There is a burning question I’ve been seeking an answer to for the past 2 years. As Ramadan came and went last year, my question remained unanswered. I’ve asked many people, but nobody seems to know the answer to my question… “When did Ramadan become about food?”
Ramadan is an incredible opportunity for worship. The act of fasting is only one of many acts of worship. Ramada is a time for working on your Spiritual Self (Relationship with Allah swt), Family, and Community. It appears to me that we focus too much on the community (AKA close friends and family) aspect and forget the rest.
There are a few major issues I see with how people practice Ramadan:
1. As I scroll through my Facebook feed during the Holy month, I get flooded with picture after picture of food people have prepared for iftar. Not that I think a few pictures of you and your guests together enjoying each other’s company is a bad thing, but why do I need to see each and every dish you’ve made? Who does that benefit? This is especially a problem when people since people from around the world see your feed. They may be in the middle of their day fasting in the heat and humidity while they are seeing your delicious spread. What about those who do not have the means to have such an extravagant iftar? Sometimes I feel like it’s a huge race of who can cook the best/fanciest food and I simply have not even left the starting line.
2. Although gathering with friends and family is very important during Ramadan, they should not take away from the real essence of Ramadan. Imagine this, you have guests coming tomorrow evening. A large gathering of perhaps 15+ people. Usually one might begin to prepare some food the night before. So then you miss out on some down time with your children discussing what Ramadan is about and reading stories of the Prophets (PBUT). The next day, you begin your cooking. You are preparing an incredible feast with many dishes. To try and fit in some ibada, you play some Quran or a lecture in the background but are you really listening? As they day goes on you continue cooking and cleaning. Perhaps you get caught up with the tasks at hand and miss a prayer or two. Next the kids are around and you are dealing with them. You’re enraged and yelling because you have been working tirelessly and they are messing everything up so you lose your temper. Your guests are about to arrive so you get dressed and everything appears ready to go. Elhamduallah! Your guests come in, the Athan for Maghrib sounds and everyone breaks their fast. They star to pray Maghrib, but now you need to warm up the rest of the food and make sure it’s hot and ready for the hungry guests. The iftar goes by perfectly, you even captured a few pictures to upload to your facebook (because the iftar didn’t really happen if you didn’t take pictures). Now it’s time for Tarweeh. Everyone goes but you have to clean up from the iftar and put the kids to sleep, you opt not to go. Soo…. Do we see the problem? Is there a better way?
3. We are losing touch with the real meaning of Ramadan. We’ve forgotten about how giving up that which we truly believe sustains us and putting our health and wellbeing in the hands of Allah (swt) is incredibly powerful. Food and water are basic needs. They connect us with our physical world. By fasting we detach ourselves from the physical world and have only our spiritual connection to depend on. It is not only a struggle of the body but the mind. By intentionally denying ourselves our cravings and desires of the body, we can refocus our energy on the desires and cravings of the soul. Unfortunately, we do not deny ourselves anything. We just delay fulfilling them. We have lost touch with the fact that by enduring hunger and thirst we should be humbled, and infinitely grateful for Allah’s bountiful blessings.
4. Obviously, eating is a big part of Ramadan but are we eating the right foods? Are we eating whole, rich and healthy foods that will nourish our bodies and give us the energy to endure another day of work, family, life and of course worship. Are we feeding our bodies to be strong and healthy Muslims able to face all of life’s challenges the best way possible? I see so many people preparing heavy, oily, unhealthy foods. And sweets! Oh the sweets! We should be focused on vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, whole grains, etc. No wonder so many people gain weight during Ramadan!
I can’t imagine how the meaning of Ramadan could be lost over the next 10, 20, 50 years. Will our children and grandchildren even fast at all? If they grow up seeing such a focus on eating they will not have enough of a spiritual reason to endure the hunger. Why would I give up food and water, feel hungry for up to 19 hours a day, get a headache, feel fatigued, etc. unless I truly believe there is a greater meaning behind it all? We must focus on that meaning, remind ourselves of it and teach our children about it.
Wishing you all a blessed Ramadan. May Allah accept your fasts and forgive all your sins.
Mona M Ismaeil is a graduate of Concordia University College of Alberta. She has an Arts degree majoring in Sociology and minoring in Psychology. She also has an Elementary Education After-Degree. She worked for 3 years as a grade 5 teacher before the birth of her daughter Manessa. Since then, Mona has been focused on her other projects. With her husband, she is the proud owner of Modern Hejab, she is a blogger and writer/editor for MuslimMoms.Ca. She has also been published in Sisters Magazine and featured in the fashion section of the Edmonton Journal.
Mona is very passionate about Islam, Hijab and bringing awareness to the beauty of Islam while encouraging open and honest dialogue. Besides, working, Mona loves to spend time with her friends and family, travelling and most of all she loves being a mom!
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