The Optimism of Ramadan 2024

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, is a time deeply imbued with optimism, as it offers Muslims globally a period dedicated to fasting (sawm), prayer, reflection, and fostering a sense of community, joy, and an optimistic outlook on life. This sacred month commemorates the momentous occasion of Prophet Muhammad's initial revelations, serving as a time for spiritual rejuvenation, contemplation, and an optimistic reassessment of one's faith and daily practices.

During Ramadan, the faithful engage in sawm from dawn until sunset, abstaining from food, drink, and other physical needs during the daylight hours as a means of purification and spiritual growth. Prayer increased from the regular five daily prayers, including nightly recitations from the Quran over the month, culminating in the Laylat al-Qadr, or the Night of Destiny, when Muslims believe the Quran's first verses were revealed. The observance of Ramadan also emphasizes the importance of generosity and community through Zakat (almsgiving) and Iftar gatherings, where fasts are broken together in a spirit of fellowship. The requirements of Ramadan are designed not only as acts of devotion but also as opportunities for Muslims to develop more profound empathy for the less fortunate, fostering a community united in faith and optimistic goodwill.

This year, Ramadan occurs under the shadow of the Gaza war and increased violence on the West Bank and by the Huthis in Yemen and the continued civil war in Sudan. The complexities of these conflicts have cast a reflective light on the Ramadan observances, reminding us of the importance of peace, understanding, and the optimistic spirit that Ramadan embodies.

Advocating for a Ramadan ceasefire in Sudan, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres appealed to all parties in Sudan to observe a Ramadan ceasefire, saying “I call on all parties in Sudan to honour the values of Ramadan by honouring a Ramadan cessation of hostilities.” 

The Victorian Premier's 2024 Iftar dinner was cancelled after Islamic groups threatened to boycott it. This situation underscores the tensions and challenges communities face during this holy month. Despite these challenges, Ramadan's essence as a time for reflection, community, and optimism inspires hope for a future where understanding and respect for diverse perspectives lead to harmonious coexistence.

Over the years, I have shared many Iftar dinners, including special events at The Victorian Parliament's Iftar Dinner and the Inaugural Shabbat Iftar Dinner

So, too, in 2024, I look forward to joining the Islamic community members in breaking fast. Looking ahead with an optimistic heart to this year's Ramadan, I am eager to once again partake in cherished gatherings with the Islamic community, embracing the spirit of Ramadan and the joyous optimism of breaking the fast together. Despite the backdrop of global conflicts and the cancellation of significant events, the essence of Ramadan as a time for reflection, community, and optimism offers a beacon of hope. It encourages us to transcend differences, foster understanding, and work towards a future where peace and mutual respect prevail.

The Optimism of Ramadan

Thinking about the optimism of Ramadan, my friend Ahmet Keskin, the Director of the Australian Intercultural Society.  Ahmet told me, "Ramadan is time for purifying the soul and re-calibrating oneself. By doing so, you accept that challenges exist but you are more adamant to get through the year ahead with your renewed sense of optimism."

Arfa Sarfaraz, President of the United Muslim Sisters of the Latrobe Valley,  explained to me, "During the Holy month of Ramadan, we pray, refrain from eating and drinking, abstain from engaging in negative behaviour, and devout ourselves to prayers, almsgiving and other good works that draw us closer to Allah Almighty. When we fast, we develop empathy for the less fortunate, and when we pray, our hearts are at rest, and we can maintain an upbeat attitude as we clear our minds from negative thoughts, stress and pessimism. Fasting improves mental toughness, resilience and endurance. The benefits of fasting extend to the body, mind and soul. We stay hungry and feed our souls all the goodies, and ultimately it’s a win-win proposition to become a better, happier and more optimistic human being."

Kassem Younes, General Manager, Middle East, Africa and Türkiye for Global Victoria told me, "The Holy month of Ramadan is a station of optimism and a feed for the soul. It is not only the month of worship but also the month of forgiveness, mercy and generosity. It is the month that throws into the soul hope and optimism from the hardships of life and its preoccupations and despair from the possibility of changes.”

My colleague, Sameera Abdeen told me,  "Many people who may haven't learnt much about Ramadan seem to approach fasting Muslims with sympathy during this month as if they are obliged to fast when they don't want to when in fact, for many Muslims around the world, it is considered the most wonderful month of the year and something that is very much looked forward to. It is about perspective!"

Hussain Al Jassmi performs optimistic song and video, "A Door to Blessings" for the Holy Month of Ramadan.  In his song, Al Jassmi encourages people to "Trust in God. Positive things will be found by individuals who maintain an optimistic outlook. If a door closes, God will open it for you in time. Leave it to God to resolve the issue and the world will strive with you. Wherever you go, your blessings and livelihood will follow you wherever you go."


Generally, Ramadan is considered an optimistic time.  Why?

Renewal and spiritual growth: During this month, Muslims engage in increased acts of worship, such as fasting, prayer, and charity, which can help to deepen their faith and strengthen their relationship with God. This focus on spiritual growth can create a sense of optimism and hope for the future.

Forgiveness and mercy: Ramadan is also a time for seeking forgiveness and mercy from God. Muslims believe that during this month, the gates of heaven are open and the gates of hell are closed and that it is easier to seek forgiveness and repentance. This emphasis on forgiveness and mercy can create a sense of optimism and relief as Muslims strive to make amends for past mistakes and move forward with a renewed sense of purpose.

Community and solidarity: Ramadan is a time for gathering and solidarity among Muslims. This month, Muslims come together to break their fasts, share meals, and participate in other communal activities. This sense of community and connection can create a sense of optimism and hope as Muslims feel supported and uplifted by their fellow believers.

Gratitude: In his essay, "Ramadan, a month for renewed optimism," Ashfaq Parkar writes, "Optimism in Ramadan comes from actively seeking out things to thank God for, especially among a backdrop of escalating problems facing the world. The channeling of this positively found energy is the celebration of this joyous month."

Read More on Gratitude and Optimism

The promise of reward: Muslims believe many rewards are associated with observing Ramadan, both in this life and the hereafter. These rewards can include spiritual blessings, increased closeness to God, and the forgiveness of sins. The promise of reward can create a sense of optimism and motivation as Muslims strive to make the most of this special month and earn God's favour.

In summary, Ramadan is an optimistic time because it allows Muslims to renew their faith, seek forgiveness and mercy, unite in community and solidarity, and earn rewards from God. These factors can create a sense of hope and positivity that carries over into other aspects of life.


Other Reflections

"Ramadan actually becomes a powerful source of optimism as it teaches us to be appreciative of the Creator for all that is good in one’s own life. " (Ashfaq Parkar)

Ramadan "enhances the feelings of inner peace, contentment and optimism. These feelings result from the realization of God’s pleasure." (Dr Jamal Badawi)

"Ramadan is a special time to show gratitude for the many blessings we share, and reflect on values of peace, compassion, and generosity. These same values have helped us all through challenging times these past two years and will continue to help us as we recover from the pandemic and look ahead with optimism and hope. (Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau 2022)

"As Ramadan approaches, there are several reasons to be optimistic about the growth of philanthropy in the Middle East." John, Canady, CEO, National Philanthropic Trust UK in "Growth of philanthropy in Saudi Arabia a cause for optimism" (March 2023)

“People are excited about it, they sing songs about it and it’s a sense of renewal for people who are feeling tired, exhausted and need a reason for optimism,” Amatul-Wadud told MassLive. “That’s how the Muslim community views Ramadan.”

Zahrat Ash Shams wrote, "Receive this Ramadan with a determination to replace the darkness we find in and around us with the light of Allah swt. Be hopeful, and optimistic about this wonderful month of transformation. At the same time, enter into this limited time of infinite blessings with a practical and realistic plan." (Welcome Ramadan)

Read More on Islamic Optimism

#Ramadan is "imbued with #hope and #optimism."

So said Ajay Tawde, head of experience at Ogilvy IndonesiaAjay says Ramadan has a real economic impact.

“Every year the impact of Ramadan on the Indonesian economy is significant. The Indonesian government estimates that Ramadan-related spending accounts for up to 2% of the country’s GDP. Mudik (home-coming) is a mass-migration when Indonesians travel to their hometowns for Idul Fitri (Eid). In 2023, the Indonesian government estimates, 27 million private cars and 25 private motorcycles will be used for Mudik. The Indonesian Ramadan is not only a time of spiritual reflection but also an essential economic event for the country. The grand festivities and increased consumer spending during Ramadan highlight the significance of this month in Indonesia.”

“The last three years covid-19 changed not just life during Ramadan but also how Ramadan was celebrated. In the past few years, while Ramadan was muted due to movement, restrictions and uncertainty it was still imbued with hope and optimism. While covid-19 might not be as big a caution during Ramadan 2023, there is on-going volatility in consumer minds due to inflation, war, layoffs, and the possibility of recession."

“The colours are intended to be bold and welcoming, and to show that Muslims can represent themselves in a joyful and playful way, showing confidence and optimism,So said Shahed Saleem about the 2023 inaugural Ramadan Pavilion, a public art installation at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Some of the Difficulties of Ramadan 2024

 Afaf Masoud: “What makes Palestinian women unique is their persistence, resilience and determination. The Palestinian woman never despairs and always has optimism. The Palestinian woman has a lot of persistence in life; she does not see a difference between a man and a woman and enjoys working." (International Women's Day 2024: Celebrating the resilience of Palestinian women and mothers)

"Despite the challenges posed by the Israel-Hamas conflict, the essence of Ramadan as a period of reflection, community, and optimism remains unshaken, with calls for a Ramadan ceasefire in Sudan highlighting the global yearning for peace and reconciliation," wrote Rafia Tasleem in "Ramadan 2024: Global Observance Amid Conflicts and Celebrations."

"Amidst the backdrop of global challenges such as the Israel-Hamas conflict, the faithful are called to embrace optimism and unity... Amidst the trials, Ramadan 2024 embodies a beacon of hope and optimism. The month-long observance is not only a testament to the enduring strength of faith but also an opportunity for renewal and unity. As communities gather for Iftar and prayer, there is a collective aspiration for peace and understanding that transcends borders and conflicts, wrote Israekl Ojoko in "Ramadan 2024 Announced: Global Muslims Prepare for Sacred Fasting Amidst Challenges."

 Writing in the Guardian, Ramia Abdo-Sultan, a member of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, wrote, "As Ramadan approaches, with its solemnity of spiritual abstention and fasting, and the anticipation of nightly feasting, I feel a stone in the pit of my belly. Or perhaps it’s a boulder that is weighing me down with this dull, leaden dread, this unshakeable guilt and this feeling of deep inadequacy and shame. How can I sit down at a table laden with steaming soup, bowls piled with fresh tabbouleh and fattoush, succulent meat and rice dishes, when my family and loved ones in Gaza find no respite from their imposed starvation?"



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