Restraint, perseverance and kindness should be practiced at all times
While we congratulate Nigerian Muslims on this holy season of Ramadan which commenced last Thursday, we feel obliged to highlight some evergreen lessons of this great religious observance. “Ramadan is not only about abstention from eating and drinking, but it is a reminder to refrain from all kinds of evil and transgressions that harm humanity,” President Muhammadu Buhari reminded adherents of Islam in his message last weekend. “Let us use this opportunity to put the best teachings of Islam into practice, such as kindness and the love of humanity.”
We share the sentiment expressed by the president. The essence of Ramadan is to expose the faithful to their spiritual roots while teaching them that true humanity does not equate to mere material possessions, passions, or physical cravings. This, we believe, is the real meaning of sharing with, and caring for, the needy and the less privileged, and sets Ramadan apart from other religious festivities. If this spiritual core of man is recognised, it could lead to a positive change in our perspective on life: there would be no room for senseless materialism, greed, and primitive accumulation of wealth. Rather, there would be greater concern for the poor.
This year’s Ramadan is coming at a very trying period for our country. On the political front, the nation is increasingly being threatened by the manipulation of artificial differences after a general election that has left many feeling aggrieved. One of the great teachings in Islam is forbearance and it is a virtue that is very much needed at a time like this in the life of our nation. One of the foremost Islamic scholars, Imām al-Ghazālī defined Allah’s Name al-Ḥalīm as the One “who observes the disobedience of the rebellious and notices the opposition to the command, yet anger does not incite Him nor wrath seize Him, nor do haste and recklessness move Him to rush to take revenge, although He is utterly capable of doing that.” There is so much that Nigerians can learn from that.
Ramadan is also about taking care of the less privileged of our society, especially after the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) Naira redesign policy fiasco that has further pauperised millions of our compatriots. The message of Ramadan is simple to discern: When human beings can rein in their impulse for self-gratification and greedy accumulation of wealth, individuals are more likely to make their society a better place to live in, not only for themselves but also for their neighbours.
Ramadan fasting is traditionally a season of self-exertion and spiritual reward through physical deprivation, religious communion, and charitable work. It is a joyful season when families and friends get together to celebrate life and mutual bonds of affection, especially when they wake up early to eat their pre-dawn meal called Suhoor, and when they break their fast with a meal referred to as Iftar. Ramadan fast is also a leveller, as both the rich and poor are exposed to hunger and thirst at the same time without any exception. Thus, after such self-denial, expectations are that the wealthy should become more sympathetic to the plight of millions of their less fortunate compatriots.
For Muslims, Ramadan is also a season of intense prayer, supplication to God and seeking His blessings and protection for family, friends, country, and humanity. The faithful are expected to shun all vices during the holy month and to instead emphasise good deeds, community service and brotherly affection for all mankind. The lessons of Ramadan should also be carried beyond the season because goodness and prayer are for all times, not just for one month in a year.
Ramadan Kareem to all our Muslim brothers and sisters.