With the end of Ramadan, Muslims generally have mixed feelings. On the one hand, we are heartbroken about the departure of Ramadan, the same way that one mourns the loss of a good friend, and on another, there is also a sense of relief that life can resume its normal routine.
The celebration of Eid al Fitr has much significance. On the highest level, it is a reward from Allah to the fasting believers for many things – the suppression of their base instincts, the control of their appetites and the curbing of bad habits. It is to celebrate the achievement of a month of closeness to Allah and spiritual purification and recalibration. It is to celebrate the completion of a month in which we developed the strength to overcome our personal weaknesses, increased our humility and gave Allah and His Messenger all that we could. It is to celebrate a month of reading the Qur’an, and staying up at night for prayer. During the long daylight hours, we had also learnt to control our slavery to food and drink, our physical desires, our anger and our addictions. Many of our attachments to duniya and its corrupting habits were suspended for a month.
The pinnacle of all these achievements is the salat on the morning of Eid al Fitr. It is the final feather on the cap, the act that seals the deal for the completion of Ramadan and our spiritual victory. If accepted by Allah, even our sins for the previous year are forgiven, hence the bounty is great indeed. In understanding this, the actual celebration is in the offering of thanks and gratitude to Allah, for his mercy and forgiveness.
Yet, what is the typical Eid al Fitr celebration like? Almost as soon as the morning prayers are over, it is a no holds barred environment. Cigarettes are lit and many of us regress to the very habits that we had successfully controlled over the previous month. Having learnt humility through hunger, we celebrate Eid by buying several sets of new and expensive clothes, After paying a nominal amount for zakat al fitr, we spend shocking multiples of that amount on lavish food. Households compete to serve the best Eid ul Fitr goodies, to the extent that instead of the eve of Eid al Fitr being dedicated to the takbeer of Eid and the remembrance of Allah, family members make it an occasion to stay up all night for the food preparation.
The day itself demolishes all the good habits which had been cultivated during Eid. The amount of eating that is done in a single day negates all the self discipline practiced during the entire month. During the festivities, Facebook is rife with comments such as “This is the third house I’ve visited in four hours”, “I’m so full I can’t move”, “Looking forward to the eating fest.” We gorge ourselves on food which is too rich and with delicacies that took unnecessary time to prepare.
There is little talk, if at all, of Allah, of the spirit of Ramadan, of what we had achieved spiritually. While it is traditionally a time for family reunions, chit chat among visiting friends and family cover everything but Allah, and hours are spent on social banter and gossiping about family issues in the name of “increasing the siratur-rahim.” The atmosphere is joyous, but for inappropriate reasons – the laughter is aimed at jokes, what is showing on TV or for idle talk and comparing whose Eid al Fitr outfit looks better. In some cultures, the celebration continues for the entire month of Shawal – it is a celebration of showing off cooking skills, flashy clothes and being seen in the right places.
Ramadan becomes a distant memory. Over time, the Qur’an gathers dust, the prayer mats are put aside, and indulgent behaviour takes control.
With the end of Ramadan, the devils which had been chained for the month are released, but is it so easy that they can immediately influence our thinking and behaviour? Or is it because our own nafs (inner desires) are so dominant that we did not succeed in keeping it under control in the first place? What spiritual boost was achieved if, immediately upon the end of Eid prayers, all mention of Allah is neglected? Where is the repentance if people immediately revert to their pre-Ramadan behaviour of poor or sinful habits?
It is heartbreaking, so heartbreaking, to see this in ourselves and those around us. One of the signs of whether one’s Ramadan has been accepted is not the amount of tears shed during the terawih prayer, but it is how he continues to behave once Ramadan has ended. This is the most telling sign.
Examine yourself whether you came out of Ramadan in a better spiritual shape, or the same shape as before Ramadan, or in a worse shape than before Ramadan commenced. You will know where you stand – this is your personal spiritual thermometer.
I am not saying that we should all live like monks, cloistered and secluded with no connection to society. However, what happened to the spirit of moderation? If Eid al Fitr is the embodiment of our achievements during Ramadan, then is it correctly reflected by the glittering clothes we wear and the amount of food we eat and force others to eat? If we had made vast efforts during Ramadan, then it is right to allow our spiritual pendulum to swing crazily to the other extreme within days of Ramadan coming to a close?
Yes, this is the month of celebration, but let us make this celebration meaningful, and not just a hollow shell of indulgence, ostentatiousness and heedlessness. Let us harness the spritual momentum that we had gained during the previous month, and use it to become better people, to be more in tune with the hardships faced by the poor all over the world, and most importantly, to maintain the connection that we had gained with Allah over the past few weeks.
May Allah save us all, Ameen.