Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1252, (25 June - 1 July 2015)
Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Issue 1252, (25 June - 1 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Editorial: The act of fasting

Al-Ahram Weekly

There is a world of difference between the idea of fasting during Ramadan and what we see around us in this season. A month that was earmarked for modesty and self-denial has somehow become an annual opportunity for ostentatious consumption, commercial advertising and endless show business.

The idea of fasting is not just about abstaining from food and drink all day long. It is about giving thanks for the bounties we have received throughout the year, offering compassion to those who are in less advantageous circumstances, taking stock of our good deeds and perhaps adding one or two more.

It is a training camp, so to speak, for the body and soul. An aspiration to become better people, not to indulge in the delights of all-night festivities and then sleep it off till the next sunset.

Fasting is an ancient tradition, adopted by people who seek to be stronger in body and mind and who want to explore the boundaries of their spiritual lives.

It is a wisdom that Islam incorporated in its teachings, giving its followers the chance to grow, to improve, to look inside their souls and to contemplate the wonders of existence.

But our contemporaries seem to have left the lessons of Ramadan behind. They forgot that the early Muslims fought their first battle, Badr, during Ramadan. They forgot that Saladin defeated the Crusaders also during Ramadan. Instead, Ramadan is turning into a month-long marathon of watching television comedies, talk shows and other trivia.

When people think of Ramadan they don’t think of piety and charity, but of outings, endless banquets and ubiquitous television programmes.

Gone is the time when Muslims looked forward to the holy month as an opportunity to challenge their bodies and minds, to purify their souls and to connect with one another. Gone is the time when Muslims would use the month to renew their faith and prove their spiritual worth and pious devotion.

In the battle for minds and souls, consumerism seems to have won the day  not only among Muslims, but also among the followers of other creeds. Think of any religious occasion and you’ll find that it has turned into a shopping season, an entertainment marathon. Nothing that is sacred is safe from the encroachments of the media, advertisers, souvenir merchants and street performers.

If only Muslims could save one or two aspects of the month from the predations of commercialism. If only they could dedicate an hour or two to the spirituality that was supposed to be the essence of the month.

If only they would take a moment to make a donation for those who are less well off, to pray for those who once lived in comfortable homes but now live in refugee camps, to think of a way to help and not just how to consume. Only then will all not be lost.

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