The most frequently asked question (which mothers eventually start to dread) these days is, “What’s for Iftaar today”? The best part of the day for children is sunset, when they break their fast and eat their favourite dishes to their heart’s fill. And they keep on asking Mummy for something new and different each day. As a reward for the day long thirst of fasting, and to beat the heat, they are offered a wide selection from juices, sherbets and shakes, as well as chilled water.
At Sehr, the time when the fast begins, mothers get up early to prepare parathas, omelettes, shami kababs and other dishes of their children’s choice, so that they have a hearty meal to keep them going through the long day ahead. Drinking milk is a must and children are threatened that they would not be allowed to fast, if they do not finish their mugs. And in each household sleepy kids are seen hurriedly downing their meals as the time for the Fajr Azaan approaches fast.
Another important feature of Ramzan is the Eid shopping. Children go out to shopping centres and malls with their parents. They buy new dresses, shoes, toys and other things of their choice. Girls are seen flocking jewellery and bangle shops for matching accessories. This is the time when parents are seen indulging their children and giving in to their endless demands.
But have you all ever pondered about the true meaning of this month? Is it only about hot jalebis and spicy pakoras for iftaar, omelettes and parathas for sehr and shopping for Eid? Definitely not! Ramzan has a much wider and deeper spirit. This month teaches us lessons which lead us to a better and positive way of thinking, lessons which not only improve the quality of our lives but of also the people around us.
Ramzan is the month granted to us to learn self control, sympathy, compassion and obedience. In this month we learn discipline, patience and punctuality. Just as the recruits of an army go through vigorous exercises during their training, the holy month of Ramzan is a training session for the Muslims. And this month is granted us every year so that we revise and do not forget these lessons.
On normal days we eat and drink according to our hunger and thirst. When we are fasting, why is it that although we have food and water at our hands, we remain hungry and thirsty all day long? It is only because we are aware of the requirements of a fast, that we have to begin and end our Roza at a fixed time, neither a few minutes earlier nor a few minutes late. We know that a Divine Eye is watching us, so even if we have a chance to eat and drink, when no one will come to know about it, we do not even think of doing so! Ramzan not only teaches us punctuality and self control, it also nurtures a sense of obedience in us.
The month of Ramzan creates awareness in our minds of the hardships and sufferings of the people who are not as privileged as us. How can we feel the pangs of hunger unless and until we experience them ourselves! Abstaining from food and drink in compliance to the requirement of a fast is one thing and sleeping on an empty stomach, because one has nothing to eat, is totally another. While fasting, we have the satisfaction that we are doing this to obey Allah and know that a wholesome meal is awaiting us at the end of the day. Going hungry without knowing from where and when you will get your next square meal is a totally different feeling, a feeling which can be frightening and frustrating.
During a fast, when we are thirsty, we can better understand the hardships of the people residing in desert and mountainous areas; people who have to walk miles to procure water to quench their thirst and for their other requirements. Usually this water is polluted causing many water borne diseases. We are lucky enough to have running water in our taps but for those people water is a precious commodity and taking a bath is a luxury as every drop is used with utmost care! We learn to count our blessings and be thankful to Allah for all the bounties He is showering upon us.
Another lesson we learn in this month is patience and tolerance. Most of us feel irritable and short tempered during a fast, and tend to pick up a quarrel with those around us at the slightest pretext. But when we learn about the bounties of controlling our anger and avoiding unnecessary arguments, we try our best to remain cool headed and calm. We must keep on reminding ourselves that this lesson of anger management is not just for a month but we must continue to exercise control upon our temper all the year around. In this way we will emerge from this month with a better temperament.
While fasting we have a natural urge to perform good deeds. We offer our prayers with zeal and fervor and abstain from lying, cheating or disobeying our parents. We give out alms to the needy and in this way we renew our bonds with The Almighty and also learn to share our material goods with the poor and the people who are not as lucky as us.
So children, you can have all the jalebis, pakoras and other delicacies for Iftar and omelettes and parathas for Sehr, and shop happily for Eid, but you should be aware that this is not the true spirit of Ramzan. This month of training can change our mode of behaviour for the whole year ahead. The lessons of patience, discipline, self-control, compassion and punctuality should go far beyond a month as these lessons, which make us better human beings, should be for a life time.