I find this month to be the best time of the year to do some serious contemplation. In the absence of one of the biggest distractions of our day, i.e. spending two hours before lunch thinking what to have for lunch, the abstinence of unkind thoughts or at least the attempts to do so, shakes up our system. Once you become an adult and start dictating the actions of your own life, seldom does an opportunity come when you question your methods and are made to think twice! This is perhaps the most liberating aspect of this month of Ramadan that it has the potential to free your mind because with every pang of hunger comes a sense of guilt and retrospection for those practising and celebrating.
This year amongst a lot of other things, the most heart-warming was perhaps the emphasis that I see on social media on keeping our thoughts clean, not just staying hungry! Other than the most popular figure of our era, Nouman Ali Khan, and his fantastic, very commendable efforts and take on Quranic teachings and lifestyle, I also see other, not-so-religious platforms come up with video clippings on how Ramadan is not about merely abstaining from food and drink. I find this deviation from talks of iftari items or Eid shopping, refreshing! It is all the more necessary in this part of the world where our conformations or reasons to act in a certain way have always had more to do with what we convince the society to think, than what we are able to make ourselves believe.
Growing up, I have often heard parents boasting about how many times their children pray a day to how many rozas they have committed to this year. While there can never be enough compliments and encouragement coming from parents about their younglings, often, just like the competitive report card comparisons, which in the later part of their lives encourage them to boast about how much money they make, they all come with a certain negative connotation. Particularly in the Indian subcontinent, the meaning of success in a majority of the cases has involved bragging, and the rate of success sadly dependant on how much you have been able to promote it. Knowing how the societal structure in this part of the world is built around putting others down, I find it should make God-fearing people ashamed or at least scared, before they throw in a religious compliment about their child while boasting in front of other parents, putting their children down. A good point to boast about is not how often your child prays but what a kind-hearted human being he or she has turned out to be as a result perhaps.
I believe the matter is far more complicated in our part of the world than merely labelling or stereotyping people based on how much or how little they cover, how pious they appear and whether or not they are seen at the mosque for prayers. Being involved in any of the aforementioned activities is undoubtedly a massive feat, but absolutely toxic if it comes at the expense of kindness, humility and modesty.
The simple messages that appear throughout Islamic texts are about showing kindness – be kind to your neighbour, be kind to your colleagues, be kind to the person you sit next to when you travel! Sadly, the essence of this simple message that has the highest potential of answering all our questions simply eludes us, while we spend hours trying to decipher whether we are allowed to kill in Islam, or marry four times. The answer had always been around but fools question it. Because perhaps it is easier to talk about the journey of your religious mission, to show people how pious you are, but that much harder to genuinely show kindness.
The writer is an HR specialist and a Communications Advisor.