If you can learn to con­trol your ba­sic de­sires, you can curb bad habits and form healthy ones

New Straits Times - - Opinion - The writer is a free­lance writer, a blog­ger at www.dearsa­rina.com and is cur­rently study­ing Ara­bic. She is a mil­lenial try­ing to make a dif­fer­ence, start­ing with her­self

IT is that time of year again, the time when prac­tis­ing Mus­lims ful­fil one of the five pil­lars of Is­lam, which is to fast dur­ing Ra­madan. While it all sounds rather en­light­en­ing, and it is, Ra­madan in Malaysia can cer­tainly turn into a month of overindul­gence.

Ra­madan sales, early Hari Raya pro­mo­tions, mouthwatering buf­fets — need I say more?

Over the years, I have formed a deeper and more mean­ing­ful re­la­tion­ship with the holy month.

When I was younger, and to be quite frank, rather ig­no­rant of the spir­i­tual dimensions of Is­lam, fast­ing was just some­thing I did like pray­ing five times a day.

I did not ques­tion it much, nor was I even aware that the pur­pose of fast­ing went far be­yond em­pathis­ing with those who were less for­tu­nate.

When­ever you ask Mus­lims on why they fast, it is com­mon for them to say that it is to know how the poor feels.

Feel­ing an in­crease in com­pas­sion is cer­tainly one of the pos­i­tive changes one feels when mind­fully ob­serv­ing the fast­ing month. To me, the big­gest les­son I have learnt from past Ra­madan is mind­ful­ness.

One of the aims of fast­ing is to achieve (piety) and to con­trol the (self) by break­ing one’s de­sires. You are only able to achieve this by be­ing con­scious of your thoughts as your thoughts in­flu­ence your ac­tions.

If you can con­trol your most ba­sic de­sire, which is to eat, not to men­tion the ten­dency to overeat, you can cer­tainly learn to curb other un­healthy habits and start form­ing bet­ter ones.

The act of fast­ing it­self is not lim­ited to ab­sti­nence from food and wa­ter dur­ing day­time.

Fast­ing ex­tends to all as­pects of one’s life. It is to ab­stain from un­healthy, ex­ces­sive habits that not only have an ef­fect on one’s phys­i­cal and spir­i­tual self, but may also harm the peo­ple around us and the en­vi­ron­ment that we live in.

If there is ever a per­fect time for a Mus­lim to re­flect on all the choices they make ev­ery­day, Ra­madan would be it.

It is the per­fect month for you to start pay­ing less at­ten­tion to heed­less and vul­gar speech, ab­stain from spend­ing ex­ces­sively on un­nec­es­sary items, and avoid wast­ing time on ac­tiv­i­ties that are not ben­e­fi­cial.

If you are spend­ing an un­rea­son­able amount of money on clothes, take this time to re-eval­u­ate your ex­pen­di­ture. How can you use the money that you earn to en­rich some­one else’s life in­stead of your own?

Ra­madan pro­vides me with the right con­di­tions to be aware of all my ex­ces­sive and waste­ful prac­tices that I of­ten tend to over­look. You may not re­alise it, but overindul­gence has be­come sec­ond na­ture to most of us.

We are repet­i­tively con­di­tioned to be­lieve that we need more things to be happy.

Get the lat­est phone, handbag, lip­stick and blouse, and you can smile as widely as the gor­geous lady in that ad­ver­tise­ment.

We learn this when­ever we pick up a fash­ion mag­a­zine, switch on the tele­vi­sion or even as we non­cha­lantly scroll through the count­less photos sub­tly en­dorsed by our favourite so­cial me­dia in­flu­encers.

Just like many other spe­cial oc­ca­sions, Ra­madan is heav­ily-cap­i­talised. What’s more, an im­pend­ing Hari Raya makes peo­ple go over­board in their cookie or­ders,

feasts and new out­fits, los­ing sight of the spir­i­tual as­pects of Ra­madan.

I have come up with a few easy sug­ges­tions on the lit­tle things you can do to be mind­ful of dur­ing the holy month, and cut down on sur­plus con­sump­tion.

If you can, stay clear from ho­tel buf­fets. There is no point in fast­ing all day if you plan to overindulge upon break­ing fast. Not only that, Ra­madan buf­fets pro­duce 270,000 tonnes of wasted food ev­ery year in Kuala Lumpur. So, un­less you are plan­ning to pack your three-course­meals and dis­trib­ute them to the needy, it is best to avoid them.

If you have friends or rel­a­tives who are strug­gling to make ends meet, of­fer them a seat at your din­ing ta­ble. Many of us have more food than we can eat.

I know Malaysians are gen­er­ous and I have been in­formed by the staff in sev­eral or­phan­ages that they get non-stop if­tar in­vi­ta­tions to the point that the chil­dren are stuffed ev­ery night.

A bet­ter and more last­ing way to help or­phans is to do­nate money to the or­phan­ages or spon­sor items they need, such as new mat­tresses and pil­lows.

How­ever, I do sug­gest con­tact­ing the or­phan­ages be­fore pur­chas­ing any items.

The less for­tu­nate aren’t lim­ited to or­phans. There are many non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions that are in need of your funds to sus­tain their good work.

You can choose to help im­prove the wel­fare of refugees, strug­gling sin­gle mothers, cancer pa­tients or even the home­less — the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less.

Lit­ter­ing and ex­cess use of plas­tic and sty­ro­foam boxes are com­mon at Ra­madan bazaars, so when you are buy­ing your

bring along your own food con­tain­ers.

Lastly, I would like to take this op­por­tu­nity to wish ev­ery­one a Ra­madan full of bless­ings. May this month bring about great self-im­prove­ment and self-dis­cov­ery.

(Above) The aim of fast­ing is to achieve ‘taqwa’ (piety) and to con­trol the ‘nafs’ (self ) by break­ing one’s de­sires. (Be­low) The less for­tu­nate aren’t lim­ited to or­phans. Many or­gan­i­sa­tions need do­na­tions to sus­tain their good work.

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