With so much conflict going on in this world, it is not only delightful but also comforting to welcome this latest edition of Ramadan. Set in the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, it is one of the most revered months for Muslims worldwide. A time to reflect and reboot ourselves. To take a moment to feel the bliss in the silence of our negativities.
There are so many layers to Ramadan. While the most obvious aspects are the physical actions such as abstaining from eating, drinking, smoking and other activities that might affect the ‘iman’, there are also the religious rituals such as performing prayers and reading verses from the Holy Book.
But none of these activities truly matter if we don’t first take charge of our little actions. These little aspects in life may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but they have the utmost potential to transform ourselves for the better when observed sincerely.
During this beautiful month of Ramadan as we practise all the compulsory deeds, let’s also focus on the little ways that can make the world a little bit better. Going back to the simplest teachings, in order to stay humble and remind ourselves of the benefits of living life in a positive way.
1. Curb our impulses
Sure, we can stay away from food for eight hours during the day. But how successful are we in refraining from not overindulging in all the delicious treats on offer at the Ramadan bazaars? Ayam madu? Ikan pari bakar? Roti jala? Kuih tepung pelita? Air Kathira? Yes, we want ‘em all, don’t we? Because we are hungry.
So how to control our impulses from buying all the food? Not easy, but totally doable. Just remember that we don’t have to buy them all in one go. The bazaar is still going to be there tomorrow, and we have almost a whole month to try everything that we wish to try. Let’s try to simplify our spending, and stick to one treat per day.
And then there are the buffets. Not only are they expensive, they also make us blind with greed. We pay a lot of money and want to make every cent count, so we pileour plates with everything we set our sights on.
2. Reduce Our wastage
Speaking of Ramadan bazaars… here’s another major aspect that we can improve on. With so much food being sold, there’s also the question of plastic. Plastic packets and containers to package our meals, and then another plastic bag used to carry our purchases. Let’s not even mention all the plastic straws.
Out of everything on this list, this one might be the easiest as the habit is physical. When a physical action is attached to planting a new idea in our brain, it helps to speed up the process of adapting. Let’s reduce the unnecessary use of plastic by bringing our own containers and reusable bags when buying our food. Let’s say no to plastic straws and cutlery, especially if we’re going to eat our food at home.
Plus Roti John tastes a million times better when there’s a bit of chilli sauce dripping from the bun and onto your fingers, right?
3. Practise our patience
Ramadan is the month when our patience gets tested in many ways and forms. It could be something big like a fight with your loved one or the loss of something material.
But most of the time without even realising it, we are being tested in the simplest ways. Like that time when we got out of the office and were happy to head home, only to be met by a traffic jam because of heavy rains. Or when people rushed to get into the train even before a bunch of us could get out? It is very easy to get washed by annoyance or anger during situations like these. Even if we don’t act on them, we tend to have negative thoughts and might even be cursing in our head.
Wherever there is a setback, there is opportunity to evolve. When these things happen, we can set our brain to immediately process what is happening, and try to slice out all the negative thoughts before they materialise. We can do this by acknowledging that it is merely a challenge, and that we can get pass it. Patience is a virtue, we just need to have a clear mind in order to see it.
4. Express our gratitude
Even if the food doesn’t look very tasty. Even if it’s a simple meal of rice and eggs. Even if it’s not what we ordered. Even if we were having a challenging day. Even when life is hard. In fact, it is because life is hard that we should give our thanks. At the end of the day, if we have something to eat, we are more than rich. It’s not merely a reward for refraining from eating the whole day, it is a blessing in the form of a meal.
Our relationship with food has a significance to our view of the blessings in life. And how do we react to them? By saying thank you. We should take a moment to quietly reflect on the abundance that is presented in front of us, and just be thankful that we are alive on the receiving end of it.
And it’s not always about food too. Blessings can come in the most obscure way, like when a stranger holds the elevator door for us or when the rain stops just in time for us to get home. Or even when someone is smiling at us.
Ramadan may be largely associated with fasting, but that is barely scratching the surface on how we as human beings can channel light and positivity into not just our lives, but everything else that we come across. Let’s hope for a blessed Ramadan for all.