I once read someone’s musings on happiness, and it gave me a much more active perspective on the emotion. The writer mentioned that he felt sad even during happy times because he realized that the time would soon end, that his smile would not last forever. I realized that I had the same feeling sometimes, but I didn’t know how to put it into words. I then started thinking about the feeling of happiness itself and how we try to maintain the feeling, if at all.
Holidays and vacations put this into perspective for me, and I think the same can also be said for shorter events that people celebrate like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and so on. Enjoyment is temporary and so are the positive emotions that go with it. Although celebrating memories and achievements is an integral part of healthy living, enjoying the present to the extent of forgetting the next stage of life can be detrimental to our faith. We should not allow ourselves to be so attached to certain emotions that we can’t handle the absence of them.
The same can be said for this blessed month.
Ramadan is an event, if you want to look at it from a calendar perspective. It is a limited but action-packed, thirty-day event in which you have the choice to act as you wish, just like in any other month. The only difference is that this month comes with a surplus of blessings, mercy and yes, even happiness. People spend Ramadan doing all sorts of things: cooking all day and eating all night, visiting relatives at Iftar parties, going out for suhur, praying taraweeh, speed-reading and memorizing Qur’an, volunteering at masajid or developing healthy habits with good company.
In Islam, we are meant to enjoy the halal blessings Allah has given us in a balanced and moderate way. However, for many, Ramadan comes with a cultural backdrop that sometimes we forget to use our better judgement and instead focus on enjoying the month.
Well-meaning relatives have told me since I was younger, “You should go to India during Ramadan. It’s so much fun! There are nasheeds playing, the food is amazing, you’ll love it!” Back then, I wished to take part in the festivities of this one big “halal” party. However, as I got older and learned about the essence of Ramadan, I came to realize that the cultural understanding of this blessed month has actually corrupted its spiritual purpose. Ramadan is the month of positive change, not excessive celebration. There is a time for worship and a time for enjoyment, but if you find yourself spending more time cooking, eating, and socializing than reading Qur’an and praying, there’s a problem.
Ramadan is a spiritually uplifting month to improve our character. If we understand it to be a “holiday season,” we would not be giving this blessing its due respect. It may seem like an exaggeration to say that the Muslim ummah views this month as a time for fun and celebrations, but many of us take it to that extreme. If we were to take full advantage of Ramadan and use it to give up our bad habits and develop good ones, the true “party day”, ‘Eid, would really be a cause for celebration.
Isn’t the happiness that pleases Allah while benefiting our souls worth much more than a passing enjoyment? How many times have we wasted our precious time in Ramadan, only to find ourselves crying during the last 10 days, if at all?
Ramadan is the month that prepares us for the rest of the year ahead, as facing minimal distractions from Shaytan allows us to strengthen our character and to develop taqwa.
Ramadan is our training for the real battles in life, and our time in this world a test of our faith. Of course, we are allowed to have fun in a way that is pleasing to Allah, but we are in this world primarily for the purpose of worshipping Allah, and everything else is secondary.
Allah says in Surah Al-An’aam:
And the worldly life is not but amusement and diversion; but the home of the Hereafter is best for those who fear Allah, so will you not reason? (6:32)
In exchange for our righteousness in this world, Allah promises the believers an eternity of enjoyment in the Hereafter. So don’t run through your life heedlessly, causing you to regret on your deathbed. Likewise, don’t “travel” through Ramadan, getting caught up at the rest stops (i.e. dinner tables) instead of reaching the destination.
Grab it. No, not the samosa! Grab the opportunity to have your sins forgiven, to attain real happiness and tranquility through worshipping your Lord. The gates of Jannah will be our ultimate reward.
May Allah allow us all to worship Him to the best of our abilities this Ramadan and may He make us better people and forgive us for our shortcomings. Ameen.