It is hard to believe that anyone can recall 2020 fondly. I won’t have believed it too, but here I am thinking back to how good it was last year in Ramazan. Really weird, isn’t it?

Well, the reason I am nostalgic about Ramazan 2020 is because it was the first time in my adult life that I didn’t have to get up again after Sehri and go somewhere, spend part of the day out and come back exhausted in time for a short nap before Iftar. Despite the fear and anxiety of what was happening to the whole world, most of us were at home with our family, pausing most of our worldly affairs and focusing on the requirements of Ramazan.

The hot, long days were spent at a slow pace, the way they should be when one is fasting. And besides fasting, other spiritual aspects of Ramazan that we often don’t get time for, were indulged in with concentration. Most adults worked from home and most youngsters had no school or exams. The shops were closed, so no time and energy were wasted on trips to overflowing bazaars. It was truly relaxing.

Now another Ramazan is upon us, and, thankfully, despite the Covid-19 pandemic being still around, we are almost back to normal in terms of our activities. Business and workplaces are open, and schools and universities are open. But when compared to the idyllic life we lived last Ramazan, this one seems very challenging, as we are back to fulfilling the demands of everyday life, which saps our energy, time and attention.

No more staying up till Sehri and then sleeping away most of the hot day. Those of you who have online classes, which most schools are conducting now, can at least relax at home and not be troubled by the heat so much. But older students, such as those in colleges and universities, and the ones who are going to have their exams in the coming weeks or months, are probably going out to attend classes and they also have to study at home.

Doesn’t this make one wish for the carefree summer last year? But last year we were all so busy being miserable that we never realised what we had was good in its own peculiar way. We are basically an ungrateful lot, who want what we don’t or can’t have, and do not appreciate what is within our reach.

Using this as a lesson, I will stop missing last Ramazan and, with you all, look at what we have now and how we can make the best out of it.

Keeping in mind the demands of the month of Ramazan and the hot summer that is upon us, we should reflect and go slow. Reflect on what is really important for us to do and push back all those things that can also take place at other times of the year. And it is not just we who have to take things slowly so as not to tire ourselves out, but we must also make less demands on others around us so that they are not overburdened.

Our spiritual side, our responsibilities (studies, work or any other duty) and staying healthy (by eating right and social distancing) need to be our primary focus right now, so that neither the fasts become difficult for us nor do our responsibilities suffer.

We can take the help of the lessons we learnt in the last one year to help us slow down and indulge in only those things that are important. So, 2020 taught us many lessons, and most of us did pay attention to them since all we did then was think. One of the most important things we did last year was to realise what was really important to us and who were the people who really mattered in our lives.

Those are the things and people whom we need to take time out for, besides ourselves, right now. All other worldly things can wait until after Ramazan. This is a month when we recharge ourselves, both physically and spiritually. So, we must focus on recharging ourselves rather than doing what we do the rest of the year.

How fasting benefits us physically by detoxing our system and all the other health benefits it carries are commonly known, so let’s not get into the details here. But what fasting does to detox our spiritual system is what we should reflect upon.

It requires us to control our urges, desires and even our basic needs, such as eating, drinking and sleeping, for the Will of the Almighty. And this control, exercised for a whole month, becomes easier to practise as the days go by. And once Ramazan is over, we can apply it to other aspects of life too.

Interestingly, one of the things we got to practise a lot last year was control — mainly through practising good hygiene, social distancing and giving up on a lot of things that we were so used to. And haven’t a lot of the good habits that we picked up last year, such as not touching our face and nose when outside, washing our hands and face on coming home from outside, using sanitisers, etc., remained with us?

In the same way, the good habits and control that we practise during Ramazan should remain with us the rest of the year too. But for that we must make a conscious and committed effort, just as we are remaining committed to keeping ourselves Covid-19 safe by following the instructions of health experts.

The problem starts when Ramazan ends, and with it end many of the things we did during this month, both related to our religious obligations and worldly affairs. Since the reward of good deeds and charity are greater during Ramazan, we stop being as compassionate and considerate of others afterwards. Isn’t it a shame that we choose to be at our best for one month, very conscious of what pleases Allah and what does not, but the rest of the year we pretend that we will not be judged on our actions?

It is all within us, how we opt to behave and what we do. We must consciously choose what is good for us and try to make it our habit and part of our lives, be it during or after Ramazan, and during or after the coronavirus pandemic.

Have a blessed, healthy and safe Ramazan.

Published in Dawn, Young World, April 17th, 2021

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