5 Lessons Screenwriters Can Learn from Ramadan

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

Assalam alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatahu!

So the blessed month is upon me and I’ve been using it to reflect on the things I need the most in my life, both spiritual and materialistic.

To those of you who don’t know what Ramadan is, it is the month in which the Islamic holy book, the Noble Qur’an, was sent down, i.e. the word of God in unadulterated form. The Qur’an is one of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)’s many miracles, as he was an illiterate man, yet he was given words that moved the Arabs (who were great poets). We honor its revelation to us by fasting.

Fasting is about not eating between sunset and sundown, true, but it’s also about controlling your temper and staying away from sin and becoming truly conscious of God’s blessings and guidance in your life (called taqwa in Arabic). The gates of heaven are thrown open and Satan is tied up for the entire month and every good deed is rewarded multiple times in this month. So it is truly a blessed month.

Personally I can well and truly feel that blessing. You see, being a South East Asian gives you an inferiority complex from birth. Being a hardcore practicing Muslim and an artist, well, that just compounds it. In this month, I have no fear being myself. Female, Muslim, an artist – a servant of God in all respects. Whereas in other months, sometimes I worry what people think of me a little too much. The work of Satan and a uniquely Asian affliction.

That aside, I have come to the conclusion that fasting has many lessons to teach us screenwriters. Here are but a few I could think of:

1.       Be prepared.

I went into Ramadan having fasted a few extra days to prepare my body but I hadn’t really prepared my soul to take advantage of the blessed month. I hadn’t made a plan to truly make this month a success. I know what unique tests I face – between jobs, friends, comedy and film, it’s a miracle I have time to breathe. But somehow through all of that drama, in this blessed month, I need to remember to remember Allah (SWT). That means training my soul (nafs). Ramadan is a bootcamp. Screenwriting should be too. And it’s up to us to crack the whip, to dodge the bullets and roll with the punches. And other inane metaphors.

Basically, it’s important to figure out your goals and how you’re going to get there. And if it doesn’t work in practice, adjust.

2.       Follow your leaders

There are people – mentors, friends, colleagues – who are inspiring. For me, it’s our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) and Imam Suhaib Webb.

I have yet to find a mentor in screenwriting, though.

3.       Have prescribed times for work and play.

One needs to keep balance in their life. Ramadan shouldn’t be a month where nothing gets done (the most common complaint in the Arab world).  There needs to be a balance between the world and the spiritual. One should not suffer on account of the other. It’s a fine balance and one that differs from person to person. But it’s necessary to walk that line.

As screenwriters, if you’re stuck inside your house writing all day, you might just end up writing the same story about the one-eyed cat who finds a key to heaven in the back-yard over and over again. For decades. Or you just might go postal and kill all the pets in the neighborhood.

The world has a million stories.  At any time, the most mind-blowing stories are running in HD 3D all around – and they’re called human beings!

4.       Learn from your mistakes.

I keep a log to a) make a list of all the things I’m learning b) provide a place to vent c) figure out problem areas I could work on.

5.       Patience in times of frustration

It isn’t easy.  In fact, it’ll probably be downright painful. You’ll lose sleep.  You’ll be hungry. You’ll say no to things you want to say yes to. You’ll be scared. You’ll take leaps of faith as a matter of course.

But it’ll all be worth it in the end.

I’ll see you after the month of mercy, brothers and sisters. Stay blessed.

Wassalam and Fee Amanillah,

The Happy Muslimah.

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