Every year, we blissfully welcome the month of Ramadan, a blessed time of spiritual renewal, back into our lives. For many of us, it is a time of intense inward focus, introspection, and reflection on one’s life, deeds, and personal relationship with Allah Most High.
Ramadan is a precious opportunity for introspection and self-focus, yet, for most of us, it is also a time of much social interaction, and the challenges that come with it. Hours of each day and night are spent—not in the quiet of solitude—but in the bustle of the company of others in a crowded mosque. Lengthy acts of devotion are performed not in the privacy of seclusion, but shoulder to shoulder with others of varying levels of focus and stillness.
Breaking one’s fast at the mosque may have its own array of challenges, from lack of orderliness, to others helping themselves to too much, leaving the rest with little or nothing to eat. More challenges may arise during taraweeh (late night prayers), when the beautiful recitation of the imam is disrupted by rambunctious children, or by loud neighbors who seem to prioritize a good chat to others’ acts of devotion. Not to mention the brother or sister one meets who may wish to correct or give advice, but does so improperly or rudely; praying on crumbled crackers or in an otherwise messy prayer area; squishing behind someone’s chair in a crowded mosque when trying to perform prostration; or one’s neighbor’s cell phone buzzing at the key critical moment of one’s concentration in the prayer…
Yes, Ramadan is a time for introspection and self-focus, but it can also be a time of ‘ruffled feathers’—much frustration, irritation and annoyance with others. It is a time when one’s spirituality can be heavily tested, not only through personal devotion, but through one’s adab—one’s manners, attitude, and way of dealing with other people.
While many of us have personal goals for Ramadan related to acts of worship, such as completing the recitation of the Quran, let us also commit to being a patient, positive, and well-mannered presence at the mosque, imbuing our behavior, words, and comportment with the beauty of the manners of the Prophet ﷺ (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him).
Here are a few suggestions for dealing with such frustrations:
— Look at your time at the mosque as an act of worship—one that you have to prepare for spiritually and mentally. Come with a sincere intention.
— Smile and be warm and kind to others. This is a prophetic tradition, a means of gaining reward, and has a profound effect on how one feels towards others.
— Realize that dealing with such frustrations is a key lesson of Ramadan. It is not only through discipline in ‘ibadah (worship) that one is tested, but in the tazkiyah (purification) of dealing with others who may mistreat you, or deal with you in unkind or less than ideal ways. Didn’t the Persian poet say, “If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?”
— Remember the many, many beautiful examples we have from the Prophet ﷺ (peace and blessings be upon him) of rough and harsh treatment, which he responded to in the most gentle, dignified and kindest of ways.
— Come with the attitude that you are not “owed” anything. Such an outlook can lead to resentment and anger—to feel, “I ‘deserve’ to hear the recitation without disruption,” or, “I am ‘owed’ a delicious meal for breaking my fast, without having to deal with annoyances.” Come instead with the attitude that these are gifts, bestowed by the Giver as He chooses. And it may not be from your allotment today.
— Be the change you wish to see at the masjid. Listen attentively to the lectures. Be calm and composed during the prayer with your cell phone turned off. Keep your children from being disruptive (or better yet, encourage them to pray and listen with you.)
— Realize that there are many people attending the mosque who may not be regular attendees. You will find a much wider spectrum in Ramadan of participants’ knowledge, level of practice, and general understanding of decorum in the mosque. Be patient and kind. A dirty look or scalding comment does little to change their behavior (or, in the long run, to change their hearts.) Being a ‘religious type’ who is warm, kind, strikes up a conversation with them and is genuinely interested in them does.
— Spend much time in solitude and worship at home. The best time to cultivate one’s spirituality, to feel a deep sense of connection with Allah without interruption may be in the deepness of night, by yourself on the prayer mat, and not amidst jam-packed gatherings at the mosque.
— Do not disdain or belittle interacting with others. Even the prophets rubbed shoulders with others, and dealt with their varying attitudes and behavior. There is much wisdom in this and many lessons to be learned in the company of others that one may not find in the pages of books or in isolation.
— Be forgiving and make excuses; would you not wish the same be done for you?
May Allah fill this Ramadan with blessings, help us to practice the best of worship and to have the best of manners, and accept our deeds. Ameen.