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Home » Blogs » Ramadan teaches self-restraint: What about the usage of social media?

Ramadan teaches self-restraint: What about the usage of social media?

Ramadan comes every year with its multiple blessings for Muslims; it helps in lifting their spirits and by transforming their personal and social lives. Behind the basic rituals of fasting from dawn to dusk lies the deeper essence of self-restraint, endurance and giving. Believers are asked to restore balance in their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs; they are expected to develop deeper God-consciousness as well as to strengthen relationships with fellow human beings. With determination to bring real changes within themselves, they enjoy God’s limitless love and blessings in this month.

Whether practicing or cultural, Muslims have a special affinity for Ramadan fasting; many totally change their lifestyles for a month. With increased contemplation, sharing, caring and a heightened generosity, they cultivate a resolve to serve the people around them. The serenity of self-reflection, even amongst difficult schoolchildren in the classroom or rowdy individuals in the street, can be a surprise to many.

If Muslims were able to continue with the same introspection, superior conduct and generosity throughout the entire year, the community would surely have excelled in all affairs of life! But real-life is often a contradiction.

For Muslims the gift of Ramadan brings with it an enhanced connection with the Qur’an that was revealed in this month; with its universal message of ‘read’, think and act, the holy book demands believers to be positively active in the affairs of the community – as good citizens. The outcome is expected to be God-consciousness (Taqwa) amongst believers.

Fasting is about the ‘burning’ of one’s desire and ego in order to conquer our base instincts, such as immediate self-gratification, greed, arrogance and wasteful extravaganza. In an unprecedented commercialisation and sexualisation of modern life we tend to constantly feed our body with what it desires. We fatten our ego and nurture our arrogance; our longing for immediate pleasure makes our patience thin. Easy accessibility of Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and other instant messaging facilities in our palms can make us ‘slaves’ to technological gadgets; we have very little free time to reflect and relax; still less time to spend with those close to us – our parents, children, siblings and friends. We always are in a hurry as we want to be in life’s fast lane.

As the use of technology is becoming more and more prevalent in society, there has been a huge discussion on the effects of web-based social media in recent years. No one denies the reality and benefit of these tools in modern life; they are now indispensable. But smartphones, in particular, with ever-improving new features are becoming not only addictive but a health hazards to many.

It is an unmistakeable fact that state-of-the-art technology has made vital educational resources far more accessible; we can instantly go online to learn and expand the frontiers of our knowledge on any subject under the sun. We can sit and learn things within hours that would have taken our forefathers days, months and even years.

However, nothing in life is free. As humans we are prone to lose balance in our family and social lives, if our priorities lie elsewhere. We may be totally distracted from life’s middle way by improper use or overuse of social media. We have a limited span of life; so, spending longer time on smartphone or laptop screens means less time for our personal reflection and social interaction.

Research has found that many people, particularly youngsters, spend uncontrolled amounts of time on and are often distracted by smartphones. This is creating superficiality in our lives as there is hardly any time to prioritise in learning and acting. Long screen-time keeps our eyes busy, lessens our concentration, weakens our thought processes and can decrease our civic involvement. This leads to endless chatter in social media with semi-known or unknown others in faraway lands, but not having enough time to build human relationships with people near. Some parents themselves can be negative role models to their children on this. This can lead to ill manners and triviality in life. The dangers of impressionable children being victims of predatory sex and extremism are indeed real!

Ramadan gives believers a month-long pause and quiet in order to take stock of their habits; fasting trains them to heal their body and soul. According to a Prophetic saying, fasting is a shield from wrongdoings. As fasting detoxifies our body and cleanses our soul, this can be an antidote against the round-the-clock whispers (waswasa) of smartphones or excessive use of social media. Islam gives incredible value to every individual, but it is also a communitarian religion. All of its pillars, including fasting, emphasises the connection between an individual and other people.

This needs human interaction on a regular basis. Engagement in civic activities through physical interaction is vital for lifting the community spirit. The Prophet left a lasting legacy by creating the “best generation” of human beings, his Companions (Arabic: Sahaba) who are role models for Muslims, through his personal touch (Arabic: Suhba).

Believers, wherever they are, must go back to this model of creating human relationships with others. Parents and teachers are in a position to set examples for the children at home and school. Assertive parents help children by putting sensible boundaries on using social media, albeit with much thought and sensitivity; through this children can learn to maintain discipline in their adult life.

Fasting is for God alone; believers learn to avoid wrongdoings in Ramadan and take these lessons forward in the rest of the year. In a world much centred on instant pleasure we desperately need a spiritual revamping. We need to use Ramadan lessons to deepen our moral anchor and better navigate ourselves throughout rest of the year.

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