City of Brass

City of Brass


The Commercialization of Ramadan

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

This is a guest post by Samya Ayish.

When I was in high school in the late 1990s, Ramadan was all about high spirituality, good food, and intimate family time. I remember when I was 10; I wished the whole year would be Ramadan. Vivid memories left by this holy month in me over the years are so enduring that I always find it difficult to adapt to the commercialized nature of the holy month we have come to experience these days.

I am deeply pained to see many of us turning a blind eye to the spirituality of this month, turning it into a season of consumption and commercialism. This year, on the first day of Ramadan, I thought I made a big mistake of going to the supermarket to buy some personal items to find myself in the middle of shopping crowds, each with one or two heavily loaded trolleys piled up with food and drinks, much of it would certainly find its way into the waste basket later in the evening. In Ramadan, people tend to buy larger quantities of the same food stuff, and I am not sure whether they do that because they really need that much, or because they are worried markets would run out of those items by the end of the day. Of course, at some point, in this age when we are turned into mere captive consumers, we should point fingers at the huge commercialization machine that keeps telling us that we are good citizens only when we prove that we are good consumers.

When we were children, we used to play outside our houses one hour before Iftar, just to be able to hear the thunderous boom of the Ramadan canon. Every one of us wanted to hear it first to be the first to deliver the news to the family inside the house. We used to wake up for Suhoor on the voice of the “Msahharati”; a man with a drum and a stick who used to wake up people to have their Suhoor, recite some Quran, and then head for the Fajr prayers.

If the 24/7 grinding commercialization machine is to blame for us going off the true Ramadan track, it is television that stands at the center of that machine. I remember in the past, production was meant to entertain Muslims fasting in Ramadan until Iftar time. Today, production aims at “distracting” Muslims from doing their religious duties, by keeping them awake late at night to watch soap operas that are exclusively produced for Ramadan.
The type of soap operas produced in the past was even different. We used to watch a lot of historical productions, such as the life of Omar Bin Abdul Aziz, the Omayyad and the Abbasidss..etc. Today, producers are focusing on social and controversial issues with less spiritual features because Ramadan is the month when family members would actually sit together and turn on the television.

Aside from people going for Taraweeh prayers, outdoor life in Ramadan was virtually non- existent. But these days, we see less indoor family gatherings and more crowded events in public streets and shopping malls. Take for example, the so-called Ramadan tents, which are now open for both Iftar and Suhoor. Their programs don’t only include serving the two meals, but also serving shisha and musical entertainment. We see different hotels and restaurants competing to attract people to their menus, by preparing large varieties of foods and drinks, whose waste these days could reduce the agonies of the hungry in the whole of Somalia.

In the Muslim world, Muslims still pray five times a day in Ramadan, they still go to Taraweeh, and they still read the Quran. But, some Ramadan meanings are being lost. Ramadan was all about family gatherings, helping the poor, and remembering Allah at all levels. Now, it is about crowds, entertainment and material consumption.

I hope one day my two boys will experience the real meaning of Ramadan, and they will wish the whole year could be Ramadan. To realize that, Muslim families should show uphold and practice the real meanings of Ramadan and instill its precious values in their children. We may look too helpless to stop the commercialization machine from eroding the spiritual face of the holy month of Ramadan, but we can at least bring that to our children’s attention.

Samya Ayish is a freelancing journalist based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. She has profound interest in new and interactive media. Samya blogs in Arabic and is also a contributor at Muslimah Media Watch.



  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment benjamin shabazz

    As Salaam Alaikum this is great only recognizing that a reformation is in order and I’m not talking about anti-Muslim behavior but back to the original core of the Prophets example

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Halimah

    It is great article Samya, instead of making the holy Ramadan the month of worship Allah and feeling with poor, some Muslims make it harder for poor by making the prices higher through running to empty the shelves of the supermakets.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Erol

    So instead of being more open with society and non Muslims we should be back to the way it was? If one thing this religion needs is commercialization!!!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Aliya Ariz

    Thanks Samya for an enlightening article. Its a whole rat race where everyone is trying to beat the other in making the most of Ramadhan but not in sharing but hoarding. The purpose to fast is to make one realize the hunger of those who cannot access or afford and share with them what Allah has blessed us with. But what happens is that we become more centred on surviving our few hours of fasting and loading ourselves as much as we can before suhoor.
    Today Muslim women have the duty to enlighten their children and husbands too about the true spirit of this holy month and try to incorporate spirituality instead of commercialism, humility instead of show off and offering to poor by curtailing our extravagant expenses insted of wasting precious food, money and time.
    One thing that I do with my family is everyone sharing together one ayat, Hadith or riwayat about huqooq ul ibad or something we are grateful to Allah when we sit down together to break our fast.
    May we all become better Muslims (ameen)

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com Mohgul

    I belong to one of the sects of islam. My Mosque does not serve food so we have to break fast at home. We are allowed to bring something very small from home and break the fast after prayers, but we go home and have the rest of the Iftaar.

    Our dinners are not elaborate, but extremely light. Meat is not encouraged.

    our Ramadan prayers and everyday prayers start at 3.30 a.m. and end at day break.

    We are encouraged to eat very light meals so we can get up in the morning for Zikr and Ibada as the Prophet S.A.W. used to do, not only in Ramadan, but year around.

    I do not understand why anybody would think, ramadan is a month of feast. I saw this in the Middle East and was very disappointed.

    In some countries businesses started late and ended early. This affected the country’s economy. There were lot of car accidents because everybody was rushing home.

    Prophet and his family never taught us to feast until wee hours. They did not even have enough food. So we are definitely following Prophet’s sunnah.

    Ramadan is the month of Jihad of Nafs. Nowadays major wars are fought in the month of Ramadan.

    Muslims, please wake up and practice what the Prophet S.A.W. had preached.

    Ramadan is a month of Ibada, Zikr, contemplation, charity, etc. not a month of feasting.

    Peace and Happy Ramadan. Think of the needy, orphans, widows and invite them to your place or help them.

    And above all, eat early, go to bed early, and rise for Ibada. You will find Ramadan very rewarding.

    Ma Salaama.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com Mohgul

    Sorry, I meant to say, “We are definitely NOT following the Prophet’s Sunnah”.

    Prophet prayed whole night and worked whole day. His family did the same. They did not have the luxury of eating meat. They ate whatever they had. Sometimes, just dates and water!

    Pray, Pray and Pray. This is the month of Barakah. Not physical OR financial barkah, but SPIRITUAL BARAKAH.

    Allah S.W.T. is going to ask us what we did for our souls during the month of Ramadan.

    Feasting! is not a good answer!

    MA SALAAMA

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com Mohgul

    For more on Ramadhan, please click on the following:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-ramadan-meal-20110819,0,5422176.story

    Is this in the spirit of Ramadan? While our children are dying in Somalia, we are feasting in the West and the Middle East and Asia.

    Christians, in the meantime are helping our Muslim brothers, sisters and children. Kudos to the Muslimahs who participated on Christian premises to pack meals. I bet our Muslim leaders were sleeping after feasting at Suhoor time. Not a single man!

    Please watch CNN.com/Impact

    I was ashamed.

Previous Posts

the NFL, concussions, and domestic abuse #WhyIStayed #WhyILeft
A lot of my friends who aren't into football have remarked upon my newfound interest in football as being somewhat out-of-character (true, at first glance, but i'll address that later) and also critiqued the sport for all its attendant social problems. Of those, the two main ones are domestic abuse

posted 5:47:02pm Sep. 12, 2014 | read full post »

13 years after 9-11
I honestly don't have much left to say that I have not said already. But it is worth at least remarking on this, the anniversary of the attacks, that the global challenges facing the world today have almost nothing to do with terrorism or Islamic fanaticism. Yes, we have threats like ISIS to grapple

posted 8:44:01am Sep. 11, 2014 | read full post »

Saudis propose to relocate the Prophet's (saw) tomb from Masjid al-Nabawi
The above photo of the Mecca clock tower, or as I like to call it, "Big Bin", was during my hajj a few years ago. It is part of my general observations of the "Meccahattan"-ization of the holiest place in Islam, the way that the Saudi religious authorities are utterly obliterating the historical wea

posted 10:13:58am Sep. 02, 2014 | read full post »

Post-Ramadan reflections
Welcome back, readers :) My apologies for being so AWOL from blogging. This past Ramadan I had genuinely been able to ramp up my iba

posted 9:48:39am Aug. 27, 2014 | read full post »

Tweeting the Qur'an #ttQuran
My friend Hussein Rashid launched the idea of Tweeting the Qur’an a few years ago and the idea has steadily caught on, and even at

posted 1:04:00pm Jul. 10, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.