Recently, Trade, Industry, and Investment Minister Honourable Vincent Seretse reiterated his stance that he was not going to buckle to spirited entreaties and grant South African chain store magnates a waiver to widen their footprint in the country by opening new outlets. Unless they partnered Batswana and gave them a controlling 51 percent stake in their businesses in the interests of citizen economic empowerment, he simply would not budge.
Now, hang on folks: only a few months ago, President Ian Khama was quoted as saying Government was not going to dictate equity terms of engagement to investors lest they be scared off at a time when we desperately needed them. As such, I am at a loss as to which of the two pronouncements takes precedence over the other.
If we were to go by what the Trade Act provides for, then Honourable Seretse is spot-on. But the Act is not a single-track proviso: it allows the minister discretion to act as he sees fit. It does not oblige him to religiously adhere to the Act’s every canon. In the past in fact, the minister even has had to overrule a High Court decision that the law as laid down be strictly enforced. In the 80s, I was part of a supermarket establishment called Tsogang Investment (Pty) Ltd.
When the then Trade & Industry Minister Honourable Mout Nwako moved to relax the Trade Act and allow unqualified participation by chain stores domiciled in South Africa, we litigated against the gesture and the High Court ruled in our favour. The minister countered by invoking his administrative powers and stuck to the status quo. In the event, the High Court decision did not come to bear.
So, should Honourable Seretse have his way or must the President intervene by issuing an “Open Sesame” directive?
THE ECONOMIC VOLKSTAAT
Let us first recognise that the retail industry is foreign dominated. This state of affairs I too have decried in my book, Delusions of Grandeur Vol. 2, the eighth chapter of which I have titled Foreign Retailers Run Riot in Botswana in revulsion. The last time I checked, over 60 percent of the retail business in Botswana was in the hands of chain stores emanating from across the Limpopo. That is an economic volkstaat in a sovereign country.
Even the swashbuckling home-grown Choppies offers very little solace: it is preponderantly foreign-owned folks. According to its 2015 annual report, 96 shareholders out of a total of 8,277 own 92.34 percent of the blue chip grocery titan.
The overwhelming majority of these are institutional shareholders all of whom hail either from South Africa (e.g. Sanlaam) or across the Atlantic (e.g. Citibank). Of the top ten shareholders, who account for 72.3 percent of the total stock, only Farouk Ishmael, with a stake of 14.6 percent, is Motswana. Choppies may command 35 percent of the local retail market but that should not be interpreted to mean the citizenry controls 35 percent of the same market.
In the normal way of things, sectors such as retail should be an arena in which the citizenry ought to rise and shine. It should be the means by which breakout citizen entrepreneurs escalate to higher economic heights over time so that they can strut their stuff alongside the Pick & Pays and Pep Stores of this world.
In Botswana, on the contrary, the retail sector is a virtual killing field: venture into this minefield as a citizen, and you will be instantly blown to smithereens. Mzansi retail behemoths rule the roost and so sinewy and muscle-bound are they you will be turfed out with little more than a sardonic jerk of the thumb.
Ours is a classic case of what Haris Bijoor calls “Retail Darwinism” – where the fittest endure, the fittest in terms of “offerings, deep pockets to survive wafer-thin margins, and the fittest in terms of the tenacity to fight competition that is irrational in its attack”.
Why have we booby-trapped our own economic cause? Well, the index finger should stiffly and angrily point in the direction of the Government enclave. For donkeys’ years, Government has been so suicidally lax in enforcing the Trade Act that we’re now toast to the mercantile impis from down south.
WRONG TIME FOR REDRESS
Yet as much as we would love to tip the scale of proprietorship in the retail sector in favour of the citizenry, it is advisable that we tread with caution. A Chinese proverb that I like to quote says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”. That should be our catchphrase too. Rash and impetuous measures are invariably counterproductive in the long term. We should be wary that we do not compromise overall macroeconomic salubriety by resorting to mercantile actions that play to the gallery of populist impulses.
At this point in time, we’re developing the Central Business District (CBD), potentially the country’s largest commercial centre, in the capital Gaborone. Dozens of supermarkets and shopping emporiums will soon arise there. If the entrepreneurs who are putting up structures at CBD using hefty bank loans have to make a return on their investment, they will need well-resourced tenants from across the border. Otherwise, the structures are certain to be white elephants and the banks will not hesitate to foreclose.
The entrepreneurs who acquired plots at CBD and borrowed millions to develop them were counting on take-up by the likes of Game and Woolworths. Maybe Government did not make an express undertaking to them that it would exercise flexibility on the Trade Act but they did trust to its sense of judiciousness. It would therefore be unfair and insensitive on the part of Government to now dictate terms that are certain to torpedo prospects of recouping their investment.
Their fate is similar to that of citizens who heavily invested in tertiary educational infrastructure – the Raja Ram’s and Odirile Gabasiane’s of this world: they did so in the belief that Government would enrol students in their institutions. If Honourable Unity Dow now was to say she would restrict student bursaries to Government-run institutions, it would spell disaster for them.
Progressive Government policy should not be unilateral and arbitrary: it has to take account of the likely impact of that policy on those bound to be adversely affected. Thus, whilst Honourable Seretse’s stance is laudable as it is long overdue, the timing, regrettably, is most inauspicious.
LET’S ADMIT THEM WITH STRINGS
Since at this juncture we need the big-bucks foreign retailers in view of the clothing and grocery infrastructure we’re mass-constructing, I would recommend that we fling the doors open for them. Let them have total ownership but with preconditions that will proportionately compensate for denying the citizenry a slice of the total stake. Exactly what must these be?
South Africa and India offer a little food for thought.
India’s retail market generates annual revenues of about $600 billion according to the 2015 statistics. Until 2012, the market was closed to foreign participation. Then in November 2011, cabinet enacted a law that allowed foreign ownership ranging from 51 to 100 percent depending on whether the venture was multi-brand or single-brand. But several conditions were spelt out to prospective foreign investors.
Among these was that 50 percent of the stipulated minimum investment was to be set aside to assist in the development of back-end infrastructure (e.g. storage, warehousing, distribution, and agricultural produce) in order to nurture an efficient supply chain. Another was that 30 percent of overall operational expenditure was to be devoted to sourcing produce from SMMEs whose plant and infrastructural development was less than $1 million. That way, foreign investment into the retail sector would be a win-win situation for foreigners and locals alike.
In May 2011, Walmart, the US retail giant, acquired a majority stake in South Africa’s Massmart for $2.4 billion. Before the South African Competition Commission gave the nod to the take-over, it pronounced that Walmart orient R100 million toward a special fund for developing local suppliers in the next three years amongst other conditionalities. Surely, there’s no reason why that should not happen in Botswana.
There are multiple ways in which a nation could gain from compromising in one way or the other with the wishes of the foreign investor. What you lose in one respect you could subtly gain in another for as long as you do your math properly. For example, if foreign chain stores were to be prohibited from vertically integrating, whereby they keep a stranglehold on the entire supply chain including horticulture, warehousing, and transportation, that would open up a host of highly lucrative business opportunities for the citizenry.
CEDA SHOULD NURTURE MARKET COUP
Meanwhile, Government should put in place a viable strategy to spawn citizen retail entrepreneurs of the scale of the Wharton’s, the owners of Walmart, using CEDA as the primary lever. A benchmark that immediately comes to mind in this regard is Singapore.
The government of Singapore lent substantial technical and financial assistance to prospective local retail entrepreneurs, a far cry from the pittance our CEDA extends. The entrepreneurs were encouraged to band together and form their own franchises and cooperatives so that they could benefit from the economies of bulk purchases of stock-in-trade.
The Singapore government established enterprise promotional centres to impart entrepreneurial competence. It ran special training programmes that focussed on a productive and efficient mindset for employer and employee alike. A highlight of this training was exposure to requisite cutting edge technology, which included appropriate hardware and software.
Finally, the Singapore government made available business premises and sold it to the entrepreneurs in sectional titles which made it possible for them to steer clear of steep rentals private developers typically imposed.
China pretty much replicated the Singaporean approach. The strategy has paid off: of China’s top ten retailers today, only Walmart is foreign-owned.
In our case, CEDA has been reported to reject over 95 percent of applications from the retail sector on the pretext that the market is saturated. It isn’t at all. The 2014 Africa Retail Development Index says retail saturation in Botswana amounts to a mere 17 percent. The AT Kearney Global Retail Development in fact asserts that Botswana is the most promising retail market on the continent of Africa. A market is hardly ever fully saturated. For example, it is always said the South African retail market has virtually no room for new entrants but Choppies made the leap into the market anyway with highly promising results reportedly.
For citizens to stand toe to toe and trade blow for blow with a Game or Pick & Pay, they need funding in tens of millions of Pula and not the SMME-size sums CEDA routinely doles out. Otherewise, they would never progress from selling “magwinya for breakfast and seswa and paleche for lunch” as Professor Roman Grynberg aptly lamented in an op-ed piece.
In recent years, using personal devices in working environments has become so commonplace it now has its own acronym, BOYD (Bring Your Own Device). But as employees skip between corporate tools and personal applications on their own devices, their actions introduce a number of possible risks that should be managed and mitigated with careful consideration. Consider these examples:
Si-lwli, a small family-run business in Wales, is arguably as niche a company as you could find, producing talking toys used to promote the Welsh language. Their potential market is small, with only some 300,000 Welsh language speakers in the world and in reality the business is really more of a hobby for the husband-and-wife team, who both still have day jobs. Yet, despite still managing to be successful in terms of sales, the business is now fighting for survival after recently falling prey to cybercriminals. Emails between Si-Iwli and their Chinese suppliers were intercepted by hackers who altered the banking details in the correspondence, causing Si-Iwli to hand over £18,000 (around P ¼ m) to the thieves. That might not sound much to a large enterprise, but to a small or medium business it can be devastating.
Another recent SMB hacking story which appeared in the Wall Street Journal concerned Innovative Higher Ed Consulting (IHED) Inc, a small New York start-up with a handful of employees. IHED didn’t even have a website, but fraudsters were able to run stolen credit card numbers through the company’s payment system and reverse the charges to the tune of $27,000, around the same loss faced by Si-Iwli. As the WSJ put it, the hackers completely destroyed the company, forcing its owners to fold.
And in May 2019, the city of Baltimore’s computer system was hit by a ransomware attack, with hackers using a variant called RobinHood. The hack, which has lasted more than a month, paralysed the computer system for city employees, with the hackers demanding a payment in Bitcoin to give access back to the city.
Of course, hackers target governments or business giants but small and medium businesses are certainly not immune. In fact, 67% of SMBs reported that they had experienced a cyber attack across a period of 12 months, according to a 2018 survey carried out by security research firm Ponemon Institute. Additionally, Verizon issued a report in May 2019 that small businesses accounted for 43% of its reported data breaches. Once seen as less vulnerable than PCs, smartphone attacks are on the rise, with movements like the Dark Caracal spyware campaign underlining the allure of mobile devices to hackers. Last year, the US Federal Trade Commission released a statement calling for greater education on mobile security, coming at a time when around 42% of all Android devices are believed to not carry the latest security updates.
This is an era when employees increasingly use their smartphones for work-related purposes so is your business doing enough to protect against data breaches on their employees’ phones? The SME Cyber Crime Survey 2018 carried out for risk management specialists AON showed that more than 80% of small businesses did not view this as a threat yet if as shown, 67% of SMBs were said to have been victims of hacking, either the stats are wrong or business owners are underestimating their vulnerability. A 2019 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests the latter, stating that the majority of global businesses are unprepared for cyber attacks.
Consider that a workstation no longer means a desk in an office: It can be a phone in the back of a taxi or Uber; a laptop in a coffee shop, or a tablet in an airport lounge. Wherever the device is used, employees can potentially install applications that could be harmful to your business, even from something as seemingly insignificant as clicking on an accidental download or opening a link on a phishing email. Out of the physical workplace, your employees’ activities might not have the same protections as they would on a company-monitored PC.
Yet many businesses not only encourage their employees to work remotely, but assume working from coffee shops, bookstores, and airports can boost employees’ productivity. Unfortunately, many remote hot spots do not provide secure Wi-Fi so if your employee is accessing their work account on unsecured public Wi-Fi, sensitive business data could be at risk. Furthermore, even if your employee uses a company smartphone or has access to company data through a personal mobile device, there is always a chance data could be in jeopardy with a lost or stolen device, even information as basic as clients’ addresses and phone numbers.
BOYDs are also at risk from malware designed to harm and infect the host system, transmittable to smartphones when downloading malicious third-party apps. Then there is ransomware, a type of malware used by hackers to specifically take control of a system’s data, blocking access or threatening to release sensitive information unless a ransom is paid such as the one which affected Baltimore. Ransomware attacks are on the increase, predicted to occur every 14 seconds, potentially costing billions of dollars per year.
Lastly there is phishing – the cyber equivalent of the metaphorical fishing exercise – whereby cybercriminals attempt to obtain sensitive data –usernames, passwords, credit card details –usually through a phoney email designed to look legitimate which directs the user to a fraudulent website or requests the data be emailed back directly. Most of us like to think we could recognize a phishing email when we see it, but these emails have become more sophisticated and can come through other forms of communication such as messaging apps.
Bottom line is to be aware of the potential problems with BOYDs and if in doubt, consult your IT security consultants. You can’t put the own-device genie back in the bottle but you can make data protection one of your three wishes!
About five days before Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed landed in Paris, General Atiku, a certain Edward Williams was taking a walk in a woods in the Welsh town of Mountain Ash. Williams, then 73, was a psychic of some renown. He had in the past foretold assassination attempts on US President Ronald Reagan, which occurred on March 30, 1981, and Pope John Paul II, which came to pass on May 13, 1981.
As he trudged the woods, Williams had a sudden premonition that pointed to Diana’s imminent fate as per Christopher Andersen’s book The Day Diana Died. “When the vision struck me, it was as if everything around me was obscured and replaced by shadowy figures,” Williams was later to reminisce. “In the middle was the face of Princess Diana. Her expression was sad and full of pathos. She was wearing what looked like a floral dress with a short dark cardigan. But it was vague. I went cold with fear and knew it was a sign that she was in danger.”
Williams hastily beat a retreat to his home, which he shared with his wife Mary, and related to her his presentiment, trembling like an aspen leaf as he did so. “I have never seen him so upset,” Mary recounted. “He felt he was given a sign and when he came back from his walk he was deeply shaken.”
The following day, Williams frantically sauntered into a police station to inform the police of his premonition. The officer who attended to him would have dismissed him as no more than a crackpot but he treated him seriously in view of the accuracy of his past predictions. He took a statement and immediately passed it on to the Special Branch Investigative Unit.
The report read as follows:
“On 27 August, at 14:12 hrs, a man by the name of Edward Williams came to Mountain Ash police station. He said he was a psychic and predicted that Princess Diana was going to die. In previous years, he has predicted that the Pope and Ronald Reagan were going to be the victims of assassination attempts. On both occasions he was proved to be correct. Mr Williams appeared to be quite normal.”
Williams, General, was spot-on as usual: four days later, the princess was no more.
Meanwhile, General, even as Dodi and Diana were making their way to the Fayed-owned Ritz Hotel in central Paris, British newspapers were awash with headlines that suggested Diana was kind of deranged. Writes Andrew Morton in Diana in Pursuit of Love: “In The Independent Diana was described as ‘a woman with fundamentally nothing to say about anything’. She was ‘suffering from a form of arrested development’. ‘Isn’t it time she started using her head?’ asked The Mail on Sunday. The Sunday Mirror printed a special supplement entitled ‘A Story of Love’; The News of the World claimed that William had demanded that Diana should split from Dodi: ‘William can’t help it, he just doesn’t like the man.’ William was reportedly ‘horrified’ and ‘doesn’t think Mr Fayed is good for his mother’ – or was that just the press projecting their own prejudices? The upmarket Sunday Times newspaper, which had first serialised my biography of the princess, now put her in the psychiatrist’s chair for daring to be wooed by a Muslim. The pop-psychologist Oliver James put Diana ‘On the Couch’, asking why she was so ‘depressed’ and desperate for love. Other tabloids piled in with dire prognostications – about Prince Philip’s hostility to the relationship, Diana’s prospect of exile, and the social ostracism she would face if she married Dodi.”
DIANA AND DODI AT THE RITZ
Before Diana and Dodi departed the Villa Windsor sometime after 16 hrs, General, one of Dodi’s bodyguards Trevor Rees-Jones furtively asked Diana as to what the programme for the evening was. This Trevor did out of sheer desperation as Dodi had ceased and desisted from telling members of his security detail, let alone anyone else for that matter, what his onward destination was for fear that that piece of information would be passed on to the paparazzi. Diana kindly obliged Trevor though her response was terse and scarcely revealing. “Well, eventually we will be going out to a restaurant”, that was all Diana said. Without advance knowledge of exactly what restaurant that was, Trevor and his colleagues’ hands were tied: they could not do a recce on it as was standard practice for the security team of a VIP principal. Dodi certainly, General, was being recklessly by throwing such caution to the winds.
At about 16:30, Diana and Dodi drew up at the Ritz Hotel, where they were received by acting hotel manager Claude Roulet. The front entrance of the hotel was already crawling with paparazzi, as a result of which the couple took the precaution of using the rear entrance, where hopefully they would make their entry unperturbed and unmolested. The first thing they did when they were ensconced in the now $10,000 a night Imperial Suite was to spend some time on their mobiles and set about touching base with friends, relations, and associates. Diana called at least two people, her clairvoyant friend Rita Rogers and her favourite journalist Richard Kay of The Daily Mail.
Rita, General, was alarmed that Diana had proceeded to venture to Paris notwithstanding the warning she had given Dodi and herself in relation to what she had seen of him in the crystal ball when the couple had consulted her. When quizzed as to what the hell she indeed was doing in Paris at that juncture, Diana replied that she and Dodi had simply come to do some shopping, which though partially true was not the material reason they were there. “But Diana, remember what I told Dodi,” Rita said somewhat reprovingly. Diana a bit apprehensively replied, “Yes I remember. I will be careful. I promise.” Well, she did not live up to her promise as we shall soon unpack General.
As for Richard Kay, Diana made known to him that, “I have decided I am going to radically change my life. I am going to complete my obligations to charities and to the anti-personnel land mines cause, but in November I want to completely withdraw from formal public life.”
Once she was done with her round of calls, Diana went down to the hair saloon by the hotel swimming pool to have her hair washed and blow-dried ahead of the scheduled evening dinner.
THE“TELL ME YES” RING IS DELIVERED
Since the main object of their Paris trip was to pick up the “Tell Me Yes” engagement ring Dodi had ordered in Monte Carlo a week earlier, Dodi decided to check on Repossi Jewellery, which was right within the Ritz prencincts, known as the Place Vendome. It could have taken less than a minute for Dodi to get to the store on foot but he decided to use a car to outsmart the paparazzi invasion. He was driven there by Trevor Rees-Jones, with Alexander Kez Wingfield and Claude Roulet following on foot, though he entered the shop alone.
The Repossi store had closed for the holiday season but Alberto Repossi, accompanied by his wife and brother-in-law, had decided to travel all the way from his home in Monaco and momentarily open it for the sake of the potentially highly lucrative Dodi transaction. Alberto, however, disappointed Dodi as the ring he had chosen was not the one he produced. The one he showed Dodi was pricier and perhaps more exquisite but Dodi was adamant that he wanted the exact one he had ordered as that was what Diana herself had picked. It was a ploy on the part of Repossi to make a real killing on the sale, his excuse to that effect being that Diana deserved a ring tha was well worthy of her social pedigree. With Dodi having expressed disaffection, Repossi rendered his apologies and assured Dodi he would make the right ring available shortly, whereupon Dodi repaired back to the hotel to await its delivery. But Dodi did insist nonetheless that the pricier ring be delivered too in case it appealed to Diana anyway.
Repossi delivered the two rings an hour later. They were collected by Roulet. On inspecting them, Dodi chose the very one he had seen in Monte Carlo, apparently at the insistence of Diana. There is a possibility that Diana, who was very much aware of her public image and was not comfortable with ostentatious displays of wealth, may have deliberately shown an interest in a less expensive engagement ring. It may have been a purely romantic as opposed to a prestigious choice for her.
The value of the ring, which was found on a wardrobe shelf in Dodi’s apartment after the crash, has been estimated to be between $20,000 and $250,000 as Repossi has always refused to be drawn into revealing how much Dodi paid for it. The sum, which enjoyed a 25 percent discount, was in truth paid for not by Dodi himself but by his father as was the usual practice.
Dodi was also shown Repossi’s sketches for a bracelet, a watch, and earrings which he proposed to create if Diana approved of them.
DIANA AND DODI GUSH OVER IMMINENT NUPTIALS
At about 7 pm, Dodi and Diana left the Ritz and headed for Dodi’s apartment at a place known as the Arc de Trompe. They went there to properly tog themselves out for the scheduled evening dinner. They spent two hours at the luxurious apartment. As usual, the ubiquitous paparazzi were patiently waiting for them there.
As they lingered in the apartment, Dodi beckoned over to his butler Rene Delorm and showed him the engagement ring. “Dodi came into my kitchen,” Delorm relates. “He looked into the hallway to check that Diana couldn’t hear and reached into his pocket and pulled out the box … He said, ‘Rene, I’m going to propose to the princess tonight. Make sure that we have champagne on ice when we come back from dinner’.” Rene described the ring as “a spectacular diamond encrusted ring, a massive emerald surrounded by a cluster of diamonds, set on a yellow and white gold band sitting in a small light-grey velvet box”.
Just before 9 pm, Dodi called the brother of his step-father, Hassan Yassen, who also was staying at the Ritz that night, and told him that he hoped to get married to Diana by the end of the year.
Later that same evening, both Dodi and Diana would talk to Mohamed Al Fayed, Dodi’s dad, and make known to him their pre-nuptial intentions. “They called me and said we’re coming back (to London) on Sunday (August 31) and on Monday (September 1) they are
Ramadan is the fasting month for Muslims, where over one billion Muslims throughout the world fast from dawn to sunset, and pray additional prayers at night. It is a time for inner reflection, devotion to Allah, and self-control. It is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. As you read this Muslims the world over have already begun fasting as the month of Ramadan has commenced (depending on the sighting of the new moon).
‘The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was revealed as guidance for people, in it are clear signs of guidance and Criterion, therefore whoever of you who witnesses this month, it is obligatory on him to fast it. But whoever is ill or traveling let him fast the same number of other days, God desires ease for you and not hardship, and He desires that you complete the ordained period and glorify God for His guidance to you, that you may be grateful”. Holy Qur’an (2 : 185)
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars upon which the structure of Islam is built. The other four are: the declaration of one’s belief in Allah’s oneness and in the message of Muhammad (PBUH); regular attendance to prayer; payment of zakaat (obligatory charity); and the pilgrimage to Mecca.
As explained in an earlier article, fasting includes total abstinence from eating, drinking, smoking, refraining from obscenity, avoiding getting into arguments and including abstaining from marital relations, from sunrise to sunset. While fasting may appear to some as difficult Muslims see it as an opportunity to get closer to their Lord, a chance to develop spiritually and at the same time the act of fasting builds character, discipline and self-restraint.
Just as our cars require servicing at regular intervals, so do Muslims consider Ramadan as a month in which the body and spirit undergoes as it were a ‘full service’. This ‘service’ includes heightened spiritual awareness both the mental and physical aspects and also the body undergoing a process of detoxification and some of the organs get to ‘rest’ through fasting.
Because of the intensive devotional activity fasting, Ramadan has a particularly high importance, derived from its very personal nature as an act of worship but there is nothing to stop anyone from privately violating Allah’s commandment of fasting if one chooses to do so by claiming to be fasting yet eating on the sly. This means that although fasting is obligatory, its observance is purely voluntary. If a person claims to be a Muslim, he is expected to fast in Ramadan.
The reward Allah gives for proper fasting is very generous. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) quotes Allah as saying: “All actions done by a human being are his own except fasting, which belongs to Me and I will reward it accordingly.” We are also told by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that the reward for proper fasting is admittance into heaven.
Fasting earns great reward when it is done in a ‘proper’ manner. This is because every Muslim is required to make his worship perfect. For example perfection of fasting can be achieved through restraint of one’s feelings and emotions. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that when fasting, a person should not allow himself to be drawn into a quarrel or a slanging match. He teaches us: “On a day of fasting, let no one of you indulge in any obscenity, or enter into a slanging match. Should someone abuse or fight him, let him respond by saying: ‘I am fasting!’”
This high standard of self-restraint fits in well with fasting, which is considered as an act of self-discipline. Islam requires us to couple patience with voluntary abstention from indulgence in our physical desires. The purpose of fasting helps man to attain a high degree of sublimity, discipline and self-restraint. In other words, this standard CAN BE achieved by every Muslim who knows the purpose of fasting and strives to fulfill it.
Fasting has another special aspect. It makes all people share in the feelings of hunger and thirst. In normal circumstances, people with decent income may go from one year’s end to another without experiencing the pangs of hunger which a poor person may feel every day of his life. Such an experience helps to draw the rich one’s conscience nearer to needs of the poor. A Muslim is encouraged to be more charitable and learns to give generously for a good cause.
Fasting also has a universal or communal aspect to it. As Muslims throughout the world share in this blessed act of worship, their sense of unity is enhanced by the fact that every Muslim individual joins willingly in the fulfillment of this divine commandment. This is a unity of action and purpose, since they all fast in order to be better human beings. As a person restrains himself from the things he desires most, in the hope that he will earn Allah’s pleasure, self-discipline and sacrifice become part of his nature.
The month of Ramadan can aptly be described as a “season of worship.” Fasting is the main aspect of worship in this month, because people are more attentive to their prayers, read the Qur’an more frequently and also strive to improve on their inner and outer character. Thus, their devotion is more complete and they feel much happier in Ramadan because they feel themselves to be closer to their Creator.