What Ramadan Can Teach Us About Self-Reflection
Islam is the second-largest religion in the world, and there are approximately 1.7 billion Muslims (followers of Islam). Ramadan, one of the most important seasons for Muslims, is an entire month devoted to reflection and self-control, along with many types of fasting, such as food, drink and smoking. Twenty percent of the world’s population practice Islam, and there is a lot to learn about how Ramadan encourages self-reflection.
First, A Little History
Ramadan takes place in the ninth month of the Muslim lunar year and begins with the new moon. For example, in 2019, Ramadan will take place from May 6 through June 4. Muslims often fast from sunrise to sunset during the entire month. The idea is to practice self-control and focus on self-improvement and good works. Each day of fasting ends with a feast, or iftar, celebrated with family and friends. So there’s always a reward at the end of the day.
Lesson One: Patience and Humility
First, Ramadan teaches patience and humility. If you don’t eat or engage in other pleasures, you understand what it means to be poor and not have enough to eat. You also learn to be grateful for the food and blessings you have–and to patiently wait for your next meal. Even if you don’t practice Islam, there’s a lot to learn from fasting and delaying satisfaction. A fast can teach us to appreciate the things we have and have more compassion for people who don’t enjoy our comfortable lifestyle.
Lesson Two: Forgiveness and Letting Go
All of us hold a grudge from time to time–and find it hard to forgive a friend, loved one or co-worker who has slighted us. During Ramadan, people take time to pray and practice self-reflection. It is also a time to seek forgiveness, apologize and settle arguments. Letting go of anger and resentment is a good practice that helps us move beyond petty differences and focus on the good in our relationships. And self-reflection is an important part of letting go of old issues. If you are struggling in a relationship, ask yourself if you have responsibility. Then, think about how you may have hurt the other person–and how that also hurt you.
Lesson Three: Mercy and Compassion
All religions teach mercy and ask us to be compassionate of others. But Ramadan teaches Muslims to think about how they can be more compassionate every day for an entire month. That’s a lot of self-reflection! Many people help others by giving money or food–or perhaps contributing their time to a cause that helps others. While we may not devote 30 days to thinking about how we can give back, we probably have a few hours every week to assist those who are less fortunate.
Ramadan ends in an important religious holiday called Eid al-Fitr. The festivities can last up to three days and observant Muslims often give to charities as well celebrating with family and friends.