By Mahmoud Ahmad
May 29, 2017
THE holy month of Ramadan is here. The month of worship and mercy, the month in which we are supposed to feel for the poor and the needy. It is the month in which we make peace with ourselves and with others, and it is the month in which we are encouraged to do more charity and donate money to those in need. This is the month where we should connect with our relatives with whom relations were cut for whatever reason. Ramadan is the month to make peace and reward will go to those who initiate the first move toward reconciliation. We should feel for our neighbors whom we treat as strangers, although they live next to us or in front of us. This is the month that is supposed to be spent mostly by praying, reciting the Holy Qur’an and doing charity. This is a month in which we all should pause to reflect about ourselves and our actions throughout the past year and take corrective actions.
Sadly the meaning of Ramadan is beginning to change. Since the last decade or so, it is beginning to turn into a month of watching TV as competing channels unleash all their productions in this holy month. Some channels come up with more than six series and their own productions in this month in a bid to ace all others in the ratings. I am not talking here about programs that benefit worshipers or add value by promoting education or health issues. What is surfeit on TV during prime time is pure entertainment and it surely diverts people’s attention from worshiping.
The month in which we are supposed to feel for the poor has been turned into a month where the latest food recipes are advertised. This is a month where all stores announce major sales and discount on all food products and drinks, which totally defies the meaning of Ramadan. The sight of the massive amount and the variety of food placed during Iftar is not only totally sad, but also contrary to the essence of the month, which calls on us to spare a thought for others less fortunate. People consume large quantities of food and I am sure the notion of ‘feeling for the poor’ simple does not exist for such people. In addition to the fancy fare in Iftar, there’s the additional display of callousness in the seemingly sheer wastage when people without thought fill their dishes with a mountain of food, only to waste it, as they meander about to take in more from the food stalls.
Ramadan is often associated with laziness at work. We see a lot of people complaining, especially about government workers, of people’s lackadaisical attitude at work with some even going to the extent of not doing their work or provide bad treatment, simply because they are fasting. I do not know why bad manners are associated with fasting, when Ramadan teaches us self-discipline. Even when someone is rude to us, we as fasting Muslims should exercise extreme self-discipline and refrain from engaging in any verbal or physical fights. Sadly that is not the case and on many occasions, especially in hours or minutes before Iftar, there is a litany of spats in various areas — ful shops, road rage and poorly parked cars — as people let off steam in an instant. And their immediate contrite behavior follows a simple reason for their action. And the reason is always, ‘Sorry, it is because I was fasting’.
There are those who during Ramadan turn into people of virtue and preach good words about Islam when their actions reflect the total opposite. At home, this person is neglectful or mistreats his wife or children. He might be overworking his domestic help or driver and not paying them their salaries on time. Such person could be a company owner and mistreating his workers. Yet you will see this same person in the first line at the mosque asking Allah for forgiveness and mercy and compassionate, yet he shows none of these feelings toward the people he victimizes. Such people think that it is tradition to do this during Ramadan, but after Ramadan, they can return back to normal, mistreating and victimizing people.
Like I said in a previously published opinion article, “If we cannot discipline ourselves from behaving badly or being bad toward others, then Ramadan will have no meaning. If we, however, succeed in making a wrong correct, then let us apply what we have gained in this holy month throughout the year. The God in Ramadan is the same God throughout the year.”
However, not all pictures are dark, thank God, as we see a lot of good examples of people doing charity everywhere. We need to see this action continue throughout the year. If we connect with our family members in this month, let’s not make this a habit only during Ramadan. Let’s sustain the connection throughout the year. Life is fast-paced and demanding and keeps us busy such that our priorities shift constantly. But we should not be so busy that we do not find time to connect with our family members, parents and relatives. Ramadan is a good month for us to start over, fresh and clean. We should stick to what we have gained from good morals and values.
I conclude here with this saying, Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Do you know who is bankrupt?” They said, “The one without money or goods is bankrupt.” The Prophet said, “Verily, the bankrupt of my nation are those who come on the Day of Resurrection with prayers, fasting, and charity, but also with insults, slander, consuming wealth, shedding blood, and beating others. The oppressed will each be given from his good deeds. If his good deeds run out before justice is fulfilled, then their sins will be cast upon him and he will be thrown into the Hellfire.”