India is a land of different cultures and traditions. Even if you look into every other household you will notice that it has its own traditions and the taste of food also changes from house to house. Growing up in India has given me a wide perspective about people and how varied & beautiful cultures can be.

I still reminisce the time when we lived in a society where I had a Muslim friend named Sameer. He lived with his Ammi – Abba and a little sister named Nikhat. Our families were closely knit together. We went to school, played and laughed together. We celebrated every festival and occasion in the midst of our family & friends. In India every festival has its values and traditions. It brings out the best in each one of us, be it Diwali, Holi, Eid or any other festival, no festival is treated less than the other.

It was the summers of 1989; Sameer and I were in 9th Std. The holy month of Ramadan was about to begin. Over these years I had celebrated Eid with Sameer’s family without knowing the reason behind the month of Ramadan that leads towards Eid. For me it was just a month of starvation and eating good food at the end of the day. I had no idea what it actually meant for the Muslims. So, I decided to ask Sameer’s Ammi what it really meant. To which she gave me a reply that changed my whole perspective about Ramadan.

She told me it wasn’t only the month of fasting or abstaining from food and water. There was more to it. The month is an incredibly special and a deeply spiritual time for Muslims all over the world. There are myriad lessons that Muslims and non-Muslims alike can learn from it.

It’s the time to exhibit increased morality and generosity towards people of all faiths and cultures. Morality is about embracing justice, compassion and tolerance towards all people. Ramadan gives you the time for spiritual reflection; Muslims are required to filter out bad habits that have become part of their character over time and to see your self-control. Fasting inculcates the qualities of empathy and compassion towards those who are less fortunate than us and who may be suffering because of poverty, famine and inequality.

She also told me that Muslims need to refine their character by letting off qualities like arrogance, selfishness, dishonesty and intolerance. It teaches you the responsibility of treating other people in a way you would like yourself to be treated.

I now wonder where have we come to? In our modern day society have we forgotten about the values that our festivals have? If you look closely we are losing out on the spirit of thinking for other people and have become so self-centered. We sometimes forget to build positive relationships with people. It not only weakens the foundation of the society we live in but also is against the precepts of the teachings of Islam.

Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said: “The best of people are those who bring most benefit to the rest of mankind.”

I feel we have lost the true meaning of Ramadan. Ramadan is about having an impact on people’s inner qualities, self-reflection, sacrifice, generosity and patience. More importantly, it is about how we treat others.

Let these 30 days be the start of something good and may you find your way of reaching towards God. Let’s pledge together to make not only this Ramadan more fruitful for yourself and others but also have enduring results for days and years to come.