You’re probably going to think I’m a Debbie-Downer after reading these reflections, but feel these are some ideas that need to be expressed. I love my community, but as the Prophet SAW gave glad tidings he also was real about the issues his community faced. May Allah accept our fasts, worship, allow us to gain the full reward of Ramadan and allow us to become better Muslims after Ramadan for years to come, to keep steadfast on repelling our temptations and sins, and gain the company of the Prophet SAW in Jannat al-Firdaus. Ameen.
1. Life is Short
This Ramadan I heard of at least 7 deaths of community members both in my community and elsewhere. I heard and saw the terrible atrocities in Gaza, Iraq, and elsewhere in the world.
2. We’re Obsessed with Food
This Ramadan I saw recipes and techniques of how to beat hunger and thirst. I saw abundant pictures of what people were eating for suhoor and iftaar. I saw lavish iftar dinners and fancy foods. We seem as a community to be more concerned about the nourishment of our stoamches than nourishment of our souls. Ramadan is not about the food, it’s about reforming our hearts and minds.
3. We Need to Get Over the Moonsighting vs. Calculations Debate
As a community or average Muslim community member we need to stop getting into the common moonsighting vs. calculations debate. Unity should trump this debate all together. Stick with the decision of your masjid and if you don’t agree with it go to another masjid that agrees with your understanding, but first and foremost be with the people, be with your community.
4. Fasting is More than Fasting from Food
It’s unfortunate, but many of us may abstain from food and water, but may backbite, slander, and gossip. The funny thing is we may be doing this as we drive to the masjid, in the masjid, before or after salah. We also may do this online over social media which not only amplifies your sin, but may encourage others to do so, cause disunity, cause bad blood, and hurt others.
Why potentially miss out Allah’s forgiveness during Ramadan because of your tongue?
6. We Need a Spiritual Revolution
We all followed the Arab Spring and the subsequent revolutions that occurred in the Middle East, but honestly we need a spiritual revolution. What do I mean by this? As much as we may want to protest and be active in the world we must work on fixing our internal spiritual state first. It does us no good to advocate for Islam and Muslims when our own actions or words are in total contradiction to Islam? We must study the seerah and the Quran for lessons on how to deal with issues in our lives and the challenges we face in the world. The Quran and Sunnah are a manual for how to respond to certain issues and challenges we may face. Why try to reinvent the wheel when we have the solution in the stories of the Prophets (AS), the Story of the Prophet SAW and the Quran? History repeats itself. Technology and clothing trends change, but Man is still the same, thus the Quran deals with Man’s internal state which is pretty much constant from Adam (AS) to today.
Thus, we must begin truly learning our religion and living it. I’m not saying activism is not important, but to truly be an effective activist study the manuals for your activism, derive lessons, gain spiritual nourishment so you don’t get burned out, and find solutions to your personal and community challenges.
6. Change in the World Really Begins from Yourself
Change really begins from within. It begins with yourself. We all know the famous ayah of the Quran that tells us change comes from within, but it really hit me during this Ramadan after I spoke to a friend of mine about the lack of youth in the masjid for salah.He said that how can we expect the youth to come if we are not coming consistently ourselves? It got me to thinking that if you want to truly change your community you need to set the tone and then encourage others to change too.
We can look at the problems the world faces and point fingers. We can blame politicians, we can blame other Muslims, we can blame our imams or scholars, we can blame masjid boards, we can blame the economy, we can blame lobbies, we can blame corporations, we can blame Shaytan, we can blame as many people and things as possible, but to change any of it wemust change.
We can demand change in the world, we can demand justice, we can demand peace, we can demand unity, and other things, but are establishing those morals and values in our own lives? Before we point fingers at dictators and criminals we must look into ourselves first and see if we have that evil within us. It’s like someone protesting against a dictator’s violence and oppression while he goes home and beats his wife. Or someone complains about a masjid being empty during congregational salah, but not going him or herself.
We need to make the change first in ourselves through introspection, purifying our intentions, cleansing ourselves of our sins and make a firm commitment to change. Change starts with you, then your family, then your friends, then your community, then the world. This is the sunnah of the Prophet SAW and how he changed the world.
7. We Need Unity
Muslims know and talk about the need for Muslim unity, but how many of us are actually promoting it? We are quick to condemn and bash each other, but are slow to forgive or show forbearance with our own fellow Muslim brothers or sisters. We’re quick to slander them, gossip or backbite about them or even have the gaul to publicly character assassinate them on social media. Is this how you call for unity? Is this how you seek to unite the Muslims? I saw some pretty ugly Facebook and Twitter exchanges between Muslim American activists literally two days before Ramadan started and then saw that continued character assassination and arguments happening during Ramadan too. It got me to thinking what good is our activism if our manners and character are awful? How can you claim Islam promotes peace as an activist when you’re not even being peaceful with your own brother or sister? How can you say that Islam promotes justice if you’re not even promoting justice with your own brothers and sisters? How can you say that Islam promotes unity when you yourself are hurting your own brother or sister?
Don’t point fingers at the Saudi Arabian government or the Muslim leaders in the Muslim world for the disunity in our communities. We’re causing disunity here in our own communities. Have we taken time to meet a new brother or sister at the masjid? Have we given proper greetings to those who greet us with the greetings of peace? Do we give people half our attention when they give the greeting of peace to us? The Prophet SAW used to turn his full attention to the one giving him the greeting of peace. Today, we may give a quick handshake or greeting and not actually give the one who greeted you the proper attention or warmth.
Simple things like greeting each other with attention and warmth can go a long way in promoting peace and unity in our community. Thus, as was said before change begins from within. Promote unity in your community through meeting someone new, offering the greetings of peace with warmth and full attention. Ask for people’s names too. We may attend the masjid for congregational prayers but not know the brother or sister praying next to us despite them coming every day.
These small things can go a long way in helping build mercy, love, compassion and unity in your community and the world.
8. We’re Missing Out on Building Communities During Ramadan
Many masjids are missing out a great opportunity to actually build a community during Ramadan. Our masjids fill up during Ramadan and afterwards they empty after. Year by year the same cycle happens why have we not done more to encourage people to come to the masjid?
We complain about empty masjids, but have we really taken the time and effort to help tie people’s hearts to the masjid during Ramadan? We must stress the importance of coming to the masjid during Ramadan and provide interesting and relevant programs for youth, women and the general community to feel tied to the masjid.
Simply having tarawih prayers and iftars at your masjid is not enough to tie people’s hearts to the masjid. You must proactively meet people, greet them warmly, and encourage them to come to the masjid. Make it a theme that is constant throughout Ramadan to encourage people to come to the masjid. This responsibility lies solely in the hands of the masjid leadership to promote this, but also requires a community effort to encourage our fellow brothers and sisters to come to the masjid.
9. We need to Reduce Our Time on Social Media
Social media is a huge distraction for me during Ramadan—especially Facebook which is a reason I take a Facebook Fast every Ramadan. While many may not see the need to deactivate their Facebook account or reduce their time on social media, I truly believe that we’re spending way too much time on it to the point we may be missing out on more important things in Ramadan—like reading Quran and actually making dua (not just talking about it on social media). Yes, you can spread much good on social media by sharing hadith, Quranic ayahs, inspirational stories, Quran recitations, etc. but how many of us truly use social media to promote educational and inspirational talks about Islam? Most of us use social media to post pictures of our iftar or suhoor or take a picture of us at tarawih prayers or take a picture of a scholar we’re listening to (rather than actually listening to him or her).
I advise myself first and foremost to reduce our time on social media. I’ve actually deleted my Facebook app on my phone and am actually downloading educational apps like Quran apps and Arabic apps to learn Arabic and increase my Arabic proficiency. The less we think about witty statuses, posts, pictures, videos, and memes to post on social media the happier we’ll be.
Social media isn’t the Devil nor is it a bad thing. The issue is how we use it and how much time we spend on it. Are we using it to post selfies of ourselves and be narcissistic? Or are we using it to promote good, educational thoughts, ideas, and positivity. Yes, we can be funny or silly, but not to a degree where we are seen as comedians or court jesters seeking attention. We must be people who’re balanced and neither too silly/goofy and neither too sullen and serious. We also must be a people who’re not arrogant and narcissistic. We need to reduce the need for attention and stop become attention-seeking. It shows a great deal if insecurity if we continuously post selfies and constantly post pictures on Facebook or social media.
10. I Love My Community
With all of that said and done I truly realized this Ramadan that I love my community and am blessed to be a part of such a beautiful community. I am blessed to be a part of this beautiful religion of Islam and have the Prophet Muhammad SAW as my Prophet. It really is awesome seeing the youth and the younger children at the masjid and I make dua when I see them that they become strong Muslims and leaders who help our community take things to the next level. I see future changemakers in each and every one of them and pray they become strong, confident and beneficial leaders of the community.