Embrace the Ramadan Dysfunction

Embrace the Ramadan Dysfunction July 2, 2015

This is Day 15 of Altmuslim’s #30Days30Writers series for Ramadan 2015.

By Omar Usman

Some of my fondest memories of past Ramadans are things many people might consider the negative or dysfunctional parts of the month.

When I was younger, a lot of our family friends would get together anticipating the start of Ramadan. I would be tasked with constantly calling the national Islamic organizations and local masjids hoping someone had updated their answering machine message with a moon sighting announcement.

I remember sitting in the masjid office with the Imam trying to see if the moon had been sighted anywhere in the country. Flurries of text messages and phone calls were going around.

One year, a good friend of mine sighted the moon near our university. A well known Shaykh from another city actually called him to verify the sighting, and with it, the Ramadan dates for an entire city were shifted.

Every year there are special traditions. Even if they are things you do at other times of the year, in Ramadan they are much more special. Samosas and Rooh Afzah with milk, for example, simply taste better in Ramadan than they do at any other time of the year.

Other traditions, like getting triple parked at the masjid, and people fighting with each other because they’ve run out of patience — not so much.

Now we’ve got new traditions. We’ve mixed the Eid triple-hug with the mass copy/paste text message. You know what I’m talking about:
‎…. ★
..””’?

‘(____)

. ┃?┃

. ┃?┃

..┃?┃      ★

. ┃?┃     ””?

. ┃?┃   ””’(_____)     .?

. ┃?┃  ”’(__________)   '(____)   ?

. ┃?┃____╭━━━━━╮_____’|_?|______?

. ┃╭╮╭╮╭╮╭╮╭╮╭╮╭╮ |?||╭╮╭╮ ||

. ┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃ |?||┃┃┃┃ ||

. ┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃ |?||┃┃┃┃ ||

. ┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃┃ |?||┃┃┃┃ ||

━━━ ━━━ ━━━ ━━━ ━━━ ━━━━━━

Eid Mubarak.

♥…….•*¨`*•. ☆ .•*¨`*•. ♥ .•*¨`*•. ☆ .•*¨`*•…….♥

♥…….•*¨`*•. ☆ .•*¨`*•. ♥ .•*¨`*•. ☆ .•*¨`*•…….♥

Snapchat lets us send a snap to our friends with a pre-made Ramadan graphic. We also have the big “Ramadan Mubarak” graphic that we upload to Facebook and tag all our friends.

Ramadan Mubarak

Although some may find these things a bit corny, I do not mention these to offer critique. These small changes are just part of our evolving culture.

There is an underlying theme to some of these changes though, that does warrant attention — optimization. It’s easier to send a mass text then it is to make 200 phone calls.

But, how did people do it before? Well, before the age of social media most people simply did not have that many friends or acquaintances.

And that’s the thing about our time. Everything is about information and optimization. There was a time where pre-Ramadan reminders were full of talk about taqwa, the Quran and coming closer to Allah (swt).

Now, we tend to disregard those things because we know them at an informational level. Nevermind that the reminder is there to benefit us. But because we know it already, we want to then move on to the next item. What new thing can we learn?

So now our topics of discussion before Ramadan orient around the new thing: What is the best meal plan for Ramadan? What is the optimal time to work out? Is it before suhur, before iftar or post-taraweeh? What kind of workout should we do while fasting? We share articles with headlines like – “22 Foods For Suhur That Will Keep You Feeling Full All Day – You Won’t Believe How Healthy and Delicious #4 Is!!!”

We want to optimize our sleep cycles because of our hectic schedules, to the point that we might cut short conversations with people at the masjid just to stay on track. By doing this, as the saying goes, we lose the forest for the trees.

Take suhur for example. It’s obvious even to a child why you eat in the morning before fasting. Yet, the Prophet (saw) went out of his way to encourage us to eat this meal because of the blessing in it.

To put it tangibly, many of us have fasted with a quick suhur of a date and a glass of water. Throughout the day though, we feel satisfied. We are mentally alert and able to carry out the normal tasks of the day. On a day when we are not fasting, if we had a date and water for breakfast, come 11 a.m. we would be shutting down mentally. We wouldn’t be able to read emails much less reply to them until we got a cup of coffee and something to eat. There is blessing in that pre-dawn meal.

This is a small example of what this month really is. It’s not about optimization and efficiency. It is a month to reconnect with Allah. It is a month to embrace dysfunction and do the things that don’t scale. It is the month where we read more Quran than we can in any other month. We pray more than we’re able to in any other month. We meet more people than we’re able to in any other month.

Last year, I had a PDF file saved on my phone. It was my du’a list. I had carefully selected a number of du’a’s from the Quran, hadith and my own personal supplications. Every day before iftar I would rush to get through it. It was the optimal du’a list. I had spent hours on it. But at some point, it become rote repetition, and I realized I was missing the point.

This year, I don’t have a list. I have nothing saved on my phone. The best advice I have gotten is to treat du’a as a conversation with Allah (swt). So this month, I’ve made it a goal to try and just sit down quietly for a little while and “talk to Allah” — supplicate to Allah with what is bothering me, worrying me, what I need, what I hope to achieve and so on. This is how you go, in a practical manner, from a checklist du’a to something more heartfelt.

Use this month to create that connection. And all the other stuff — when your workout plan gets off track, and you gain weight instead of losing it, and the suhur gets left in the fridge and eaten for iftar because you slept in — enjoy those moments and make them part of your fondest memories of this month.

Omar Usman is a founding member of Qalam Institute, MuslimMatters.org, Debt Free Muslims, MuslimSI.com and The Fiqh Of Social Media. You can follow him on Facebook at the Fiqh of Social Media page, or on Twitter @ibnabeeomar.

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