To me, compassion means being openminded, non-judgmental and understanding. Yet, I find many people have misconceptions about the religion of Islam. Since it is the month of Ramadan, I want to show how these next few weeks help cultivate compassion in humanity.
A quick overview: Ramadan is a month dedicated to fasting, which comes once every 12 months. Muslims wake up before sunrise to eat. Then, they go without food and water throughout the day. They break their fast at sunset. Young children, unwell people and pregnant women are exempted from fasting.
Before you misinterpret such a blessed month, read on:
1. Ramadan isn't very different from detoxing.
If you open a wellness website, you will find that going without food and water for a day can actually help you feel like you're cleansing your body. This makes you feel lighter and more focused.
Why? Because just like a blocked pipe or sink, you feel stuck. You need to empty the internal systems to flush out your blocks.
2. Ramadan is linked to meditation and mindfulness.
Muslims have the opportunity to do extra prayers during Ramadan, which are known as taraweeh. Isn't it a known fact that exercising in intervals throughout the day helps to keep your metabolism in check? To Muslims, that's called salaat.
Muslims bow down in prostration and stand for short intervals, going down to their knees, up again and then curl to the ground. Praying before God is like meditating and practicing mindfulness at least five times a day.
3. Ramadan is beneficial for spiritual renewal.
When you love someone so much, you want to do nice things for the person. When you know what makes the person happy, you do that.
Apply that analogy to the religion you believe in. I love my God, and to please him, I fast. Having the awareness that I am fasting to please my God helps me renew my spiritually. It helps me strengthen my connection to God.
Because life is full of changes, our connections at times can spiral up and down. Whether you believe in God, a higher consciousness, a spirit or the universe, you can understand we sometimes need to do extra rituals to deepen our spiritual connections.
Ramadan is a beautiful opportunity to do just that. Hence, it is known to be a blessed month.
4. Ramadan is about learning self-control.
We live in an overindulgent society. Whether it's food, sexual desires or intoxication, we like feeding our desires and egos.
Because it is a blessed month, intoxication of any sort is not allowed. While a person is fasting, any intimate connections are not allowed. If people during the month of Ramadan can practice self-control, they come out renewed and with clarity of what actually nourishes their soul.
5. Ramadan helps to curb indulgent spending.
It is compulsory for all Muslims to assess all their wealth during the month of Ramadan and to give a portion to the needy. Of course, charity is open at all times.
During Ramadan, you should assess all of your assets, including jewelry and your wardrobe. Muslims declutter their entire houses as they prepare for Eid al-Fitr.
This encompasses the whole idea of "out with the old, and in with the new." Many people recommend decluttering your space at least once a year, as excess material things are not good for one's soul.
6. Ramadan is about giving and sharing.
Giving is defined as feeding the needy, your neighbor, friends and family. You express your compassion for those who go hungry throughout the day by not eating or drinking.
Muslims choose to fast to please their God, and the by-product of that is they cultivate compassion by being one with the hunger in the world. When we break our fast, we appreciate every single bite of what we eat and every sip of the water we take. Ramadan really makes you realize how good you have it.
7. Ramadan is about gratitude.
During Ramadan, we express gratitude for everything we have. That includes the food, clean water, money, jobs, house, friends and family we all share this blessed month with.
Because this month is about reflection, that is exactly what we do while we fast. Everyone creates time for more worship, and I will take a break from my day-to-day life to focus on connecting more with my friends and family. I try to savor every moment with my loved ones.
Ramadan really is a fresh start and a new beginning to cultivate the compassion in our hearts. This helps us become better people, which, in turn, helps us to better our lives.
8. Ramadan is about reading and reflecting.
During Ramadan, Muslims take as much time as they can to read The Quran. To me, this is like making time to read a great novel or philosophy book, or look at a piece of art. The more you create time for your own development, the better person you become. To me, The Quran only teaches love and peace.
People who read a lot understand there is much more to discover beyond the words they read. They analyze the context, the time period it was written in and what the author was trying to convey. This is exactly how we view The Quran during Ramadan.
9. Ramadan is about forgiveness.
To cultivate compassion, one must be courageous enough to forgive. Many people do not seek forgiveness because of pride. Seeking forgiveness and forgiving only gives you peace. The Quran talks about sakinah, which is the highest level of inner peace and tranquillity one can achieve.
To make the month of Ramadan more beneficial, Muslims are encouraged to seek forgiveness from other people and themselves. The month of Ramadan strips you of your ego, desires, pride and grudges. It declutters your life and removes your inner toxins.
A pure heart has pure intentions, and with compassion, everyone can find inner peace during the blessed month of Ramadan.