In Pakistan, restaurants only care if you fast, but not if you pray

Published: June 8, 2018
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Muslim women activists pray the Maghrib sunset prayer before Iftar outside Trump Tower in New York, US, on June 1, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

“Fast, pray, feast!”

This attractive marketing tagline, alongside tempting pictures of food, is being circulated by a well-known eatery this Ramazan, as is the case every year. Not only is the food tempting, but also the deals. And why not? When one opens their fast at sunset in this most special month for Muslims, delicious food is but a must.

But there is one issue. While they openly marketed the “pray” bit, there is no place for praying if you go to said eatery for an iftar deal. A young girl I spoke with who went there with her friend said the staff looked shocked when she asked where she could pray.

“They said we have no arrangements, because no one wants to pray generally, barring very few people. I told them I am from those very few and you must help me; I need a very tiny corner for just five minutes. At my insistence, they made me stand between tables crowded with people. It was a very uncomfortable experience. Not going there again in Ramazan.”

This is not just about one restaurant or café. Except a few places, you can literally count on your fingers how a majority of restaurants milk the blessings of Ramazan by introducing deals which help increase their sales, but do not have the sensitivity towards those customers who want to pray.

This has been a topic of discussion on social media and otherwise since years, but nothing seems to come out of it. I have prayed on dusty floors, with music playing and people passing in front of me, whenever I dared to go for an iftar meal. The problem for women is even more pronounced, because men can go for prayers to a nearby mosque if need be, but except for limited mosques that allow women to pray, there is no concept of mosques as public spaces for women.

Ironically, many mosques allow women to come for Taraweeh prayers in Ramazan, a voluntary prayer, but will not open their doors to women for the obligatory five prayers.

As someone who has been trying to bring this issue to the attention of the owners and the management of restaurants for years, their responses on social media have been less than empathetic.

“Why do you need to go and eat out in Ramazan if you are so religious? Do your iftar at home. Can’t you live without eating out?”

These, and other stronger reactions, are normal now. It is as if people who want to pray in Ramazan are not welcome to mingle in society and go out to eat, and are meant to stay in bubbles or at home.

Sure, one can do iftar mostly at home. But there are times you are invited to go out. And there are times you feel like going out to eat. The reverse discrimination against people who attempt at being practicing Muslims in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is real. On the other hand, I have experienced refreshing cooperation from non-Muslim friends and from strangers while traveling abroad whenever I needed to pray.

This issue is not just specific to Ramazan. However, in other months of the year, one can plan to go out to eat at a time when prayers are not disturbed. But when fasting, this is not a possibility.

There are many possible solutions to this, and some select restaurants have employed these solutions. For example, a well-known oriental restaurant in Clifton has made arrangements not just for their own customers to pray, but also welcomes customers of nearby eateries. At other places, they request you to pray quickly and by turn, but have the good sense to at least keep prayer mats. But such restaurants are numbered.

So here’s sincerely requesting restaurants: the next time you use the Ramazan tagline to boost your sales, have enough empathy to reserve a small corner of your restaurant for 15 minutes so that those who want to pray can do so with ease. If for nothing else, then in the spirit of the compassion that Ramazan is all about.

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz is a writer and editor, and has worked as the Features Editor with The Express Tribune. Her focus is human-centric feature stories. She now writes as a freelancer, and works in the field of marketing and corporate communications. She loves literature and traveling. She tweets on @FarahnazZahidi. Her work can be seen at chaaidaani.wordpress.com/

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • MAH

    It has been 10 years that I moved out of Pakistan, but keeping visiting Karachi at least thrice a year. Each time I am here, I find people in general turning more and more materialistic. And there are no values left except for competing with others on facebook and instagram. These iftar dinners have less to do with sharing blessings with family and friends, and more to do with show-off. So its not a surprise that many people breaking fast do not want to pray.Recommend

  • Lunatic Leftie

    Why are Muslims so obsessed with what other people do and forcing other people to follow their lifestyle? Why can’t you just live and let live? Fast if you want to fast, pray if you want to pray, cover your head if you want to cover your head. But leave me out of it. I will not fast, I will not pray and nobody in my family wants to cover their head.Recommend

  • Leonard Harrison

    Well written………..your articles are perhaps the realest depiction of problems in Pakistan and you also include solutions. You are a level-headed person and that’s is a wonderful trait for a person whose writings influence many people.Recommend

  • Iftikhar Ali

    usual complaintsRecommend

  • Umm Sarah

    You seem to have serious comprehension issues,please point out where in the article she is forcing people to pray ,fast or cover their heads.
    It’s a very well written blog ,bringing attention to the materialistic approach our society has taken to the holy month of Ramazan.Recommend

  • BayAreaPakhtun

    neither should be the business of the restaurant… they should only care about providing quality food and getting paid….Recommend

  • Patwari

    Well, so sorry to tell you, that, nobody gives a doozy
    what you do or don’t do. Or what you think or don’t
    think. You are like a bad case of diarrhea, which
    belongs in the bathroom.Recommend

  • Parvez

    If one needs to pray there are special reserved areas in most public places or there are mosques within walking distance from most public places ….a restaurant is a place for eating and enjoying oneself, the idea of it reserving space for people to pray is not practical.
    On a different note I can’t understand the need for Pakistani Muslims to wear their religion on their sleeve……it makes others uncomfortable something we happily ignore.Recommend

  • Dan Shanks

    At first I thought the writer was sharing her experience from visiting restaurants in some Non Muslim country but sadly her unfortunate experience is from Islamic Republic of Pakistan which quite honestly is becoming anything but true Islamic country. Nothing but bunch of hypocrits….. Look at Lunatic Lefties comment below… Shame shame shame….. You will find better accommodations for Muslims in public places such as Halal Restaurants in Non Muslim Countries and people dont act with disgust toward practicing Real Muslims. Real Practicing Muslims are ridiculed and often labeled Mullah in so called the hyporitic Fake Islamic Republic of Pakistan….. Shame on you hypocritic just by name only Muslims of Fake Islamic Republic of Pakistan….!!!!Recommend

  • Patwari

    Agree with you. Restaurant is a place to eat. And enjoy yourself.
    You are there for the ambiance, good food, whatnot.
    Or perhaps have a quick lunch/dinner, on your break.
    Maybe make sure before you leave the house as to where the nearest
    mosque is, or a prayer facility is. Or keep an eye out on your way there.
    Pretty sure, if you are adamant,…with drool running down your chin,
    and irises a pinpoint, and fingers curled up, the staff will find a place
    for you to pray. Near the dish washing area, maybe in the storage room,
    in the manager’s office, on the roof, next to the onion bags…endless possibilities.Recommend

  • Naushin Ajmal Khan

    I hope the writer of this article doesn’t bother to read the comments cuz most of them are just dumb and it seems as though the people commenting did not bother to read the article. Anyways…brilliant article…real problem…only solution I have is to either bring Ur own prayer mat and just offer Ur prayers wherever u get any space OR pray in Ur car…that’s what I do. And to people who look down upon anyone who tries to follow our beautiful religion…Get a life.Recommend

  • Anas Ahmed

    Absolutely, will get to it. Thanks for the love bro. We appreciate it a lot. Oh and I returned the favor by flagging you I hope it helps ;)Recommend

  • Anas Ahmed

    One case isn’t enough to judge an entire country. Trump hates people of color? All Americans mustbem racist! That’s your logicRecommend

  • Anas Ahmed

    Clearly a lunatic. No one forced you to do anything!Recommend

  • Muhammad

    Restaurants also making prayer space available within or in close proximity is actually yet another creative business model. Why not ? Whoever wants to turn up in such a facility will be doing so on their own free will. It will be a hit if the regulating body officially allows them to do so under certain terms & conditions.Recommend

  • Pixus

    you really missed the point of the article
    the writer is simply saying that the people are becoming more and more materialistic.
    and you idiotically just proved her pointRecommend

  • Pixus

    well if we use your logic then restaurants should not have toilets because its a place to dine and government has made dedicated toilets for this purpose and they should use them and not force restaurants to provide them.
    you probably don’t get the point even now then let me spell it out for you
    toilets and a place to pray are facilities for the convenience of people.Recommend

  • abdubaba

    AlaaaRecommend

  • abdubaba

    Also kindly share the name of the eateryRecommend

  • Patwari

    So sorry, your gibberish is making no sense.
    Try again.Recommend

  • Parvez

    The practicality of a restaurant ( usually small spaces in high rental areas ) having small clean toilets is understandable and necessary …..the same argument can not be made for special payer rooms or spaces.
    Another aspect is that prayers are held at fixed times so one can adjust ones meal timings accordingly.Recommend

  • Pixus

    completely ignored my point.
    as i said it is for convenience of people.
    and care to explain why the same argument can’t be made for prayer areas?Recommend

  • Pixus

    it makes perfect sense
    to someone who has a brain, that is.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Do we REALLY need more places to pray ? ……. or do we need understanding and implementation of what and why we pray .Recommend

  • Parvez

    I have not ignored your point ….. I suggest you read my comment carefully.
    By your argument a restaurant should provide facilities for the CONVENIENCE of people ( your words ) … so why stop at toilets and a prayer room why not add a hair dressing saloon, a convenience store because you forgot to buy milk….get the idea.
    My operative word is PRACTICALITY…. IT’s A RESTAURANT …… and these add-ons are not practical, as I pointed out because of space constraints and high rent.
    You have ignored my reasoning of …..prayer timings being fixed while meal timings are not ( pretty straight forward reasoning ).Recommend

  • Patwari

    So there should be a women prayer space? And one for men?
    Since minorities have equal rights in Pakland, there should be
    a space for Shias? May be a little Hindu temple? A church?Recommend

  • Patwari

    So all restaurants should have separate prayer spaces for women
    and men? Because there are separate bathrooms for men and women.
    Then you will have to include a Hindu temple, a Church, Gurdwara,
    Buddhist temple. Because the govt. said all and every religious minority
    in Pakland have same rights, as majority religion. You believe that, don’t
    you? Equal rights for everyone?
    They won’t be restaurants anymore, they will be harmonious religious stops. Like bus stops,…bus addas.
    What about dhabas? They have to comply too?
    Truck stops DO have prayer areas!! But only for men…truck drivers mostly.
    You can add a Dalit temple too, too all restaurants.Recommend

  • Leonard Harrison

    No point in arguing with these people. All they need to know is religion is the most important part of our lives and every place needs to have a prayer area. No one is forcing them to pray. They can avert their eyes from such things and not try to school us on how things should be run in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.Recommend