Nothing brings quite as much joy and unity to the Muslim community as Ramadan. It’s that time of year when we get excited about working on our spiritual selves and bonding with family and friends over meals.
In recent years, Ramadan has also boomed into a major industry aimed to sell decorations, lights, and other products. Seeing this market growth has been exciting, since growing up, my parents rarely made the home feel as celebratory as my peers’ homes felt and looked on Christmas, Lunar New Year, or Diwali. Being able to “set the space” and get ready for Ramadan is important for transitioning into this spiritual time. However, with the pressures of social media, sometimes this can all be too much.
You may know what I’m talking about; individuals getting caught up in having the most aesthetic Ramadan table spreads or creating elaborate light displays; these seem to miss the point of the month. Don’t get me wrong, finding joy in decorating and celebrating Ramadan is a blessing, but we need to be mindful to not focus on the material aspects too much.
Each Ramadan, I make it a point to explore a new part of my religion or dive deeper into certain surahs. This year, I’ve been revisiting Surah Nuh, Surah Yusuf, and Surah Kahf with the help of books by Imam Yasir Qadhi and the AMAZING halaqas from The Usuli Institute’s Project Illumine.
I’ve also been exploring race in Islam, by engaging with the following texts: Blackness and Islam, The Spirits of Black Folk: Sages Through the Ages, and Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas. As I’m reading these books and engaging in spiritual practices, I’m beginning to wonder how other Muslims spend their Ramadan. Praying, reading the Quran, and attending halaqas are usually the three pillars of how Ramadan looks for a majority of Muslims. However, what would happen if we took all the spiritual knowledge we are soaking up and turned it into action?
Justice is at the heart of our religion, to the point that it is even reflected in the names of Allah, such as in Al-Hakam: The Giver of Justice. What does this mean in terms of the spirit of Ramadan? Ramadan is a month when we give up many physical norms such as eating, drinking, engaging in intimate acts, etc. While we are cut off from those modes of being, we tune into our inner selves and our religion. Yes, it’s important to learn more about our faith and become educated Muslims but I believe that simply focusing on the same types of spiritual practice over and over again WITHOUT action is a disservice to ourselves and to Allah.
You may have heard of the phrase, “Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day. Teach him and you will feed him for a lifetime.” In my experience, most Muslims will focus on the first part of this saying, especially during Ramadan. We do enough to be aware and check off the spiritual rituals of the day but imagine if we actively expressed those rituals past the realm of our spiritual spaces. I will give two examples to illustrate the point I’m trying to get at.
1. Modest fashion Has Become A rapidly growing industry Worldwide
Islam emphasizes the importance of justice, equality, and taking care of the Earth multiple times throughout the Quran and in the Sunnah of The Prophet (PBUH).
Allah also tells us in Surah Ar-Rum, verse 41: “Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea (by reason of) what the hands of people have earned so He (Allah) may let them taste part of (the consequence of) what they have done that perhaps they will return (to the Straight Path).”
So, I ask you, is it permissible to be purchasing from fast fashion brands that exploit people and the Earth? Allah knows your situation best and if you have the means to stop purchasing from these brands or even to become more educated about how the fashion industry corrupts the Earth and exploits people, then that is still something. I’d recommend Fashion Revolution and Slow Factory’s Open Education courses as excellent first steps to learning more.
2. suggesting topics for halaqas Inside the Mosque
Halaqa topics usually focus on things from Islam’s history and past. While these have some benefits, they alienate us from the reality of Muslims in the world today. Suggesting topics about what is going on in the Muslim world helps keep the community informed and allows us to increase our empathy for all Muslims. Too often we become desensitized to the horrors of what is happening in China, India, or Palestine, but becoming educated about these topics empowers us.
The Prophet (PBUH) said it best, “The ummah is like one body. If a part of it is hurting, then it affects the entire body.”
You might feel hopeless when you watch what is happening overseas, but by becoming educated, sharing what you learn with your community, and practicing justice, you are doing something! Even reading this article is an effort on your part! If you believe in the Justice and Wisdom of Allah, then any effort you make will be met by Allah and as a minimum, you at least serve as Allah’s witness against the injustices that take place in the world.
O, you who believe! Be persistently standing firm for Allah, witness injustice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do.(Surah Al-Ma’idah, Verse 8)
Ramadan flies by and I’m sending out a prayer that we, the Muslim community, will turn the principles of our faith into practice and, in doing so, truly build upon the spiritual growth we experience during this holiest of months. Ameen.