SHAFAQNA – Now that the holy month of Ramadan is here most Muslim households, whether here or there, will see their homes … and lives infuse with excitement, anticipation and a great deal of visitors.
If Ramadan is a month of fasting and overall abstinence from the material world to elevate one’s soul, and thus reflect upon those lessons Islam teaches humanity, it is also a month when friendships are renewed, family ties strengthened and hopefully one’s sense of social responsibility reaffirmed.
After all we are the society we live in, and it falls onto us to mend what is broken, heal what was harmed and assuage whatever fears some may hold regardless … Ramadan we must now realise is much an exercise of betterment from within.
A stronger grasp of the religious and a greater sense of empathy may automatically manifest in improving one’s relationships with the outside world in general.
This year Shafaqna decided to ask its readers to volunteer their experiences and their thoughts towards Ramadan and the impact the holy month has had on their lives from a personal standpoint onwards.
Does Ramadan accomplish what it should for us personally? Does it make us more worshipful, improve our characters, and train us for the year ahead? Also, how to maneuver those murky social waters when Islam has been vilified and Muslims demonised over those acts of terror we abhor most of all?
To this end, we surveyed men and women asking them to self-evaluate their Ramadan program.
Ramadan’s Long-Lasting Effects
Despite the trauma of past months, the community proved to be highly positive about its Ramadan routine and how each individual, families and local communities came together to support each other, improve their respective faith and above all worked to portray Islam as a positive influence.
Of all the people Shafaqna interviewed nearly 100 percent of them said they felt Ramadan programs were effective in bringing about positive change to their worship habits and character beyond the month of Ramadan.
“After the month is over, I am reminded of these things, and it stays with me, or sometimes afterwards. For example, after last Ramadan I was reminded how little of the Quran I have memorized and that I need to get closer to the Quran. Since then, I have slowly been trying to memorize, think, understand and implement more and so far I have succeeded,” said a reader.
This detailed response is quite similar to how others replied: “For me, it’s very helpful because throughout the entire month, my number one goal is to collect as many good deeds as possible. That should be the case throughout the year, but during this month I’m consciously tracing all the opportunities.”
Ramadan and charity
A month to remember others and offer compassion to those less fortunate, many of our readers have said they use the month of Ramadan as an opportunity for being more generous and conscious of others’ needs and hardships.
Abdullah from London writes: “As a member of the Yemeni diaspora I feel particularly touched by the plight of my people and so I have collected donations to send back home. But not only … I also made a point at remembering Iraqis and Syrians as they too, suffered of the horrors of war. This year I want to think of the global community and not just my own. It’s important we think as a united Ummah (community) and not just separate entities.”
Hanan from London said that since her finances do not allow her to be as generous as she would like so she decided instead to offer her time to local charities. “I am a student and so I felt it would be best for me to give away the one thing I have most of: my time. Ramadan has taught me that even a smile can be an act of charity and as Muslims it is important we enact Islam’s principles of compassion and generosity by getting out there and being positive.”
Ramadan teaches us that there are transcendent values that are worth taking a break from our yearly routines for, and those are more profound, deeper and more meaningful than material values.
In fact, our respondents, who felt a meaningful success in Ramadan, reflected this in our survey. More than 75 percent of them mentioned they put aside time to concentrate on the spiritual goals they set out for themselves as being key in their success.
In Ramadan, we refrain from food and drink in the day and strive to worship longer and harder at night. It’s not a constant mode of life, our Ramadan routines. It’s one month out of the year. Furthermore, we use this one month out of 12 to build certain characteristics in ourselves at precisely the expense of material acquisition.
We want to instill in ourselves, in the long run, the spirit of sacrifice. We desire to train ourselves in the virtues of resilience and heartiness. So, the message here is not fast and amp up your worship schedule without it taking a toll on your worldly pursuits, but to prioritise the former and still maintain the latter. It’s not only all right to do it, it’s what you must do to make Ramadan most effective.
Our fasting is meant to affect us, to deplete us in a materialistic sense, so as to replenish us in faith and the awe of Allah Almighty. We also fast out of a belief in the Afterlife, putting our Hereafter deliberately and squarely out in front of our pursuit of the world and our misguided attempts to consume it, which is exactly as it should always be.
This year – maybe more than any other year, we ought to remember what duty was imparted onto us: to be witness to the Word of God and abide by His commands to be more ethical and humane.
Whatever misgivings society may hold against Muslims our duty lies in offering that which is better – even when confronted with hate.
Shafaqna wishes you all a blessed Ramadan.
By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna