The ugliness of the term aside, the characterization of “Ramadan Muslims” is reminiscent of the perceived renewals and resolutions surrounding New Year’s. Evidently, both groups take advantage of a specific date to begin changing their lives – there is more motivation to be found on ‘firsts.’
Humans prefer to maintain rather than change; so it makes sense that people tend to contemplate changes at endings or beginnings of whatever time period they mark, seeing it as a natural restart.
One exploration of these tendencies in Psychological Science published findings on how “Temporal Landmarks Spur Goal Initiation When They Signal New Beginnings.” For instance, they suggested that people could be more likely to follow through with work goals if starting on Monday instead of Thursday.
Yes, the time periods themselves are often arbitrary – but as with the number of “but it’s not the Islamic New Year” posts I’ve seen, that’s not the point. Islam itself is full of opportunities for new beginnings, beyond just the Islamic New Year too. The chances to change and begin anew are limitless, as seen in just three of the many hadith and ayahs on forgiveness:
On the authority of Anas (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say: Allah the Almighty said: O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it. (Tirmidhi)
God holds out His Hand during the night to receive the repentance of the one who has committed wrong during the day and holds outs His Hand during the day to receive the repentance of the one who has committed wrong during the night. (Muslim)
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “By the One in Whose Hand my soul is! If you do commit sins, Allah would replace you with a people who would commit sins and seek forgiveness from Allah; and Allah will certainly forgive them. [Muslim]
Those “Ramadan Muslims” have good reason to sense a new beginning: our wudu (ablution) is a chance to eliminate sin and begin again, as with our prayer, our fasting, and being in the month of Ramadan.
Motivation is difficult to find — rather than scorning opportunities, shouldn’t we take advantage of any time the mind naturally inclines towards change? Our instinct to reflect on the year that passed, to understand what it meant, and to plan for the next one provides exactly that, and shouldn’t be ignored.
Renewing personal intentions is constantly emphasized in Islamic teachings, and New Year’s can be a chance for that too. Many of us get caught up in causes that are undoubtedly worthwhile, yet lose sight of the reasons we took the up in the first place. As we start a new year, we can remind ourselves of our motivations, strengthening our resolve.
Whether you’ll be renewing or resolving, this new beginning is yet another of the many chances we get to determine our direction.