During the month of Ramadan, Muslims all around the world fast by abstaining from food and drink during the daytime hours. The majority view this month as an opportunity for spiritual growth between cultures and individuals. To someone who is observing Ramadan for the first time, it is easy to get caught up on not eating and not drinking. Your stomach seems to be growling every second and your mouth is as dry as the Arabian Desert. With the extreme heat hitting the country right now, it may seem even more difficult to fast but it can be done.
Ramadan is so much bigger than just the absence of eating, drinking and controlling your desires throughout the day. It is about moral discipline. It is about the deep reflection and channeling that same sense of joy, unity, love, high spirituality, and compassion towards the rest of the year by battling against bad habits that we commit to breaking during Ramadan. What bad habit has a grip on you right now that you would like to break?
Fasting is compared to medicine because it is a physical, moral and spiritual healing to the human being. Fasting is practiced in all religions. We all fast whether we give up food for lent, alcohol, or cigarettes. The list goes on of the possibilities we chose to sacrifice during our own religious fasting occasions.
Ramadan is in Islam what Thanksgiving is in the United States; an extended occasion for socializing, celebrating and loving. Fasting produces discipline. How? We are all creatures with desires and basic human needs for food, shelter, and love. We need to be respected in our community. We have a hunger for love, and for expressing our own being. All these needs must be disciplined and controlled if society is to be successful. Excessive eating, excessive drinking, the lust for material things, and the greed for power break the spirit of brotherhood and destroy human society.
When we deprive ourselves of something so essential to life as water and food, for a period of 15 to 18 hours during the heat of the day, this discipline imposed on ourselves makes it easy for us to control other hungers and desires. When we can stop eating and drinking, drives which are natural to life itself, it becomes easier for us to stop lying, stealing and practicing those sins that may destroy peace in the society. Look how beautiful a society can become for all religions when each individual imposes upon himself or herself the discipline of fasting, the discipline of curtailing our own behaviors, our own hungers, or our own desires. This leads to a very clean, peaceful, righteous, progressive and orderly society.
Ramadan is a month of fasting, prayer, socializing and reflection. It helps cleanse the body and soul and brings brotherhood and sisterhood together through the practice of giving and sacrificing. It becomes a great opportunity to spend time with family and friends and to improve and enhance relationships during Iftar gatherings. Food plays such an important role in cultures and traditions and it truly brings people together. This month opens the door to breaking ones fast the traditional way, bringing back perhaps your mother or great grandmother’s recipe and home-made meals to create a lifetime of carried on memories with family and friends.
Ramadan is an opportunity to bring people together from different faiths and share in the atmosphere that is created at such a special time of year. It is a time that proves and shows us all that we have more in common than those who seek to divide us would rather believe pertaining to religion, region, and class. It is a time for people to come together in a positive environment and network with others who they may otherwise have lost contact with by reaching out through phone calls, greeting cards, and e-mails. It spreads the idea to bring people together and to reunite family, friends, and neighbors by sharing stories over cups of tea and coffee, and where children enjoy the traditional festivities they grow up on. During Ramadan, the pace is slower during the day, office times are adjusted and friends and families gather every evening to share Iftars and Sohours. Besides the religious customs, many cultural changes affect daily life during this time, from the decorations and different kinds of food being readily available to the bustling nightlife. From where juice, coffee and tea have replaced cocktails and fast food and take-out is replaced with home cooked meals with the echoing sound of laughter and memories around the dinner table.
The entertainment during this month also changes for family and friends when all eyes are glued to the constantly amusing TV series that are only aired during this month. All activities are shifted to the night time and everyone stays up much later socializing and enjoying the company of others.
There are a lot of cultural sides to Ramadan, even to those who do not fast. Everyone in sight feels the joyful aura because of the atmosphere and the environment that brings unity to the world. It is a time that can fray the nerves and brings people together around every one of their religions. It is not a month that discriminates or judges, yet feels for all and creates a diverse surrounding that welcomes every gender, every religion, and every gift that every individual has to offer to our world as a whole.