Ramadan is a holy month of fasting, prayer and deep reflection on the year that has passed and the year to come, InshaAllah (God willing). Any acts of obedience and worship during these precious 30 days earn multiplied rewards. So, in the weeks leading up to Ramadan this year, I thought about how I would manage my time in order to take advantage of this blessed month, and I settled on tweaking my use of social media as a priority.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food and drink, from sunrise to sunset. Some of us include listening to music, watching unnecessary television and using social media in this list of things we avoid during the day while fasting or even throughout the entire month. Adding the use of social media to that list is completely understandable, especially in recent years, as social media has become even more accessible and integrated into our daily lives. It takes up a significant portion of our day. And when we are gifted one blessed month of extra opportunities, the last thing we need is to waste those precious moments scrolling through our Instagram feeds waiting for a new picture to pop up, or stalking a Twitter argument between two people we don’t even know (I know we’ve all been guilty of this).
Social media is inherently something that requires the involvement of others. When we share something on Facebook, we expect that people will see it, like it and perhaps even share it with others. Considering the busy and hectic lives many of us lead today, we often only have an hour or two free at the end of the day and many of us, especially younger generations, turn to social media as a relaxing pastime. The pros and cons of social media use can be debated at length, but today I’d like to focus on how it can impact our time management during Ramadan.
We all know that Ramadan is about more than just the outward fasts from things like food and drink; the self-control we cultivate and the quiet moments reserved for introspection are perhaps the most significant parts of it and essentially what we take away and implement in our daily lives after Ramadan. When we only have a limited amount of free time during our days in Ramadan, a constant social media presence can detract from the precious moments we have to reflect and cultivate that self-control. However, in addition to the literal amount of time we spend on social media, I realized that the way we spend time using social media during Ramadan could have a serious impact as well.
The actual use of social media was never the major problem for me as I was always able to catch myself if I realized I was mindlessly scrolling through my Twitter feed. Personally, my struggle with social media during Ramadan involved seeing other people being “religious” and doing “religious, Ramadan-like” things. My feed would be flooded with videos of beautiful and moving recitations from Taraweeh prayers at a nearby masjid or pictures of prayer rugs surrounded by perfectly placed candles. Even though I was already observing Ramadan in my own way, and I was already feeling content with my own spiritual growth and my own increasing Taqwa (God-consciousness), I would all of a sudden feel pressured to make my acts of Ibadah public as others were. The issue with this was that in order to do that, I would have to make sure they would be aesthetically pleasing — “Likeable.” I would have to make sure I got a good spot in the masjid to record the recitation, meaning I would miss the start of the prayer. Sure, posting these things online would prove to others that I was being “good,” and “religious,” and “pious” — but these acts of Ibadah were never meant for other people. They are for Allah (SWT) alone. So, regardless of whether or not dozens of people knew I was at the masjid all night on Thursday, if I spent that night documenting the various acts of Ibadah I had done, I might not have gotten any reward for it at all and in fact, might have accidentally displeased Allah (SWT) with my intention of “encouraging others”.
“He who lets the people hear of his good deeds intentionally, to win their praise, Allah will let people know his real intention (on the Day of Resurrection), and he who does good things in public to show off and win the praise of the people, Allah will disclose his real intention (and humiliate him).” (Sahih Bukhari Vol. 8, Book 76, Hadith 506)
So instead of refraining from social media use completely this Ramadan, I did things a little bit differently. I decided to completely avoid sharing anything about any Ibadah I did. By doing this, I felt more content with the quality of worship and the spiritual connection I felt. Without the pressure of making sure my acts of obedience were impressive enough to my Facebook friends, I was more sincere in what I was doing for myself and for the sake of Allah (SWT) alone.
Now this isn’t to say that all people who post their acts of Ibadah online for others to see are showing off. I’ve definitely been encouraged and reminded to worship by some posts, as I’m sure many of you have. However, for me personally, the fear of bragging has always been too much of a risk for me. Is the simple two raka’at of Tahajjud I pray going to be impressive enough to post? Do I need to add a caption about how difficult it was for me to squeeze it in with my busy work schedule? We have to ask ourselves if the beneficial encouragement others get from our posts about how we worship was worth the potential hypocrisy and insincerity.
And while I know we all have a responsibility to encourage others to do good deeds, when it comes to Ramadan, I’m leaving this responsibility to those with larger followings and greater knowledge than myself. As social media continues to play a significant role in our daily lives, I would like us all to be aware of how much time it takes away from our days and how what we post can influence the choices we make, especially with regards to the precious time we have in Ramadan.
Photo Credit: https://annmariehoyt.com/tag/religion/