It’s that time of year again, when Muslims around the world put aside their differences, pull out their Qurans, and join hands in unity and harmony for a month of pious religious observance.
Well, in an ideal world, anyways.
Ramadan is by no means the rosy, flawless time when we all act accordingly and do our Islamic duty. While the proverbial devil may be locked up, human nature is still alive and kicking, and old habits die hard.
But like all things marred by humanity, Ramadan also brings out the best in people. Enemies reconcile, language is less hostile and people put aside old differences.
I always see Ramadan as a mixture of Christmas and New Years. People make their solemn resolutions at the beginning of the month (I won’t backbite, I will read more Quran, etc.), there are nightly festivities when family and friends gather together over hearty meals, and all this culminates in the three days of Eid, when we celebrate a month’s hard work well done.
Except, hard work may be an over statement. There are certain habits picked up by Muslims in general which tend to undermine the objectives of Ramadan. What we occasionally fail to see as Muslims is the logic or benefit behind certain practices in Islam, and instead treat it as dogma. What this eventually leads to is people trying to find loopholes around certain prohibitions or recommendations, which is utterly pointless because Islam is about intention, and not technicalities.
Some Ramadan habits that should be kicked are:
– Switching your daily routine 180 degrees: Staying up until dawn while continuously eating, and then hitting the hay until sundown the next day, defeats the point of fasting. You’re supposed to feel what it’s like for the less fortunate, and it’s healthy to spend a month with a lighter stomach. Sleeping all day and eating all night is a cheat, one of the loopholes I mentioned earlier.
– Compulsive grocery shopping: I’m not sure if this one is exclusive to Libya, but there’s this hurried, frantic shopping rush that happens a week or so before Ramadan, as though the stores will close for the coming month (they won’t). Also, you know how they say you shouldn’t shop while hungry? Multiple that by 30 days and you get an idea of the needless, excessive spending done by Libyans.
– Exclusive religiosity: Now, I’m treading on thin ice here, because only God can judge the actions of others. But some use Ramadan as the one month of the year to practice their religion; girls don headscarves, people who don’t pray will do so and the vices practiced are put on hold – until the month is over, whereby they resume their regular lifestyle. Again, it’s entirely up to the individual on how they practice, but it’s saddening to see Ramadan as used as an undo button for the other eleven months of the year.
There are other bad habits that should be kicked, but these are the ones that come to mind and are, to me, the most irksome.
In general, Ramadan can be a feel-good month characterized by a more conscious, spiritual sense of awareness, a time to reconnect with others, a chance to better yourself, and a sort of pause in the hectic rush of the year to reflect on life.
Remember to stay hydrated, avoid over-eating, help those less fortunate than you, and have a safe and happy Ramadan.