramadan is the organization of cultural or religious evenings, concerts or music festivals during Ramadan. Sometimes called “ layaali ramadan ” in Tunisia, ” Ramadan night » in Paris, ” salam festival » in Senegal, or “ Ramadan sleepless nights » in Algeria, these cultural events participate in and reinforce the perception of Ramadan as a festive and recreational period. However, nowhere in the holy book or in the tradition of the prophet (PBUH) and the pious ancestors is the month of Ramadan assimilated to a festival. On the contrary, in pure Muslim tradition, the nights of Ramadan are devoted to devotion, to tarâwih (supererogatory prayers offered during the nights of Ramadan), taking into account the inestimable merits and blessings that this entails. In a hadith reported by Bukhari and Mouslim, the Prophet Mouhamed (PBUH) said: Whoever spends the nights of Ramadan in prayer with faith and hoping for reward (from Allah), will have his previous sins forgiven. “.

Reconnect with the true meaning of fasting

In its etymological sense “ siyam » (action of fasting) has a double meaning. It refers to the idea “ cessation, abstinence “, but also “elevation“. Abstaining from eating, drinking, transcending one's desires, controlling one's tongue… in order to elevate oneself spiritually to achieve piety, such is the profound meaning of fasting in Islam.

Fasting during the month of Ramadan is the fourth of the five pillars of Islam. It was prescribed in the second year of the Hegira by the revelation of verse 183 of Surah “ O you believers! Fasting (As-Siyam) has been prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may attain piety.” It is also the month of the revelation of the Quran. the month of Ramadan in which the Quran was sent down as a guide to people and clear evidence of right guidance and discernment” Surah 2, verse 185. The merits of this month are inestimable. It is the month of Mercy, Forgiveness, and Blessing. In a hadith reported by Bukhari, the Prophet (PBUH) said: “ Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan with faith, hoping for divine reward, his previous sins will be forgiven.”

Fasting is a high-level act of worship whose sole purpose is to obtain the satisfaction of God. It is a practice that cultivates self-control, self-improvement, and spiritual awakening in the individual. It is a school that trains us in endurance, self-discipline, and generosity, essential qualities to achieve piety, the true purpose of young people.

Fasting also instills in its follower temperance and moderation in desires. It is the opposite of overconsumption, waste and consumerist ideology!
In our context, Fasting means saying no to those who want to reduce man to his simple function of consumer and producer whose sole goal is the maximization of his utility.
A well-understood and well-applied fast cannot accommodate food waste or festive evenings.

(1) In Young Africa, July 2014, Mehdi Ba “From Senegal to Tunisia, Ramadan and great food”.
(2) France Nature Environnement, Dec. 2013 “Food waste at all levels”