Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ramadan Reflection: Consumption and Empathy

We fast during the month of Ramadan for a number of reasons: to cleanse our spirits, refocus our minds for the coming year, empathize with the poor and most importantly, to strengthen our faith. Despite the obvious benefits, it is often difficult to balance the mental exhaustion due to waning energy and the resulting physical experience. We may even feel disempowered to complete our daily tasks. We continue onward with this struggle in hopes of coming closer to our Creator, despite the mental and physical difficulty associated with not eating and drinking.

Come sunset, we escape this struggle. The moment our bodies are once again nourished with food and water; we instantly become more present in our lives, more aware of our surroundings and have more faith in our ability to realize our human potential. So what about those who cannot escape? How can we expect the most broken, beaten and down-trodden in society to pull themselves out of poverty when their most basic needs are not met? That is a ridiculous expectation, given that we know how difficult this feat is in our own lives. Not to say we have the wisdom behind Allah's gifts, but perhaps forcing us to see the plight of others through fasting is a very powerful gift, allowing us to be more aware of our own consumption patterns

This gift should be seen as a teaching mechanism, training us, through out 14 hours abstention from basic necessities. This fast, which is a commitment to God, acts as a shield. Come sunset, when this shield is taken away, it is important to remember our training throughout the day, paying special attention to what we consume. Being deprived for the day, our eyes will want to eat everything in sight; this same desire was locked up behind the shield of the fast. It would be ideal to take advantage of our training and consume that which is necessary. This level of self-restraint can be more broadly applied to our consumption of all material goods. Ramadan allows us to take an inventory of how we live and take the steps needed to become better versions of ourselves. Ramadan also creates ample opportunity for us to me more aware of our intake, our responsibilities in our communities and ultimately our carbon footprint. In the age of environmental awareness, Ramadan serves as a great impetus for Muslims to get involved in this process of reclaiming the environment and ourselves.

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