Ramadan in the Modern Age
The meanings of words change with time and place. One term that has undergone a semantic shift from a negative connotation to a positive one in the last decade is "Disruption". Nowadays, it is considered desirable as it is seen as a means of bringing about positive change. No time of year disrupts our modern lives, plans, productivity, and efficiency as much as the blessed month of Ramadan. And this is a positive thing! Ironically, we feel that Ramadan always seems to arrive suddenly, despite being the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, and even though we usually make some preparations for it, such as traveling before Ramadan, scheduling meetings, and planning celebrations or weddings for Eid al-Fitr. Nevertheless, the arrangements surrounding Sha'ban such as supplies, charitable acts, and good deeds build up each year. However, the significance of completing the incomplete month of Sha'ban after thirty days cannot be overstated. A single day can have a remarkable and peculiar impact.
The day and household routine undergo significant changes, and joy spreads in a rush to complete the preparations. Within a few minutes as soon as the announcement is made that tomorrow is the beginning of Ramadan, you quickly realize that your mind and spirit have acknowledged that everyday life has shifted, regardless of whether you were prepared for it or not. The month has begun!
A statement from the Royal Diwan. We have received the following from the Supreme Judicial Council:
All Praise is Due To Allah Alone, and peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad and his family and companions, as for after... At this moment, Saudis are fixated on the TV, waiting for a crucial moment, and there is a hush as they attentively listen: It has been established by the Supreme Judicial Council, according to the Umm Al-Qura calendar, that the blessed month of Ramadan for the year 1444 AH begins tonight, on such and such a night, corresponding to such and such a day of March in the year 2023 CE, And that is attested to by two impartial witnesses. On this occasion, the Supreme Judicial Council asks Allah Almighty to grant Muslims success in performing righteous deeds, to accept their fasting, and to unite them on the truth, for He is All-Hearing, All-Responding. (Ramadan statement for the year 1409 AH)
In contemporary times, Ramadan is an unusual occasion because it is one of the few events that still depend solely on natural occurrences and human capability. It serves as a reminder that we, as beings with a role in nature, are a part of this universe and the earth. Ramadan encompasses a wide range of elements, including nature, spirituality, human health, commerce, agriculture, productivity, art, society, religion, psychology, technology, atmosphere, celestial bodies, and satellites. It combines the modern era with the practices of ancient and primitive humans. Despite the tremendous scientific advancements made by human civilization in all facets of modern life, the sighting of the moon with the naked eye remains the only means of determining the beginning of Ramadan. This meaning is imbued with beauty, humility, and a sense of peaceful surrender to the recognition that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. It serves as a reminder that we are human beings and not mere machines.
The Meaning of Ramadan in Arabic
Arabic dictionaries define the word Ramadan as it is derived from the linguistic root (ramd) or from (ramdaa), which means intense scorching heat. It appears, and Allah knows best, that the month was named during a period when Ramadan fell in the summer. However, Due to the variation in the number of days in the Hijri year and the Gregorian year, the timing of Ramadan shifts through the seasons over time. If we consider the beginning of the naming of Ramadan as the starting point, it returns to summer roughly every thirty-three years. This means that a person may witness Ramadan in different seasons of his life, and with different seasons come different rituals. Ramadan is characterized by a multitude of well-known rituals that vary based on geography, culture, country, and time period. For instance, in Jeddah during the 1980s, Ramadan was marked by the popular Nelly and Sherihan riddles broadcasted by Egyptian channels and received by Jeddah's TV due to the short distance, while in the Eastern region during the same period, Gargee'an was a cultural heritage of the Arabian Gulf region during Ramadan.
Ramadan in Riyadh during the 1990s was characterized by short days and long winter nights, extended visits, satellite TV series, and easy fasting, in contrast to the summer Ramadan of 2010 in Abha city located above the mountains, which lacked Wi-Fi, Netflix, or Shahid platform. These differences in rituals illustrate how Ramadan varies depending on various factors, and how we often fail to recognize this variability. It's important to remember that last Ramadan, which was during the COVID-19 pandemic, we observed the fast while being in quarantine. This meant that we were unable to partake in family gatherings, pray in mosques, or perform Umrah in Mecca. It was a challenging time, but we are grateful to have made it through with the help of God.
A harmonious motive between the body, mind, and spirit.
In Ramadan, various emotions and feelings that were previously hidden within us are present in our bodies and spirits. Frequently, we tend to disregard or handle these emotions without giving them much consideration. During fasting, these feelings become intensified. For instance, when having coffee upon waking up for work, the body's capacity to focus and the duration it takes to do so, as well as the sensation of thirst following a salty pre-dawn meal (Suhūr), all become heightened, so how can you manage to cope with these challenges? In addition to the effects of various foods on the body, there's also the ability to endure stress without water and the capacity to concentrate while reading, among other things. You also feel bodily sensations and how the human body responds to different factors such as headache, hunger, thirst, and exhaustion, among others. It is remarkable how fasting can affect psychological states, such as cultivating patience, and resilience, and avoiding emotional reactions that may break the fast or strain the throat from shouting. This integration of physical and psychological factors serves as a reminder of your capacity to endure thirst, hunger, fatigue, and emotional stress while still fulfilling life's obligations. This is due to a compelling harmony between the body, mind, and spirit.
The minute before the call to prayer (Adhan)
Let's imagine using this concept in other aspects of our lives, such as achieving a goal or a wish. It's possible to learn how to utilize this triple cooperation to improve ourselves or help our society. Frequently, we're not aware of our potential due to the interruptions brought about by modern living. Therefore, we acknowledge the significance of time from this standpoint. The feeling of a free hour during Ramadan differs from a regular day as we're restricted from indulging in food, meeting friends for coffee, engaging in strenuous exercise to avoid thirst or any other routine activities that may break the fast.
However, the minute before the call to prayer seems very long. Shortly before it, the situation in the house or place changes to prepare for iftar (the breaking of fast), and activity fills the large family home. Relatives and friends arrive, and the family gathers while children play and adults pray. We look forward to the call to prayer during Ramadan, and we hope that our fasting was accepted. We also reminisce about the people who shared Ramadan with us in the past and pray for them with a mix of sorrow and optimism. We get in touch with those who are far away to inquire about their fasting and iftar.
What's more important is whether they break their fast with someone or alone. It is strange how we sympathize with those who break their fast alone. At this moment, we all unconsciously realize that humans are social beings who should not live the celebration of the end of the fasting day, sweet or bitter, alone, and welcome the iftar celebration alone, whether Muslim or not. Ramadan forces us to strive for brotherhood, communication, and tolerance, whether for the sake of reward only or for a sincere desire to mend relationships and resolve conflicts. Everyone is eager to meet and connect with family and friends.
The distinctiveness of the Ramadan atmosphere
The article commenced by discussing customs related to Ramadan in Saudi Arabia. These customs are very numerous, whether religious rituals, such as tarāwīḥ prayer and maintaining family ties, or social, such as gatherings, foods, and drinks like juices and vimto, or TV series that have a social impact like "Tash Ma Tash". By chance, the discussion veered towards the interplay between people and the distinct Ramadan season in the context of modern-day globalization and social connectivity. In moments of complexity and numerous issues, it may be necessary to introspect and revisit fundamental inquiries such as "Who are we?" and "What is Ramadan?"
In conclusion, the most beautiful thing is that Ramadan is a truly special time because it evokes a sense of hope within us. This hope can manifest in various forms, such as seeking forgiveness, mercy, and acceptance for our deeds, as well as hoping for a brighter future, both in this life and the afterlife. Therefore, when the Ramadan crescent is sighted, we should embrace the feeling of hope that comes with it.