The True Spirit of Ramadan: Beyond Hunger and Thirst
Updated: Mar 26
Every year in the month of Ramadan, especially among a majority of Muslim Americans, Ramadan iftar parties have become an attractive event. With ten different types of snacks and as many categories of main entrées, the parties offer a spectacle of affluence, extravagance, and luxury. Why should it not be like this? After all, we learn from our scholars that if you help a Muslim break his fast, you get a massive reward from Allah. But unfortunately, with rising inflation, the cost of sponsoring an Iftar dinner for about 200 people is about $2,000. Who would not want to get closer to God by spending nine dollars per person? Is this what Ramadan is all about?
So, all these parties and functions are for Allah as commanded by His Prophet. Our reward increases with the presence of a Sheikh and probably with the increase in the number of dishes. The older and seasoned the Sheikh, the more profound is the reward, and the better is the quality, the quicker is the mercy.
But wait a minute? Most of the people who come to these parties are well-off, affluent, and can easily afford to offer meals to others. Didn't the Prophet advise us to focus on those who are less wealthy and less fortunate? Didn't Allah want the resourceful people to share their fortune with others less fortunate?
Probably, Allah and His messenger might have meant that. But when we invite ordinary people who are not of our status and our class, we usually compromise our positions in the community. How can we, the affluent and less affluent, be equal? We worked hard to earn what we had. We are entitled to enjoy it the way we want to enjoy it. Moreover, they are not aware of the affluent's behavioral etiquette in the company.
In our Masajid, the situation is different depending on their size, location, and attendees. In some, attendees share whatever they have, and big feasts take place in others. So many people justify these expenses, saying that Ramadan creates the spirit of brother and sisterhood and brings the entire community together. So true! People feel rejuvenated and feel the month's energy by coming to Masajid in large numbers during the dinner, yet the crowd dwindles as soon as the dinner is over.
What if Masajid offers simple milk, water, and dates for iftar and individual families bring extra food to share with those unable to afford it? It would require some organization and strenuous efforts for the management and families, creating stronger solidarity. Rather than throwing lavish food parties at the Masajid, if we follow simplicity and offer nutritious food supervised by nutrition experts, probably, we would utilize our resources better. We do not have to wait for the entire Ummah to agree on these issues. Those who feel that such practices are genuine should follow them.
Let us look at the positive aspects of the month of Ramadan. For an entire month, we create an environment where we are conscious of our Creator every second, regardless of where we become aware of the importance of fasting. It is a month we can train ourselves in some of our behavioral aspects. Some of our scholars remind us that we should focus on offering extra prayers and extra reading of the Quran.
Two other aspects were part of the Prophet's behavior, yet ignored sometimes. First, the Prophet was very generous during this month, and he spent long hours in prayers seeking the protection and forgiveness of Allah. The Prophet taught us that the month allows us to evaluate our behavior and attitude towards ourselves and others and seek shelter in the guidance of Allah.
In other words, besides being generous, he taught us to ensure that we control our anger, egos, arrogance and show humility, politeness, kindness, and forgiveness to others. Fasting demonstrates our ability to conquer hunger and control the psychological aspects of our behavior, such as our reaction to things that we dislike. If we learned how to tame our ego, everything we do would multiply in reward. If we fail, regardless of the number of nightly prayers and extra reading of the Quran, our fasting would not go beyond an exercise in controlling our hunger.
Here are a few suggestions that we can try to apply in our daily Ramadan life.
1. If we dislike anything, we should not react immediately. Instead, we should take time and try to respond calmly and politely.
2. We should ignore those useless talks that serve no purpose.
3. We should ensure that we do not indulge in backbiting or demeaning anyone.
4. We should show kindness to youngsters and respect elders.
5. We should not focus on food and consume things that are not nutritious because Allah asks us to be mindful of our health also.
6. We should control our anger, egos, arrogance, and rash talking.
7. We should not hurt anyone, and if we cross our limits, we should immediately apologize.
8. We should maintain quiet most of the time.
9. We should greet everyone with a sweet smile.
10. We should visit the mosque with our family at least once a week.
11. We should give our children a feel of Taraweeh prayers by praying with them this nightly prayer.
12. We should invite the poor and the needy families to our homes at least once in Ramadan to honor them.
13. Furthermore, we should be generous in sharing our resources with the poor and the neglected.
14. We should try to read the Quran with translation and understanding if we do not know Arabic, and reflections if we know Arabic.
15. We should spend some time alone observing prayers, reciting the Quran, and reflecting on our lives.
16. We should focus on some of the suras of the Quran so that we could either memorize them or understand them in depth.
17. We should invite some non-Muslim neighbors or colleagues to our homes to share the Ramadan spirit at Iftar time.
18. We should give the Zakat ul Fitr so that the poor and the needy could share the occasion's happiness.
19. We should ensure that we do not miss any obligatory prayer.
20. We should share a book on Islam with anyone who wants to learn more about Islam.
21. We should hug our children, our parents, and our dearest ones, thank them for their presence in our lives, and remind ourselves of the importance of family.
22. We should ignore people's minor or major behavioral issues and treat them with patience.
23. We should ensure that we would not visit internet sites that are provocative or promote immorality.
24. We should help our spouses with home chores and avoid criticizing them for their mistakes.
25. We should never forget that all we do is fulfill our obligations to our Creator, who seeks our well-being in this life and the life hereafter.