By Fatima Asad
“I can’t see the moon, Mommy!” A frustrated 6 year old tugged on my dress as she jumped up and down, eagerly trying to spy the Ramadan moon behind the infamous Beijing skyscrapers.
Ding. Ding. Ding. As predictable as iftaar pakoras, my phone started celebrating the new moon before us.
“Oh, I have a feeling we will see the Ramadan moon soon enough, in sha Allah.” I replied as I reached for my phone. Sure enough, Ramadan Mubarak, Ramadan Kareem (which by the way doesn’t make sense- ask an Arab speaker), and Happy Ramadan messages adorned the screen. There were also those messages- you know, the “I bid you adieu for 30 days”, the “time to turn off for a month”, the “it’s time to detox the soul” messages. I smiled, pondering over the familiar feeling of this dedicated decision of going cold turkey with social media, as I too had sent off similar messages (because, you know the world will miss my posts about my kids eating my lipstick or how I found a dead dragonfly).
Last year, I made a conscious decision to get more active on social media, especially during Ramadan. Yes, you read that correctly. Let me tell you why I don’t stop using social media in Ramadan. In a nutshell, it’s because my browsing quality improves tremendously during this blessed month and becomes more disciplined (as is the target for all activities). You see, fasting is about increasing one’s taqwa– love, fear and consciousness of Allah SWT. That continuous string of taqwa can only be achieved when we starve our nafs (desirous self) – not merely the bodies – of negative habits, seemingly perpetual poisonous cycles of bad choices.
The first few days of Ramadan are always the toughest for me, and I’m not talking about my coffee deprivation. I split into two people and it’s as if I am hallucinating. I see my dark side, more visible than ever. In fact, it’s as if Iblees (Satan) has been training this “me” for this precise moment- to do his dirty work in his absence. On the other hand, I see my truest, more serene and sensible self, slowly but surely rising up from what seems to be a stance of hopelessness and fragility. These first days are difficult, painful, exhausting- a struggle in which I can feel each sigh, cry and pull as if it were a million paper-cuts. The worst part is the heavy fog being pushed down by my stubborn dark side over my eyes. My mind is clogged and a feeling of despair and helplessness overtakes me.
What does that have to do with my social media use? Everything. I have witnessed firsthand how social media is a major tool- nay weapon for wielding out the dark sides of people. It knows no limits of immodesty, disrespect, effortless arguing, and poisonous malice. It’s oh so easy to slide into various degrees of wrong when swiping through a favourite app. One thing leads to another and before you know it, you’re watching bloopers from Downton Abbey even though you actually sat down to write down the recipe for Shakshuka.
Yes, Downton Abbey may not be the most evil, immoral content in existence, but the point is that we have become techno zombies, allowing social media to lead and control us, rather than making conscious, deliberate and wise decisions ourselves. Did I really need to waste another hour on the bloopers after watching the series? Of course not. Even watching the series failed to help me achieve my higher purpose in life; in fact, it most certainly hurt it, no matter how respectable or innocent the content.
When this slip happens a few times, I still seemed to spring back; however, as it transforms into a habit, one that became a part of my being quite effortlessly, *that* is the point where the darkness within me feeds off the cycle. This is the reason the struggle is a powerful one when the time comes to break away and remember my purpose. After that initial struggle in Ramadan, I engage with social media with an acute, sharpened sense of consequence, realising that whatever I do will impact not only my future habits, but also my fast for that day.
The rules of engagement become refreshed and the content that I deemed acceptable or was apathetic towards now stings my eyes, ears and heart. The energy still needs to be used, so I redirect it towards tools that will undoubtedly aid me in achieving the greatest goal: Jannatul Firdous (Paradise of Firdaws). This takes the form of listening to lectures, audio books, motivational TED talks, brushing up on my basic Islamic knowledge, rekindling my bond with the Quran, and improving relationships.
I absolute love using social media during Ramadan- heck, I’m so thankful to be a part of halaqaat (circles of knowledge) and various tafseer circles from my afar apartment in China. I get a sneak peak of what wonders technology and my positive choices can have all year around. Today, I know countless around me who use social media as the measuring stick by which they measure their worth, impact and existence.
However, we need to remember that social media is just that: a tool which needs to be consciously used and controlled, not be the cause of misery, short-lived pleasures, addiction and losing one’s self. Use this blessed month to make a positive social media change. This is the time for new resolutions, closing past chapters, and giving yourself a fresh start- in fact, you are being gifted a fresh opening by the Creator, Himself. Will you accept it with all your being or simply “like” and swipe left to see what if Prince Harry shaved for the royal wedding?
Say it with me: *I am stronger than my dark side and I am definitely worth more than a hashtag.*