THE IDEAL OF RAMADAN
I daresay nothing in my opinion symbolises the speed at which time flies more than Ramadan. It seems to me like only yesterday we were celebrating the last Ramadan when the thirty days of fasting, reflection, feasting ...and prayer went by so swiftly. But here we are again at the commencement of this most beautiful period in the life of all Muslims. As we wake up today to the start of this blessed time of abstention, permit me to reiterate to every Muslim and those of other faiths who are our neighbours, brothers, sisters and countrymen what the ideal of Ramadan is and its significance in the lives of we who submit to it.
In this day and age of transgression, sacrilegious entertainment, profane pop culture, venal individualism and the attractiveness of non-conformity, it is easy for the ideal and message of Ramadan to get shrouded by the lurid articulation of an alternative value. This also happens during Christmas, Easter or Lent when Christians all over the world are expected to continue embracing the message of love, peace, patience and honour that Christianity represents.
While the ideal of Ramadan is one and the same for every Muslim and almost identical to the ideals of the fasting rituals of Christianity and Judaism, the meaning and lessons one derives from it is, in the main, unique to each individual. Apart from the fact that it is the most important month in the Islamic calendar, it is also a most remarkable bequest from the Almighty. A gift that signifies the dawn of the day in the landscape of Islam when the morning breaks, sun rises, cocks crow and God’s creatures emerge bright and refreshed.
Ramadan, together with every other form of fasting in other religions empowers us as human beings because it teaches us that life is about both the body and especially the soul. What establishes man’s worth lies within the soul, not the body. The fact that we deny our body food in the spirit of faith only means that we are enriching and fortifying our souls. A person can enrich their souls not only by being tolerant and determined in the face of struggles but by being resolute in steering clear of sin despite the enticements. Being able to withstand hunger and thirst during fasting and being able to keep the hands, ears, eyes and minds away from sin provides a training ground for the important quality of patience and perseverance that Ramadan also stands for. One can understand the importance of restating the message of Ramadan if one keeps in mind that the avaricious and epicurean ideals of the times we are living in are in direct conflict with the ideals of fasting in any faith.
Almost everything in this life and in this world navigates us towards the satisfaction of our bodies. Day in, day out we seek ways of fulfilling the unappeasable desires we feel, be it through the consumption of food or adorning ourselves with trinkets of beauty in a quest for perfection. Such worldly aspirations, generates limitless desires which subsequently lead to limitless conflicts. In a bid to meet up with those unbounded desires, all manners of intrigue are put into play. Such infinite aspirations create vast dissatisfactions because it is impossible for any living soul to completely fill the gap between their desires and achievements. In effect, the lack of fulfilment gives way to a plethora of pandemonium, unhappiness and repression. The gift that Ramadan and other forms of fasting gives us is that it allows us to let go of all those worldly pleasures that are so addictive and, in effect, this helps us to distinguish and focus on worldly responsibilities as opposed to the pleasures.
Fasting allows us to take a break from the material things we enjoy in life to reflect on what truly is important in our existence. By depriving ourselves in the name of our spiritual beliefs, we are voluntarily bidding farewell to the vain quest of happiness in all forms of corporeal hedonisms and reflecting on the direction of our lives and the hereafter.
I have come to learn and appreciate the beauty of what this holy month means to me as an individual. From the beginning to the end of Ramadan, I see it as a complete overhaul of my life; I feel inspired, encouraged and have faith that any situation can be resolved with the strength of the prayers offered during this period. That is a far cry from my perception as a very young girl when I used to think of Ramadan as a period of pure starvation and a small alteration in meal times. Now, apart from Ramadan symbolising spiritual empowerment to me, it is a time of enhanced charity and kindness. We are told that whosoever feeds people of lesser means or gives another person food to break his fast shall be blessed and rewarded by God. With the level of suffering, poverty and hunger in Nigeria and all over the world, this ideal of fasting to embrace and perform charity cannot be overemphasized.
Muslims all over the country should use this Ramadan period as a route to rediscover their inner beings while dedicating themselves and time to the Creator. Apart from reading the Holy Scriptures, voluntary worship, engaging in prayer and conversing to God, Muslims must remember that every action we take as representatives of the Deen reflects on the perception of Islam. With accounts of people in the country killing each other in the name of religion, personalities supporting inept political candidates on the basis of religion and much older men marrying 13 year old minor girls young enough to be their grand-daughters in the, so called, fulfilment of religion, it is a blessing that a period of reflection is upon us. This period of Ramadan, without doubt, is the perfect time for such Muslims to reflect and ask themselves whether their actions were truly done in the interest of Islam and what effect it is to have on the Deen. If they truly care about Islam and put the best interest of Islam above their personal whims, then they need to earnestly ask themselves that question.
In a sermon to prepare people mentally for the sacred month of Ramadan, The Rasul (PBUH) once said; “Oh people! A great month is coming to you. A blessed month. A month in which there is one night that is better than a thousand months. A month in which Allah has made it compulsory upon you to fast by day, and voluntary to pray by night. Whoever draws nearer to Allah by performing any of the voluntary good deeds in this month shall receive the same reward as is there for performing an obligatory deed at any other time. And whoever discharges an obligatory deed in this month shall receive the reward of performing seventy obligations at any other time. It is the month of patience and the reward for patience is Heaven. It is the month of kindness and charity. It is a month in which sustenance is increased...”
One hopes that throughout the month of Ramadan and long after its conclusion, people will do whatever they can to imbibe the essence of such a sermon and the spirit of the season so that their actions and ideals can be informed by the ideal of Ramadan. An ideal, that preaches peace, sharing, love, patience, respect and understanding towards us and our Christian and other faith based brothers and sisters. May all the religions in Nigeria live together in mutual harmony, understanding and appreciation.
Whether one is embarking on ‘itikaf’ or seclusion in a Mosque to devote their full month of Ramadan to remembering the Creator, devoting the last ten days of the fasting to worship or taking it within their stride to meet the basic obligation of fasting, I take this opportunity to wish everybody that is participating in the Ramadan a very blessed, fulfilling, and rewarding worship; Ramadan Kareem.
Written By Hannatu Musawa
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