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Spiritual essence of Ramadan diluted by modern life
July 20, 2014, 3:07 pm

Islamic scholars lament that today, Ramadan is becoming more about visiting shisha cafes, attending iftar buffets, shopping at malls and watching TV soap operas, than engaging in traditional activities. They believe economic developments, changes in lifestyle and technological advancements have resulted in Muslims straying from the spiritual essence of Ramadan.

Ramadan is a special month for Muslims, a month of prayer, worship and observance. During Ramadan, Muslims around the world are supposed to take part in an individual and spiritual journey, as well as in a shared religious festivity that is meant to strengthen one’s inner bond with God. However, in the last decade, many have noticed that Ramadan traditions and rituals have been replaced with new emerging trends that lack spirituality.

In the past, people used to welcome the approach of the month with special traditions and songs that created a unique atmosphere of joy and magic. Even the colorful lanterns that used to decorate streets and houses in Muslim communities are long gone. This has caused many to question whether Ramadan has lost its spiritual essence.

Dr Ahmad Al Qubaisi, a prominent Islamic scholar, attributed the lost spirit of Ramadan to many social, political, economic, material and psychological factors, as well as to growing consumerism. He believes that the spirit of the fasting month is totally lost in Arab communities in general.

“Ramadan is a month during which options are open for Muslims to purify their souls, but it has become a month of breaking routine daily habits only. Instead of getting closer to God through prayer, people consume large quantities of food, spend many hours watching Ramadan programmes and sleep after dawn.

Al Qubaisi said that Ramadan is undoubtedly a call for spiritual renewal and reawakening. “People must make the most of this month to repent and go back to God but, unfortunately, this chance is totally missed because people are overwhelmingly involved in material matters that have nothing to do with the spiritual nature of the month.”

He said people mainly focus on food and not on the true essence of Ramadan, while women waste so much time cooking instead of seizing this precious chance to worship God and enjoy the spirituality of the month. This can also be attributed to the dominance of materialism and consumerism over spiritual things, he added.

Dr. Ahmad Ali Al Haddad, a university lecturer and international arbitrator in settling political disputes by peaceful means, said many things have changed due to rapid economic development, which has reflected positively and negatively on society with regard to their special rituals on social and religious occasions, including Ramadan.

“No doubt there is a decline in traditions and customs due to economic and urban development as well as involvement in material aspects and life pressures, which have changed traditional beliefs and, consequently, affected the spiritual atmosphere of Ramadan. “In the past, many families, relatives and neighbors used to sit on the floor around one meal, every day of the month, but now they get together only occasionally.

“The spread of communication technology, such as smartphones and IPad, among many other technological means, and the use of social media have contributed to minimizing physical gatherings. People now do not bother to visit each other and instead send SMS messages of congratulations, instead of getting together and celebrating special occasions such as Ramadan.”

Al Haddad said that “no matter how people perceive the new transformation of Ramadan, Muslims have to strike a good balance between spirituality and material rituals”.

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