Here’s the thing about Ramadan: it is a month of ominous perspectives and social commentaries. Observations that would otherwise pass as conventional cynical reminders of the day-to-day experiences in a Muslim nation, are reduced to cliches. Let me simplify.
One. Ramadan is a time when coffee-starved, nicotine-detoxing employees render services delivered unbearable and the workplace unlivable.
Two. Ramadan is a time where otherwise-sinful hypocrites conduct their temporary pilgrimage towards redemption, to the glee of other self-righteous hypocrites who love to point out their hypocrisy.
Three. Ramadan is a time when permanently furrowed brows are tell-tale signs of fasting.
Four. Ramadan is a time that celebrates the religion of consumerism, with malls and grocery stores transformed into the new hedonist meccas for a different type of worship.
Five. Ramadan is a time when conservatives will dance their dances and liberals will sing their songs in a multitude of scenarios and contexts that never cease to boggle the mind.
Have I missed anything?
In any case, I admit, to an extent, I agree with much of the aforementioned rhetoric that plagues the traditional Ramadan conversation, which unfolds in various circles with every passing year. But what bores me is the underlying beliefs that dominates all of these perspectives and render them automated cliches. The belief that Ramadan is a month where hypocrisy is apparent, the belief that Ramadan is becoming increasingly consumerist, the belief that freedom of religion is somehow at stake, the belief that…
The basic premise I tend to find refuge in is that Islam provides its members a choice. For most of the aforementioned perspectives are based on choices made and those choices are almost always individualistic in nature. Some choose to be consumerist during this month. Some choose to be hypocrites. Some choose to exemplify a more conventional form of the angry, fasting employee. Some choose to spend the month smoking argeelah, playing cards and watching soaps.
Yet, others choose to be spiritual. Some choose to use this month for self-reflection. Some consume less. Some are charitable. Some are well-mannered. Some are drawn closer to their families. Some reconcile. Some choose to practice. Some go searching for God. Some find Him. Some don’t.
I won’t enter a statistical debate as to which group is greater in numbers, but my point is there is a tendency to view this month with a tunnel vision that provides an increasingly cynical perspective, and in the process the ‘good’ is often ignored completely. It is perhaps part of human nature to consistently only point out the negatives, and I suppose that serves its own purpose. But really, it gets boring. Pointing out the same old contradictions is at its best, a mundane exercise.
Moreover, these redundant societal complaints seem to be typically issued by passive observers. People who are more content on pointing out contradictions for no real reason other than to point them out. In my mind, this self-reflective month only further demonstrates the extent to which one needs to focus on their own choices; the examples they themselves set. Why are we so concerned with what others are doing? Why are we more keen on being what Rumi would call, spiritual window shoppers? Why do we avoid being part of the exchange?
Yes, I do see a lot of people wasting their time away playing cards during a month that is designed solely for religious dedication, but I also see mosques full at taraweeh. In other words, I see choices being made. Some good, others not so much, but it all depends on where you stand. To each his own. That’s the common denominator. And if anything else, that contrast is required.
Cultural elements did not suddenly mix with the religious aspects of Ramadan; they’ve always been there. They shouldn’t surprise us, even if they are finding new ways to manifest themselves. The basics remain true. The basics remain simple.
The rest is just stardust.
Dear Nas, well said… I got accustomed to the behavior of observing Ramadan on somewhat personal basis, with no expectations from our society to share its perceived values or to be vigilant over our pity selves doing stuff collectively in a harmonious spirit.
So whether we end-up turning Ramadan to a “Lunar food & drama Festival” or become so oblivious about it that we start referring to it as Radaman. It doesn’t even register with me!
Not that i enjoy watching people gearing up for Ramadan the wrong way! such as making plans for smoking “hide outs” in the working place, or figuring out which restaurants “still deliver” (or even out right open) during the month, heck… Last Ramadan I eyed a glossy english magazift that had a full length feature of what to do and where to go to get one’s fix during the holy month!
For me, lower expectations make me focus on what Ramadan is all about, rather than getting offended every time i see someone smoking in the middle of the day or while i’m bombarded with offensive billboards that out-right abuse the spirit of the month.
And this “extreme personalization” of Ramadan is not because I don’t to want to see my society levitated to the majestic heights our Deen collectively strive to, but because i truly believe in the power of consensus, and that if enough people willingly and consensually observed Ramadan the way it should be observed; then the consensus of those observers will be the dominant factor in the society, and you wouldn’t have to be mandated over a ranting periodically about it.
On the other hand, i got exposed to yet another ill aspect of our oblivious society through my work with an NGO active in Ramadan, where some folks with semi guilty-conscious for not fasting donate money under the slogan of “kaffarah”! And not keeping it to them selves, no; they brag about it, so you get a call saying “Hello, i want to pay kaffarah for thirty days of not-fasting”, you reply “Salamat, hope you get well” under the premise that he isn’t fasting for a medical or some other feminine reasons, so they answer back “No, i just don’t fast and i want to make up to it by paying” and I reiterated “Do you want some indulgence certificates to go with that?”….. enough said
I am so glad you included this paragraph: “Yet, others choose to be spiritual. Some choose to use this month for self-reflection. Some consume less. Some are charitable. Some are well-mannered. Some are drawn closer to their families. Some reconcile. Some choose to practice. Some go searching for God. Some find Him. Some donâ€™t.”
The flashy, noisy, cynical complainers seem to get all the press. The faithful, quiet ones who take it to heart out of love for God just don’t seem interesting enough. They are my favorites, and may God bless them for it.
We have the same problem at Christmas; sarcasm and cynicism creep in as joy-stealers from those who practice the fundamental essence of the tradition primarily from within. Makes me wish I had some sort of magic cloak to ward off the negative, rather than having to battle the onslaught in my mind. But I suppose the battle for simplicity is what makes the victory sweet.
You forgot those people “Last Ramadan I eyed a glossy english magazift that had a full length feature of what to do and where to go to get oneâ€™s fix during the holy month!”
The ones that tend to lose it and get flustered and pissed off when seeing someone not acting the way they are, its almost like being jealous of them for not fasting.
Whats so fracking offensive or hurtful if someone smoked or ate in front of you ? are you fasting based on your own convictions or you are doing it because everyone else is ? if its the former then it shouldn’t matter to you ..
thats coming from a person who fasts …meh
But mindless consumerism is a part of ever major religious holiday. Just look at Christmas in America, for example. It was only a matter of time before it affected Muslim holidays.
good stuff .. id like to add a ramadan cliche to the list if i may ..
that is the ramadan effect on the way people drive
“In other words, I see choices being made. Some good, others not so much, but it all depends on where you stand. To each his own.”
Surely these are the most important words in the post ? And not just in Ramadan. So long as people are courteous and considerate, and do not offend or discommode others, nor seek to impose their views, in any direction, why should anyone else mind how other people live their lives ? Surely it is a personal matter between them and their God ?
It’s Ramadan? Oh.
Allah yahdi al Ummah. Ameen.
Man don’t even get me started on my Ramadan rant