All that abstinence and prayers make Ramadan a great time to reflect on and improve our relationships. Elsa Febiola Aryanti tells the tale.
It’s a fast-changing world we live in, and it’s easy to get disconnected and alienated from our ‘self’. Modern living requires that we juggle our firm, fun, friends and family. Our obligations take their toll, leaving us with very little oomph to attend to our spiritual needs with – which can make many of us feel quite lonely in the end. When life gets this way, how can we – as Muslims – reconnect with ourselves better so as to improve the relationships that we have with others?
Relationships combine complex feelings and emotions that change over time. All relationships have their ups and downs and there are many factors that can influence them. The big problems begin, however, when the ties are broken.
Often past events still negatively impact today’s relationships. There might have been harsh words we once said and unpleasant things we once did that are still remembered. Or we’ve held onto our grudges, stubbornly refused to apologise, or pretended that we did nothing wrong.
When we try to convince ourselves that certain things didn’t happen, or when we act as if we feel just fine, when we actually feel terrible, the negativity harbours within us, making us feel – rightfully – ill at ease. The more we carry such toxic feelings around, even subconsciously, the more disconnected we get from our true selves.
Once every year, Muslims are blessed with the holy month of Ramadan. Known by many as the month when Muslims fast from dawn till dusk, this is also the month of self-contemplation, empathy and sharing with the less fortunate.
Silaturrahim is an Arabic word meaning brotherhood or the bond of friendship, and examples of silaturrahim acts are building communities, family reunion and demonstrating kindness towards neighbours. Especially during Ramadan, silaturrahim is highly rewarded by Allah. It is regarded as one of the highest good deeds in Islam, placed within the same level as performing the salat and paying the zakat.
With silaturrahim, Muslims are encouraged to reconnect or strengthen the ties that have been severed, lost, or overlooked. This doesn’t only refer to those that we have wronged or that have wronged us, as there’s more to silaturrahim than to reconcile the differences between two parties. Silaturrahim is also about reconnecting with the family, our society and – last but not least – ourselves. The beauty of silaturrahim lies in that it might give us the strength to rise above selfish needs, to let go of our differences and to really size up what is important in our life – peace of mind and kindness towards others.
Ramadan provides the fertile ground for silaturrahim to flourish. In the month of Ramadan, we fast during the day, and we are encouraged to do more prayers and good deeds. Ramadan is also the month in which Allah is most forgiving of our wrongdoings, whether they be towards others or unto ourselves.
The ambience of Ramadan that colours the ritual of fasting makes it easier for us to empathise with others, while the night prayers as well as the practice of sharing our material possessions through zakat and sadaqah encourage us to be at peace with ourselves. All this, in turn, strengthens our urge to extend silaturrahim to those around us.
So make this Ramadan a time of more silaturrahim, a time to really feel close to Allah, as well as to our nearest and dearest. This is the chance to say sorry and to understand; to be more patient, humble, and generous with our love. Extend silaturrahim, and may the challenge of modern living no longer be faced alone.
Keeping it Real
Keep good intentions close to you
Let go of your grudges
Apologise when you are wrong
Stop pretending in front of others
Don’t behave like you don’t care
Share a meal
Pick up the phone and say hello
The original version of this updated article appeared in the July/August 2010 issue of Aquila Style magazine