Against the Grain
Visiting like clockwork, Ramadan brings a sense of calmness. I welcomed the month with such vigour and excitement like many others. Methodically ticking off goals and renewing my intent. A month of self-reflection, constantly looking inwards rather than outwards. Though, the speed at which this month has passed has left me bewildered, saddened to see it pass so soon.
It has been a steady presence, solid in form, never wavering. Only I, in my pursuit, to accomplish all affairs like a fool hurriedly sprinting in a marathon. The beauty of this month slowly started slipping through my fingers. Forgetting that, Ramadan is a month of reflection and constant correction. It acts as a wakeup call, a gentle nudge for many, welcomed as a dear friend who has been gone for too long. It comes to wake those sleepwalking through life, to dust the cobwebs from our inner selves that are battered and bruised by worldly life. This blessed month comes only to the lucky few. Ramadan is our guiding hand, like the religion itself – it acts as a blueprint to follow. It is a month that does not judge, it allows us to come as we are. To start the month with our flaws, vices, and critical perceptions. For many Ramadan is a stepping stone, a reawakening of the self.
Nevertheless, living in a world of instant gratification and materialistic greed, Ramadan now more than ever shrouds us in its glory – it boldly challenges worldly consumerism. In a world where globalisation is sought after and individualism held in esteem; as Muslims we are faced by the constant onslaught of corporations and their destructive marketing tactics, slapping “halal” labels onto meat, finance, clothing and anything else they can so readily market. In doing so they reach a so-called untapped market who face the struggles of not being able to find visibly “halal” options. The very products we consume at their core conflict with Islamic values. Our clothes are made through the exploitation of labourers in third world countries, our meat is made in a capitalistic society that is inherently cruel and not to forget the chemical plants polluting our environment. Society has taught us to go with the flow, consume until our heart’s content and pay no regard to how such things came to be. It begs the question of why do we indeed blindly follow the herd when Ramadan, our dear friend goes, against the grain. Understand that this month is not just about abstaining from food and drink, no more shall you explain Ramadan to be merely a month of understanding how those less fortunate go hungry every day. Know that this month is a challenge to us all. To critique where our clothes come from, how the meat on our tables was treated before it enters our mouths, how are – we as the caretakers of this world – leaving a destructive legacy?
To reflect on something, one needs to have conscious awareness. To be consciously aware, one must be constantly challenging. As we enter the last 10 nights of Ramadan, challenge yourself to become aware of the things you consume. Find meaning and purpose in becoming a champion against imperialist and capitalist ideologies.
As Ramadan confronts today’s hyper-consumerism and gluttony, one thing to take away from this month is that to live a meaningful and satisfying life one does need to consume overtly. There is a fulfilling notion of being in control of your own whims and desires and following the prophetic teachings. Let not the spiritual essence of Ramadan be stripped away by consumerism and its constant chase to erode all things into materialistic trophies.
Hamda Mohamed a law student, campaigner and activist based in Birmingham.