Has Ramadan Become More About Feasting Than Fasting?
The moon turns crescent, the nights get warmer, the family gets closer, and faith grows greater.
Ramadan is now upon us. It’s that time of the year which reminds us we’re not just physical bodies, but souls as well. It’s that time of the year where Muslims around the world recharge their faith with discipline in prayer and dwell in the teachings of the Qur’an. But most importantly, it’s that time where you give up food to control your body’s needs and focus on your soul, while also putting yourself in the shoes of the less fortunate who struggle with hunger everyday, reminding you to be grateful for what you have.
Ramadan is the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic calendar, the month in which the Qur’an was revealed to the prophet Muhammad PBUH.
During this period, many Muslims around the world fast from sunrise to sunset, allowing no food or drink to enter their bodies, as an act of faith and sacrifice. In Ramadan, “Sawm” (fasting) is not only restricted to food, but also includes refraining from sexual activity, dishonesty, immoral behavior, and bad thoughts.
At the end of the fasting month, worshippers celebrate 3 days of “Eid Al-Fitr”, announcing the end of Ramadan and rewarding them for their faith and sacrifices.
Although the most well-known, fasting is only one of the 5 pillars which form the basis of how Muslims practice their religion. The other 4 are:
– Shahada: Having faith in Islam and all its practices.
– Salat: Praying 5 times a day facing the direction of Mecca.
– Zakat: Helping those in need.
– Hajj: Making the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime.
But are all Muslims taking the above into consideration?
Is Ramadan nowadays truly a time to detach from earthly needs and pay attention to what really matters?
More recently, the boom of restaurants and hotels with their seasonal Iftar offers, have driven some people to forget the essence of fasting. Just as Christmas and Easter have become commercialized through Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, food, and gifts; Ramadan has now become associated with night feasts and binge-eating. Traditionally, breaking fast was about reuniting with the family, praying, and eating a humble meal with gratitude. But in modern times people are more focused on the festive aspects, attending special Ramadan galas at high-class hotels and restaurants, not to mention taking Ramadan as an occasion to lose weight or get in shape.
Besides the fact that the above contradicts the humble essence of Ramadan, such feasts often result in so much food waste as we fill and fill our plates with more food than we can possibly eat! We throw away the rest, without considering less fortunate people might not even have a bite to eat.
When we follow such patterns and ride along this wave of materialism, commercialism, and consumerism, we also give the wrong message to the younger generations who follow our example. If our kids are observing and learning from our behavioral patterns mainly centering on feasts, fun, and shopping, this will slowly eliminate the true essence of Ramadan in their hearts.
Another downside of consumerism is how we eventually become dependent on others to provide for us, expecting everyone to produce while we consume and feed the flesh. Such feasting and passiveness, combined with lower activity, due to the body’s lower energy from fasting, eventually leads to weight gain, with diabetes, and other negative health effects.
If we look back at the history of Islam, the Muslim Ummah also engaged in consumerism during its Golden Age, when the expanding empire brought along new resources unknown to the early Muslims, making them forget their true purpose as human beings. This wave of consumerism is what brought Prophet Muhammad to state the below in a hadeeth:
“By Allah, it is not the poverty about which I fear in regard to you but I am afraid in your case that (the worldly) riches may be given to you as were given to those who had gone before you and you begin to vie with one another for them as they vied for them. And these may destroy you as these destroyed them.” (Sahih Muslim, Book #042, Hadith #7065).
In addition, our Middle Eastern societies are often targeted by broadcasters who fill the prime-time TV slots with plenty of sensational dramas and other types of commercial programs. This modern phenomenon has become a trend during Ramadan, prompting Islamic authorities to criticize these shows for distracting people from Ramadan’s primary purpose.
Establishing a balance between your spiritual life and your social life is key! Socializing with family and friends is not wrong, as long as it does not get in the way of your spiritual growth.
Here are some tips to practice spirituality and connect with your creator during this Holy Month:
– Make gratitude and thankfulness a habit of yours; thank your creator for all that you have.
– Refrain from those small sins like gossip or jealousy.
– Replace bad deeds with good ones.
– Seek knowledge about fasting to practice it correctly.
– Invest more of your time and money to helping others, and consume less.
– Spread the simplicity message to fight the commercializing of Ramadan.
Friends of The Wellness Project, we wish you a Holy month. May it bless you and your families with togetherness and peacefulness, and may all your good deeds, prayers, and devotions be accepted.
May your fasts be accepted as you set aside your physical needs and focus on nourishing your souls and higher selves in becoming better beings this blessed month.
4 weeks of mercy, 30 days of worship, 720 hours of spirituality, 43,200 minutes of peace, and 2,592,000 seconds of forgiveness. Make the most of them!