The Big Ideas of 2010

Ramadan

Why not look to Islam for a bit of restraint?
CHARLIE ENGMAN

Most of us, whether we’ve experienced it directly or not, are familiar with the idea of a comedown. A comedown is what happens when a drug, usually a stimulant, begins the long, painful process of withdrawing from your system. As the euphoria of the high begins to wane and the anxiety washes in, you suddenly start to feel dizzy and disoriented. The drug, previously situated between you and reality, is wearing off and, as it goes, you’re left to navigate the void created by its absence. That means going through the process of reconnecting to yourself, to your body’s natural rhythms and your mind’s natural pace. And when it’s finally over, you’re left feeling listless, lifeless and blank … the soaring high replaced by a crushing melancholy.

That’s how I feel every year after Christmas.

Once the cheer I’ve been mainlining since the day after Thanksgiving dries up, I’m left with an emptiness I can’t quite describe. There’s nothing like the sight of Christmas decorations after the holiday has passed. Walking into a room strewn with yuletide detritus is like returning to the scene of Bacchanalian excess the morning after, when all you’re left with is a headache and a vague sense of shame. The thought of candy, cookies, credit cards – consumption in any form – invites feelings of guilt and disgust. I can’t wait to eat a salad, go to the gym. I vow never to go to the mall again. I just want to get clean. Coming down from Christmas – reconnecting to my body’s natural rhythms and my mind’s natural pace – takes days.

I doubt I’m alone. Most people seem a bit pallid and disconnected, not quite themselves, in the days following Christmas. It’s as if we’re all trying to traverse the void that the holiday, with its attendant excess, has left in its wake. But what if we were to introduce some elements of Ramadan into our celebration of Christmas? Muslims, during the month-long observance of the Islamic holiday, abstain from eating, drinking and sex during the daylight hours. The practice of fasting is meant to teach patience, humility and restraint. It is meant to inspire empathy and appreciation. It’s a way to achieve “God-consciousness” and repent for past sins and misdeeds. Above all, fasting is meant to bring one closer to one’s spiritual self. By denying the body, practitioners are strengthening the soul and the mind. It is an exercise in discipline and meditation that, once completed, should leave one feeling more connected, more whole.

Westerners have a long tradition of borrowing from other cultures to temper an immoderate nature. Yoga brings us calm, Tao brings us balance – so why not look to Islam for a bit of restraint? Maybe we can begin this year at the height, rather than the depths, of self.

Sarah Nardi

125 comments on the article “Ramadan”

Displaying 81 - 90 of 125

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Skirixtab

Draw a parallel with yourself
Get rid of the paradox
Litter the herd curricula
And thrust into asceticism.
Carthago delenda est!

Dann

I interacted with a few Pakistani and Iranian Muslims while growing up. For them, Ramadan was fasting during the day and wild, all-out parties at night. The fasting seemed painfully legalistic, and not something I would want to incorporate as a way of fighting consumerism.

Dann

I interacted with a few Pakistani and Iranian Muslims while growing up. For them, Ramadan was fasting during the day and wild, all-out parties at night. The fasting seemed painfully legalistic, and not something I would want to incorporate as a way of fighting consumerism.

Thomas

I concur. I have the same experience with my French muslim roomate (I'm French too, none-religious). Traditionaly, his family and he break the fast with a feast of delicious and really rich food (I know because he would bring us leftovers, yum).

In our place, during Ramadan I've seen him wake up very early, stuff his face right before sunrise and then go back to sleep. Moreover at the end of Ramadan, there's Eid ul-Fitr which is a huge celebration with a bigger feast.

I understand the spiritual justification for fasting (even though I find Islam still an oppresive religion, pretty much like the rest of them), Xmas is a disgraceful binge (probably even more in North America than here) but Ramadan is clearly not my definition of anti-consumerist restraint.

Thomas

I concur. I have the same experience with my French muslim roomate (I'm French too, none-religious). Traditionaly, his family and he break the fast with a feast of delicious and really rich food (I know because he would bring us leftovers, yum).

In our place, during Ramadan I've seen him wake up very early, stuff his face right before sunrise and then go back to sleep. Moreover at the end of Ramadan, there's Eid ul-Fitr which is a huge celebration with a bigger feast.

I understand the spiritual justification for fasting (even though I find Islam still an oppresive religion, pretty much like the rest of them), Xmas is a disgraceful binge (probably even more in North America than here) but Ramadan is clearly not my definition of anti-consumerist restraint.

DumbWaiter

I used to work at a restaurant, and muslims (during Ramadan) would come after sundown to pig out (pun intended) on all the "all you can eat" delicacies we served. Religious observance would have them fast during the day, but let all "joyous" indulgence happen at night.

Double morals, characteristic of every single organized religion, are the plat du jour at this time of the year. I might add that not only religious individuals present these traits. The basic make up of human beings has us where we are right now.

DumbWaiter

I used to work at a restaurant, and muslims (during Ramadan) would come after sundown to pig out (pun intended) on all the "all you can eat" delicacies we served. Religious observance would have them fast during the day, but let all "joyous" indulgence happen at night.

Double morals, characteristic of every single organized religion, are the plat du jour at this time of the year. I might add that not only religious individuals present these traits. The basic make up of human beings has us where we are right now.

redrabbit

I had a similar idea not too long ago.

After watching all the gluttons wolf down Thanksgiving dinner and then line up at midnight to storm the malls like hungry ghosts, I thought a Ramadan Thanksgiving would be a good idea. No one would have to convert to Islam but showing some restraint and discipline instead of mindlessly cramming food down one's gullet and trampling other people in the pursuit of...stuff is what this country needs.

Thanks.

redrabbit

I had a similar idea not too long ago.

After watching all the gluttons wolf down Thanksgiving dinner and then line up at midnight to storm the malls like hungry ghosts, I thought a Ramadan Thanksgiving would be a good idea. No one would have to convert to Islam but showing some restraint and discipline instead of mindlessly cramming food down one's gullet and trampling other people in the pursuit of...stuff is what this country needs.

Thanks.

Anonymous

Which brings the whole ''holidays are overcomercialized'' idea...It's nice to see some peoples are ready to stand up for these long lost values. We don't need to look at other cultures to give Christmas back it's meaning, we only need to raise our children with values that reflect the real Christmas spirit. Too bad we need to be without a penny to really get a glimpse of it...

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