Can you afford to miss it?
Regular fasting, devotion and generosity in the month of Ramadan develop a clearer sense of a successful and meaningful life. Here I explore these key features of the ‘Spring of Righteousness’ that is Ramadan.
Ramadan is one of the richest, most transformative times of the Islamic calendar. It is a season for actively pursuing spiritual growth and a deeper connection with Allah, and it is a season for increasing knowledge. Fasting is spiritual training for the whole year. The whole community fasts in Ramadan and this shared discipline across the community is really a key to successful social training – similar to a football team training together. In addition to its moral benefits, spiritual development and social impact, Ramadan has clear health benefits. It is a great medicine for society.
Consumerism has drowned people’s capacity for independent judgement, self-control and simple living. In our consumerist society, fasting enables a person to resist the persuasive power of advertisers, and ensures that we do not march to the beat of their drum, but move to the beat of the Azaan. That is in itself an act of courage. Thirty days of fasting is short enough to endure but long enough to actually change even old habits.
Fasting is a clear indication that humans do not live on bread alone, and that we are much more than just consumers with a body. We have a spirit. By learning to say no, we are learning to control ourselves. We are practising self-discipline. Saying ‘no’ is really a fantastic way of saying, “I am not controlled by my bodily instincts and desires. I am able to choose what I do and don’t do.” It is a way of being a master of oneself. Fasting is therefore, an important spiritual discipline. In many ways, the spirit of sports and the holy month of Ramadan share similarities; sacrificing the self and practising self-control in a bid to achieve success and perfection.
We are very familiar with the concept of fasting as a means of cleansing the body or detoxifying – here is another benefit of the month of Ramadan. It is a great opportunity for digital detox. The average Brit checks their mobile phone every 12 minutes and is online for 24 hours a week Ofcom says. The total amount of time spent online by Brits has also doubled over the last 10 years, with a quarter of adults saying they spent more than 40 hours a week on the internet, a move driven by the uptake of smartphones.
If you are spending too much time online and not enough with your children, family, relatives, and friends, then Ramadan is an ideal opportunity to control this habit. Addiction to the Internet is a serious growing problem all over the world.
Ramadan is an opportunity to rebalance your digital habits; during Ramadan, try to reduce the use of your mobile, Facebook, Twitter and the Internet. Instead, spend more time in the masjid face-to-face with your Lord, meeting your brothers and seeing brothers builds human networks and relationships. There are many social and psychological as well as emotional benefits of seeing and meeting people in person. You get the opportunity to share and respond to body language; there are greater opportunities for bonding and building friendships. Opening fasts together with others builds trust and lasting relationships.
Tips on beating mobile phone addiction:
- Go on a mobile phone diet. Download an app that tracks your phone usage. You can then use this information to set a specific goal of how many times per hour or day you allow yourself to check your phone.
- Put your phone away. Simply put your phone somewhere where you will not see it. Turn your phone on silent or off especially when praying or reading the Quran, so it won’t distract you.
- Take a mobile phone holiday. Cut mobile phone use out of your life completely for a short period of time such as a weekend or for the full 10 days during Itikaf.
- Change your phone settings. There are settings on your phone that may alert you every time you get an email or Facebook notification. Make sure you turn these off! This will reduce the amount of times your phone goes off or vibrates.
- Focus on the here-and-now. Mindfulness, being aware, can help you become centered and possibly reduce the impulse to engage in phone use. Try to be in the present moment by focusing on what is currently going on, including your own thoughts and reactions.