By: Maryam Hedayat
For many Muslims,with the name of Ramadan comes the impression of shopping and eating in their minds.
People celebrate the month of Ramadan as a festival. The month is rejoiced as the interval of feasting and shopping.
In today’s time where the real meaning of everything seems changing: love, humanity, kindness and sympathy, so has the essence of Ramadan in the eyes of many of us.
It is noticed that many people at the beginning of this month are very excited and enthusiastic.
They are very specific about the significance and sacredness of the month…offering five times of prayer on time with Taraweeh, avoiding all types of forbidden acts and so on.
But as soon as the fifth or sixth day of Ramadan is passed, the interest, respect and the spirituality can appear to be fading. Most among us just start returning to the previous routine. In some Muslim households, the shadow of Ramadan is perceived through their Iftar preparation only.
Perhaps for many people, the month of Ramadan is just to focus on sleeping during the day and eating during the night. They fast because most people around them are fasting.
A common sight is the extravagance of shopping. Men and women shop whole day and night as if the month of Ramadan is not for fasting but for shopping.
New malls and shops are opened, attractive advertisements are made to attract customers. The streets are filled with beautiful and attractive food stalls.
People just keep on buying everything and anything. Many families look worried about their budget as if it is the month of spending.
They rush to market as if everything is free of cost. Instead the rates during Ramadan is doubled.
One of the shopkeepers once told me that they cannot earn the whole year the amount they earn only during Ramadan.
Many women focus “the one I have, nobody should have it” for the occasion of Eid. This makes them hunt till the end. Yet still they complain they couldn’t find something they wanted.
The common topics for discussion among ladies during the month is; “what else have you prepared foriftaar?”, ‘how many varietiesare you making today?’, and ‘which type of dress and jewelry are you planning to buy for this Eid?’
In reality, and spiritually, Ramadan is not only to keep ourselves away from food and drink. It is to develop self-control over fundamental human desires.
Shopping does not only waste our money but our precious time too. The time which we should have utilized in worshipping, praying, pleading and asking forgiveness is wasted in shopping, partying and gathering with friends.
Ramadan is a school of personal training. It teaches us self-discipline and self-restraint. Sadly, we can easily indulge in all sorts of worldliness or even waste.
During the last ten days of Ramadan, it sometimes seems that people are crowded more in shops than at the door of mosques.
We should not be so inclined. Instead of wasting precious nights of lailatul-qadr shopping for Eid and chasing new trends, we should strive to gain the mercy of Allah especially in the odd numbered nights of the last ten days by making a effort to attend the mosque.
Fasting is a means of spiritual training. It is a gateway to paradise.
Therefore, it is better to focus more upon ‘ibadah’ worship than upon what we want to run for things in the market.
That means that time should be put aside in the day and night, not only for things like shopping, but for reading Quran (even if a translation), invocations, supplications, and extra prayer in moderation according to what we can consistently do.
Fortunate are those who value the numbered days of this sacred month and inculcate in themselves the real essence of fasting. May Allah bless all of us to make maximum spiritual harvest during the sacred month! Ameen.
Ramadan can be lonely for converts
By: Ertan Karpazli
This weekend, the Muslim world greets the holy month of Ramadan, in which those who are healthy enough to do so fast from the onset of dawn until dusk everyday for 29 or 30 days.
As well as a time of spiritual upliftment, enabling Muslims to learn self-discipline and renew their connection with their faith, it is also a very social occasion, in which Muslims are encouraged to mend broken ties, visit relatives and invite guests to share the iftar (fast-breaking) experience.
For the growing number of Muslim converts, however, Ramadan can be a very lonely time, as many of them are not able to share the occasion with their non-Muslim family members and are often forgotten by their local Muslim community.
Tiffany Jenkins, a young American convert, told Aquila Style, “I usually feel quite lonely and left out during Ramadan. Everyone else from Muslim families seems to have it better. [My family] would get annoyed when I would wake up early and start cooking.”
“I don’t know the Muslims here, though I’m not far from a mosque. But they seem to keep to their cultural groups,” she added.
This experience is shared by many converts in Ramadan. One particular convert called Natalia told the Huffington Post that every Ramadanher non-Muslim family offers her food. When she tells them she can’t eat it because she’s fasting, they respond by asking, “Oh, you’re still Muslim?”
Since converting to Islam more than six years ago, Paul K. DeMelto told the Huffington Post that he had done all he could to become a more knowledgeable Muslim, attending a new converts class and hiring Arabic tutors to help him learn to read the Quran, but despite this, he still finds himself alone in Ramadan.
“The one thing that I expected to experience more fully in turning to Islam was engagement in a community,” said DeMelto, a 40-year-old baker, adding that even though he has made major changes in his lifestyle since adopting Islam, he often feels like a Christian alone on Christmas during the holy month.
Caroline Williams, who converted in 2010, agreed with Paul, saying “Part of what drew me in was how welcoming everybody was at the mosque,” however, she added that “people are friendly, but I don’t feel like I’m family.”
“Being invited to private homes isn’t common, and can be the loneliest experience of all when people speak their native language, leaving us to read or stare at the ceiling,” said Nadja Adolf, another convert.
Kelly Kaufman, also jokingly told the newspaper that she would often break her fast alone with “Cocoa Puffs while watching ‘Seinfeld,’” or “chocolate cake and ice cream while playing with my cat.”
“It’s an incredibly lonely experience that I don’t think many people know about,” said Kaufman, who converted in 2010.
A few initiatives have been started to help converts to Islam make the social transition into the Muslim community so they don’t feel isolated. One such initiative was set up by the Delaware Islamic Society after former new Muslims coordinator Vaqar Sharief noticed the plight of many converts.
“I see how the new Muslims are kind of ignored,” he said, adding “many of them stop coming and they leave the religion.”
“You have to make these people feel part of the family,” said Sharief. “Ramadan is a great opportunity. You have to make them feel special.”
The Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, the largest mosque in New England, also holds monthly “Convert-sations” meetings to help converts integrate.
Ifoundislam.net is also seeking to forge bonds of fraternity between converts and the wider Muslim community this Ramadan with their ‘Online Ramadan Iftar Project’ on Facebook to serve as a place for people who are alone, having no one to share Ramadan or Iftar with.
Members can list themselves by time-zones and coordinate Skype or other methods with members to share iftar together over the web.