It is upon us again, Ramadan, the wholly month of fast that many Muslims choose to observe. Ramadan Kareem translates to Ramadan is generous.
It is worth mentioning here that like many religious traditions that start off with a certain notion of a high order of morality, it ends up being a cultural transformation.
The observance of Ramadan was supposed to be a month of observance of religious teachings, piety, abstinence and morality. Everyday of Ramadan, Muslims give up eating, drinking and smoking from dawn till sunset, in addition to forbidding marital relations and a few other things. This is closely guarded by having to closely follow religious instruction relating to piety, etc.
Just as Lent ends with Easter, so does Ramadan end with Eid-Al-Fitr (Festival of Breaking the Fast). However, over the past 5 or 6 decades and in addition to the increase of the mosque visitors there has been an emerging tradition that is growing year over year
The duration of working hours shrink each year to accommodate the fasting Muslims and their lower level of energy and hration
Corporations had commercialized Ramadan just as they did for Christmas:
- Ramadan is now the main season for new T.V. show releases, where shows run daily and for the duration of the month, the story lines are not necessarily Islamic, or even modest. Some are salacious but this is becoming a matter of tradition more than anything else.
- Life seems to stop three-to-four hours prior to sunset and then resumes after sunset until dawn. The fasting crowd don’t necessarily have to spend the month in piety.
Cafés and restaurants are staying open till well in the AM and competing for the attention of the fasting mob with more enticing food and entertainment. Including stand-up comedy routines and shows.
- The menus in the Middle East-even in the western restaurants- get more traditional in Ramadan. Food and dessert that are now synonymous with Ramadan like Qatayef are more and more common. This image is taken from Puck‘s website, Ramadan is probably the only thing “Islamic” that international brands are not running away from. Vimto, for example, is a “traditional” Ramadan drink, apparently
- Ramdan and Eid are now an industry of themselves not unlike Christmas. Decorations, clothes, marketing, etc..
The cost of Ramadan is going up every year and friends tell me that Ramadan used to mean learning about humility and simplicity, now it is another season for celebration
Finally, while the real meanings of empathy with the poor, restraint, self-discipline are getting lost in a sea of indulgence, commercialization and pointless tradition, I feel yet another great religion is losing the battle with modernity and the fast paced world in which we live.