Do you even live in this world if you don’t have a ‘goat-filter’ snapchat video of yourself talking in a ‘helium balloon’ voice? Are you even a real woman if you don’t know what ‘contouring’ and 3D highlighters are? Do you consider yourself a modern man if you’re not famous on Twitter with at least 20K followers? Do you even identify as a normal healthy teenager if you haven’t at some point started a Snap Streak or binged on Netflix? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then according to my daughter, you obviously (and I quote) “Live under a rock”, and here’s why…
The Uncultured Popular Culture
There’s this thing happening nowadays moving us towards what might be called ‘popular culture’. Hmmmm how do I explain this? Let me draw you a picture. Okay, so this is a crooked map of the world (don’t mind my drawing please). So you see how in the West, people are westernized and in the East people are easternized? There’s Indian culture in India, and Egyptian culture in Egypt, and right here where the Ottoman Empire used to rule, the Turks have their own values and traditions. See? The Germans were ‘Germaning’ and the Pakistanis were ‘Pakistaning’ until perhaps
20 years ago, when the Globalization wave hit so hard, we’re all still coughing up water.
To reflect our reality, we must draw a big circle around all these continents and cross them out. The result of this global transformation caused the whole world to become one big, generic, slightly disturbed family. Billions of people and yet we all somewhat listen to the same verbal diarrhea (oops Rap music, sorry), watch the same movies, dress the same, talk the same way and have the same digital devices made by the same company. Almost everyone we know eats at McDonalds, drinks coffee at Star Bucks and watches the same viral videos on YouTube (oh which reminds me, do you guys know where I can get a Fidget Spinner? LOL).
But you know what has also happened? Since we’re such a big happy creepy family, we’re starting to adopt the same views, needs, tastes, ideas and principles. Somehow, everything has been normalized.
“Your husband is cheating? So? All men cheat”
“Your son’s friend is gay? So? ‘Love Wins’ and all. Let it go’”
We’ve become so desensitized that nothing shocks us anymore. The media has force fed us new immoral morals and we have to swallow them to fit in, even though deep down we know they’re making us miserable and depressed. The TV series and movies are all about suicide, deception, homosexuality, perverts and shamelessness. The ‘cool’ songs are filled with curse words; the social media is centered around narcissism and self-degrading to get more ‘likes’ or whatever. Everything around us is so revoltingly ugly and it’s leading us down the sure path of ruined relationships, failed marriages and crippling loneliness. We’re constantly bombarded with vulgarity, violence and profanity till they’ve become parts of our daily routines, but what are the other alternatives? Spend the rest of our ‘uncool’ lives detached from the world?
Even if we wanted to, is it feasible?
How do you go against the flow without struggling?
How do you steer away from the norm and the crowd and still feel valued?
Are you getting frustrated just reading this?
Does it feel like you were successfully living in denial and this article hit you on the head with a brick, opening your eyes to what you strive hard to block out?
Well, don’t hate me just yet, coz I got good news!
Come with me….
The Doorman of Ramadan
No, there’s actually no man holding the door for us to enter Ramadan, I just used the words coz they rhymed. Anyways.
There’s a different kind of beautiful ‘popular culture’ that comes around only once a year for thirty consecutive days.
(Allah, please forgive me if I just compared the Holy month to some universal urbanity. I have a very good point, I promise!)
In Ramadan, something amazing happens. Almost two billion Muslims demonstrate that it is in fact feasible to detach from the madness. They get together to prove that yes, we can go against the flow without struggling whatsoever. We steer away from the crowd and twisted norms, and that’s where we find the true value and meaning of life. No matter how much we’re bombarded with loud ugliness, it doesn’t change our definition of serenity, beauty and peace. If you think about it, every single year, this blessed month defies all theories and proves we can do the undoable. How?
Well, I’m glad you asked.
The Bounties of Beauty
Instead of picking on your food blankly, with one eye on your Facebook notifications, you actually enjoy every morsel, and appreciate the presence of every family member seated on the ‘Iftar’ table.
The same Maghrib Adhan or ‘call to prayer’ you sometimes fail to notice when you’re too immersed into the loudness, becomes the tranquil sound quenching your thirst, even before you reach out for that first sip of water.
The same inappropriate scenes or pictures you flip through mindlessly become cringe-worthy while you are fasting, automatically forcing you to cover your eyes in horror and say ‘Astaghfaru Allah’.
The time wasted doing, “I dunno, nothing important I’m sure,” becomes a heavy burden of guilt when you realize the blessed month is fleeting and you’re still on Chapter 8 of the Qur’an.
The ‘it’ squad of friends you used to love hanging out with suddenly become the plague you want to run away from. And you see the pious people you once deemed as ‘uncool party poopers’ under a different light. You’ll actually be asking them to scooch so you can squeeze yourself beside them at the mosque.
The curse words that were part and parcel of your daily dialogue now sound like noise pollution making your ears bleed.
The poor and needy people who used to make you feel awkward or uncomfortable become your prized ticket to Paradise, and the ‘Islamic’ posts that used to annoy or turn you off, gradually become your source of motivation and enlightenment.
You don’t conform to what’s ‘popular’ anymore. You relate to what’s real. To what’s genuine, heartwarming and pure….
We are all the same, but only a selected few have made their way to the top in various aspects of life, whether it’s through important discoveries, fame, fortune, new ideologies, etc.
When Allah guided you to Islam, you became one of the chosen few in both this life and the Hereafter. He chose you because you’re special and unique. Because there’s rare pureness in your soul, beautiful softness in your heart and your mind is wide awake when it comes to distinguishing between right and wrong. You’re supposed to feel different. You’re designed to never find comfort in senseless conformity. You’re expected to seek the truth in the storms of falsehood, and hold onto your beautiful morals even when immersed in a bucket of stinky corruption. This is how it’s meant to be.
We all have our ups and downs. We all get distracted by materialistic stuff and get lured with the notion of fitting in, more times than we care to admit. We all fall in the trap, somehow get affected by the lifestyles and tasteless taste of the popular majority, and have amended our definitions of ‘normal’ and ‘accepted’ throughout the years. This is just an undeniable fact.
Perhaps this is one of the thousand advantages of Ramadan. This beautiful month comes to reverse the effects of media aiming at brainwashing and dehumanizing us slowly. It comes with a magnificent spiritual light, taking us out of the dark pit holes of depression to the highest levels of altruism and peaceful joy. It comes to rectify and strengthen our belief systems. It comes to remind us of real beauty, inner power, the glory of unity and charity and delayed gratification. It comes to turn our gaze to what’s important and allows us to focus on what matters the most.
All the social media apps, followers, ‘virals’ and internet fame people run after and are willing to humiliate themselves for, are nothing compared to one minute of solitude, praying from your heart to the Great Lord.
All of this fake glamor dims in comparison to the feeling you get when feeding a hungry child, helping a desperate widow or watching orphans sleep with a smile after reading them a bed time story.
Because you feel different right before you make a difference.
You feel different when you win and have to stand up to receive your award.
This month is a blessed gift, and we must make every second of it count.
Open your heart to its heavenly calmness, to its spiritual peacefulness and its multitude of blessings. Welcome the pain of hunger and the reward of achievement. Rediscover yourself and fill this emptiness that’s draining you with loving and worshipping Allah with every cell in your body.
Submit to this glorious connection, and when you stand praying before your Lord, capture this serene feeling and cherish it long enough to shield yourself from the rushing, obscene madness surrounding your daily life.
When it comes to the popular culture of common ugliness…
Be a beautiful stranger!