Islam aims to transform whole life of mankind into a life of worship. it does not, however, mean to give up the day to day worldly activities and to sit in a solitude remembering God with eyes closed. Worship, in broader Islamic perspective, means that whatever a Muslim does even in the secular domain should be in strict accordance with Allah's guidance. Whether he eats or drinks, thinks or works, sleeps or awakes in collective or individual spheres, he, in fact, worships Allah (SWT) if all these activities are carried out according to His will and obedience.
The month of Ramadhan provides the best opportunity to prepare the Muslim for this lifelong act of worship. Thus, the normative culture of Islam reflecting justice, equality, peace and brotherhood is necessarily to be witnessed in the social system lived up by the Muslim community during the month of fasting.
After ordaining the fasting, Islam has made it obligatory on all Muslims, so that they may attain God consciousness. That is why it was made essential for every Ummah that lived before.
There is, however, no guarantee one observing fast will surely become righteous. But for those, who understands and internalizes the real purpose of fasting and strives to achieve it, will feel and receive its blessings but for those who do not, cannot hope to feel or gain anything from it.
Coming to the empirical situation of the predominantly Muslim settlement of Kashmir, a little impact of fasting on socio-psychological aspects of one's behavior is seen to be reflected during the vast interaction. The desired attitudinal change and refinement is rarely witnessed in the society during the fasting hours. The continuity of Pre-Ramadan i.e. unwarranted and unlawful activities is unfortunately found in Ramadan as well. People are still seen fighting, abusing, and backbiting etc everywhere. They altogether forget the strict instructions of the Prophet Mohammad (saw) whenever such confrontation takes place with the believer who is fasting.
The guidance is there but a few persons follow it and very few use the shield of fasting for the protection of Satan's attack. If anybody abuses the believer who is fasting; do you observe he replies him, "brother, I am fasting"? Does any one see such an episode at any level in our society during the entire month of Ramadan"?
The situation in offices and establishments also do not reveal any marked difference during this month. The officials in general, irrespective of rank and status, fail to strengthen their sense of duty as enjoined upon them in the service rules despite abstaining from eating, drinking and rushing to Masques. Their attitude towards clients, parties, subordinates, students or to whom they were supposed to deal with, is disappointing. They shamelessly take bribe and make away with squandering again during the hours of fasting. They are comfortably making money illegally and giving money to others illicitly.
Apart from this, the business community, which is responsible to ensure the supply of the essential and non-essential goods and commodities to the people, is again, in most of the instances, unable to adhere to the business ethics and values even in Ramadan, otherwise, the month of checks and balances. There is no downward trend being observed in the common economic crimes like hoarding, unapproved price hike, selling of substandard items on high prices in the market.
Above all, the grave social crimes and evils like cheating, gambling, drinking, eve teasing, gender harassment, adultery, theft, pick pocketing etc continues in Ramadhan also without any prominent check. Regarding such people, who are indulged in the height of moral bankruptcy, the Prophet (SAW) time and again explained the real spirit of fasting and said that mere hunger and thirst, ignoring the purpose and spirit, carries no value in the sight of Allah (SWT).
Things are now clear that merely being hungry and thirsty is not by itself worship, but a means for performing real worship and real worship means pursuing activities that please Allah (SWT) and refraining from activities which are detrimental for life, property and honour of people. If someone is fasting while undermining the very spirit of the act, he is simply causing unnecessary inconvenience to his body and soul. This is how the spirit of fasting is defined .To them, fasting is not more than a change in the timing of eating. They ate during nights what they used to eat during days in pre or post- Ramadan.
However, there are, of course, believers living in the same social set up who apparently observed fast with realizing and grasping its real purpose and maintained its sanctity by pursuing deeds that please Allah(SWT) and controlled themselves from displeasing Him. They seem to be exceptions and do more good works than usual and ardently desire to perform acts of kindness in every month of fasting.
To them Ramadan is the time for the growth and flourishing good and righteousness. This characteristic feature of piety determines their attitude being reflected during their interaction with those who are dealing with them. Not for a single moment should they live without worshiping, that is surrendering to Him in thoughts and deeds. They, then, remain conscious of what they ought to do to earn the pleasure of Allah (SWT) and what they ought to avoid. This, of course, marks its influence on the socio-cultural domains of the society and represents the manifest signs of normative culture being guaranteed in Islamic social system.
Besides, fasting has another spiritual potential that it develops the sense of collectivism among the Muslims by getting up collectively early before dawn for Sehri, stop all eating and drinking precisely at a certain time, do certain activities and abstain from certain activities during the day, break the fast in evening exactly at certain time (Iftar). Then, after relaxing for some brief time, people rush in groups towards the Mosques for long late evening prayers (Tarawih). it inculcates the sense of social integration and cooperation among the people and provides the chance of full month to come closer to each other. People, irrespective of their degree of spiritual piety, desire to feed the poor, clothe the naked and help those in distress during the month. This all demonstrates the sense of collectivity in the contemporary society of extreme individualism.
Apart from the above aspects of fasting, there are some other socio-cultural dimensions worth to be observed. A general phenomena being seen in kashmiri society that very less exchange of guests take place during the month of fasting. Because, it is the deep rooted tradition rather an integral part of kashmiryat that guests are supposed to be served with food or tea which can't be done during fasting. If a person visits his relative or friend in the month, he is asked that he should have not visited because he could not be served well in Ramadan; and staying for night is thought to be inconvenient for both, guests as well as hosts.
Every year, for Muslims, the month of Ramadan is a blessing from Allah (SWT) to transform their social life. It is a month of training and like a soldier in an army; Muslims are supposed to live continuously a disciplined life and to follow certain rules all the time. They are then sent back to continue their normal duties for eleven months so that the things they learned in one month's course may be reflected in their conduct and behavior. So, Ramadan provides an opportunity to understand Islam in its practical sense.
Unfortunately, as analyzed above, the majority of the Muslims don't undergo this training according to its norms, rules and discipline. Resultantly, the impact of whole exercise in social and moral upliftment vanishes on the very first day of the next month. That is the day of Eid. During Eid days, people indulge in extravagance. Expressing joy and happiness within the Islamic framework is necessary on Eid. However, crossing over the moral frontiers by way of various means is quite visible. Most of the families prepare heavy wazwaan as if they had not eaten anything during the entire month. Doing it beyond limits should never be encouraged. Some people resort to gambling and other wayward activities on this blessed day is again unfortunate. A pious and conscious believer seriously thinks, "Are we religiously surcharged for the next eleven months"? It is indeed a month of spiritual audit because most of us even fail to retain the traces of piety and virtue of fasting, the moment this blessed month ends.