I rolled out my prayer rug for the first time in a long time (so long that I needed the Muslim Pro app to confirm where the qibla is), and one word instantly came to mind: "Ramadan Muslim."
In case you're blessed to have never encountered the term, it has been widely used to describe Muslims who only adhere to Islamic teachings during the month of Ramadan.
While the holy month is supposed to center on promoting spirituality and fulfilling religious duties, it has been plagued by some individuals who judge the ways others observe Ramadan and give unsolicited advice on the matter. This comes in the form of comments along the lines of "He's probably going to go back to drinking after Ramadan" and "How do you fast but not pray?"
Not only are such comments detrimental to their subjects (or rather, victims), but they go against the spirit of the holy month and should therefore have no place in our conversations.
To the dismay of those who prefer to keep their religious lives private, it is rather common for people's beliefs and the ways they choose to express them to become topics of public discussion. From close relatives to internet strangers, some people feel emboldened to give their two cents on the religious journeys of others.
The regular debates among the online Muslim community have brought the issue to light, whereby the self-proclaimed halal police (individuals who feel entitled to judge others from a religious prospective) constantly claim religious superiority and voice their problematic opinions online.
Among the many irksome habits of such individuals is their tendency to undermine the efforts of other Muslims, such as by criticizing a hijab-wearing woman's attire or by looking down on Muslims who only practice the religion during Ramadan.
"Ramadan Muslims" are Muslims, period.
Like most believers, we are simply trying to practice our faith in the best way we can or in the way we deem most applicable with our own beliefs. However, rather than being applauded for our efforts, we are discouraged into feeling like our religious endeavors are futile.
Every individual experiences a unique spiritual journey and encounters various circumstances that shape up their religious mindsets and practices. It's high time we stop pretending like there is only one strict way to be Muslim. By treating religion like an all-or-nothing deal, the halal police are doing a great disservice to Muslims struggling to stick to the "ideal Muslim" standard (or consciously choosing not to) and pushing us into opting for one of two extremes.
Besides, one month of being a "Ramadan Muslim" could represent a tipping point in one's spiritual journey, bearing in mind that it might take years of trial and error to finally attain satisfactory religious devotion.
Ramadan is a month of discipline, self-reflection, and spiritual growth. Any attempt to observe the holy month, regardless of the way its done or whether it complies with Islamic traditions, should be respected and even appreciated.
The month fosters kindness and unity among Muslims, which means there's no room for condescension, demoralization, gossiping, nor backbiting.
It all boils down to this: All religious beliefs and practices are worthy of respect, regardless of whether or not they align with ideal standards. Respect and understanding should also be extended to individuals straying from religion and then finding their way back, even temporarily.
Dear halal police, please spare us your entitlement and superiority because your holier-than-thou attitude might as well be a sin of its own. Not everyone is privileged enough to see and experience the world in black and white. Let us figure out our faith in peace. Let us be "Ramadan Muslims." No, scratch that. Let us be Muslims.