Ramadan holds special lessons for Nigeria

While Ramadan is usually a season when families and friends gather to celebrate mutual bonds, the times we live in compel a different approach. That explains why President Muhammadu Buhari will today join Muslims all over the world to mark the end of the holy month of self-purification and self-denial without any fanfare. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, it is our hope that charitable work will continue for those with means to empathise with the poor, the needy and the less privileged. As one of the five pillars of Islam, that was the real essence of Ramadan.

Even though the month-long fasting—a period of deep reflection on the inter-relationship between man and his neighbour on one hand, as well as man and his God on another—has now come and gone, its lessons must endure. And it is important that we see the effect in our country beyond seminal pronouncements that are not backed by concrete actions from those in positions of authority. At all levels, government officials must begin to see their assignment as a public trust while the period of self-emptying without which no spiritual being can have a truly rewarding relationship with their maker should not go to waste. The abstinence from all forms of worldly comforts and pleasures during Ramadan is to enhance spiritual growth and foster charity and brotherly love.

Clearly, there has never been a greater need for sharing with the less privileged and the needy of our society than today when millions of Nigerians can hardly make ends meet due to the harsh economic environment in the country. By allowing others to partake of our wealth or material possessions, we honour the One who gave us the wealth in the first place. And by paying attention to the plight of the vulnerable members of our society who are victims of violence and killings, we invariably place the welfare of our neighbours as important as ours. As President Muhammadu Buhari admonished in his message, the spirit of Ramadan, “which encouraged our citizens to turn towards one another in love and compassion” must continue.

Since the Ramadan fast was aimed at promoting both the spiritual and material well-being of man, it stands to reason that man is invariably better off impacting the lives of others than merely pleasing himself. When he can rein in the impulse for self-gratification and greedy accumulation of wealth and can empathise with those that are in distress, man is more liable to make his society a better place to live in for everyone. That for us is one of the most enduring lessons of Ramadan which we hope many would have imbibed. These are also lessons that must endure.

It is noteworthy that fasting as a spiritual exercise is advocated by all religions ostensibly with the notion that the man who can make sacrifices in the bid to tame his desires would be a better person both for himself and the larger society. Besides the abstention from food and drink, according to an Islamic scholar, fasting helps the faithful “from looking at the provocative, from hearing the mischievous, and from uttering the obscene…to avoid slander and from thinking about inflicting injury to others.”

All said, the nation’s leaders, political and otherwise, have much to take from the lessons of Ramadan. If only they can curtail their materialistic tendencies and pay more attention to the yearnings of the people, the country will certainly become a much happier place to live in. We urge our leaders to imbibe the lessons of Ramadan.

To our numerous Muslim readers, Eid Mubarak! May Allah reward your sacrifice.