Why can't the spirit of Ramadan be alive all year?

We can put to use the lessons we learn during the holy month long after it ends

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After the holidays have passed, the epic meals have been shared and we are back to the caffeine-assisted hustle and bustle of daily life, a weariness arises from realising how easy it is, for many of us, to slip back into our pre-Ramadan lives.

It makes me reflect on what I achieved in the holy month.

A sage piece of advice my elders would give me is Ramadan’s true value is best measured after the fact.

This means if you apply the spiritual and social lessons from the experience throughout the year, then all that physical and mental effort will have been worthwhile.

The fact I am already slipping into old habits, from not always checking in on family to unhealthy eating, is causing me a bout of post-Ramadan blues.

Somewhat fortunately, I found this an experience many of my family and friends share after winding up the Eid Al Fitr celebrations, with spirited discussions often revolving around the concept of “why can’t Ramadan be every day?”

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 08 MAY 2018. Iftar at the Afaunov family. Part of a 4 part series of stories on international Iftars and the different foods that muslims of different backgrounds make during Ramadan. This time, we are interviewing a Russian family. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Hala Khalaf. Section: National.

This doesn’t imply that we should be fasting throughout the year, it's more a question of why can’t we sustain the holy month’s spirit and values throughout the year?

Those benefits are internal and recognisable.

The act of fasting often triggers a deeper sense of mental and physical awareness.

Since we are conserving energy to get through the day, we become more circumspect about how we apply it.

Getting into unnecessary squabbles or heated discussions in the workplace is not recommended.

“We used to love Ramadan because we knew all the bosses will be good and calm every day,” my mother, Zahra Baho, said, recalling her time working as personal assistant to an Abu Dhabi oil and gas executive three decades ago.

She now owns and manages several childcare centres in Melbourne, Australia.

“The funny thing is now my staff say the same thing about me,” she says.

“Life gets busy and you become more stressed and you don’t realise how that affects your team.

“So in Ramadan I am calmer and focused and the staff benefit. So it makes you think why this can’t carry on, you know?”

A friend of mine, Majeed, a successful finance executive in Dubai and father of four, also reflects on how Ramadan was the only time his family ate together nearly every day.

“We would always say how this is how it should be and we need to continue this,” he said. “Of course, you try. It goes from two days a week and then one day and then it never really happens again until Ramadan comes back.”

Dubai, United Arab Emirates-September,23,2015: Devotees have free meals at the Sikh Gurudwara, Guru Nanak Darbar in Dubai.  ( Satish Kumar / The National ) For News / Story by Ramola Talwar *** Local Caption ***  SK-DubaiGurudwara-23092015-01.jpg

The sense of extra empathy, another characteristic encouraged by fasting, also needs to be harnessed and applied throughout the year.

Living in the UAE for more than a decade, I am often struck by the deep acts of generosity exhibited.

From families opening up their homes for the local neighbourhood for iftars, to the setting up of official iftar tents by UAE churches, and Sikh temples and resorts cooking meals for taxi drivers, these genuine acts of kindness are powerful but can only truly resonate if they continue, in some form, after the holy month.

It is a principle that also applies to us as individuals.

The sense of fellowship during Ramadan inspires acts to subdue the ego. So the month is traditionally the time to make amends with others, forgive and reach out to those neglected.

If those sentiments mean anything, we need to make the effort and follow through on those new beginnings.

All these things are by no means easy because they require a certain sense of empathy and vulnerability that's often lost in the cut and thrust of the modern day.

This is the importance of Ramadan, because it is a much-needed circuit breaker and at the same time provides us with the tools to navigate a path to a more fulfilling life.

Now that it is finished, that journey has only just begun.

Updated: May 06, 2022, 6:02 PM