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Clerics on why Nigeria is deprived of the gains of fasting

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• ‘The Central Lessons Of Fasting Are Lost, Fasting Simply Becomes A Ritual, Which Hasn’t Any Major Impact On Life Or Behaviour’
• ‘Until We Imbibe The Lessons Of Ramadan By Fasting Appropriately’ • ‘There Are Those Who Fast Without Upholding Ethics And Values Of Ramadan’
• ‘If Muslims Can Abstain From Eating, Drinking, Fornication, Stealing And Fighting Within A Month, They Can As Well Forget Them Forever’

Muslim faithful in Nigeria have joined their brethren globally to observe this year’s Ramadan fast, as usual. Generally, Nigerians are known to be very religious, as worship places litter everywhere. But it has been equally acknowledged that this religiosity does not reflect in our character and lifestyle as a people. As the month of Ramadan presents another opportunity for faithful to have a closer relationship with their creator and godly disposition towards their fellowmen, what more can be done to ensure that virtues of Ramadan begin to manifest in the lives of Muslims and by extension, Nigeria. This is, especially necessary in view of what is currently happening in the country. CHRIS IREKAMBA reports.

We Must Connect Outward Appearances With Behavioural Dispositions’
(Prof. Lai Olurode, Chairman, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Muslim Community, Akoka, Lagos)
FASTING remains one of the oldest practices of soliciting favours of the Almighty. According to Qur’an 2:183, one of the most popular recitations, fasting has been prescribed for generations before our own, indeed, to all believers of oneness and unity of God. The major lesson of fasting is abstinence, in the belief that one is a stage closer to God and in moments of deep reflections about the purpose of life. In that deprived station, an individual is able to appreciate those whose daily routine is the denial of food and drinks.

Unfortunately, however, and sadly though, disciplined behaviour that one expects of people who are denied the normal routine of life is often missing among fasting Nigerians. Fasting is seen essentially as a ritual, which is disconnected from the lessons of life. The central lessons of fasting are lost. Fasting simply becomes a ritual, which hasn’t any major impact on life or behaviour. Most people fast because it is fashionable to do so. It is similar to those who assume that they seek the pleasure of Allah only by dedicating mosques to Him. What is common in our part of the world is what Malinowski referred to as religious expression- mere showoff – rather than religious experience, which associates religious convictions to behavioural modifications. Generally, Nigerians subscribe to ‘any way is a way, whether legitimate or not, the end is what matters.’

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We should penetrate the veneer of appearances and search for substance. We must connect outward appearances with behavioural dispositions. Society must stop showering praises on big men in the religious community with poor connectivity to enviable examples. At this point in our lives, sweet talks alone with little or no actions won’t just promote practical ethics as written by Peter Singer. There’s poverty of practical ethics in our country. There’s much deficit and paucity of good examples in our country. Our public and private lives are too disjointed, so, is between what we say and act out. There is simply too much of religious exhibition and less of religious convictions. 

‘Aside Abstaining From Eating And Drinking, We’re Also Expected To Avoid All Foul Acts’
(Imam Abdul-Azeez Onike, Chief Missioner, Nasru-Lahi-l-Fatih Society (NASFAT), World Headquarters)
THE question as to why fasting has not reflected in our character and conduct as a people is similar to: Why religion, when things are not done properly by those who claim to be religious? Or, coined differently, why corruption in the land in spite of claims of being a religious people or nation?

Metaphorically speaking, if a vehicle is well built, with all the technical specifications met, but it is driven by a bad driver who crashes it in an accident, who is to be blamed?
Definitely, our Creator, Who knows us more than we know ourselves (Would He not know, He Who has created, when He is All-Subtle, All-Aware? Qur’an 67:14) has given us the reason and the impacts of fasting on us, as enshrined in Qur’an chapter 2 verse183, “Believers! Fasting is enjoined upon you, as it was enjoined upon those before you, that you become God-fearing.” Therefore, if we are not getting the impact and fasting is not reflecting in our character and conduct, certainly, it is because we are not doing it properly, and we are not fasting in the prescribed way.

Our Noble Prophet Muhammad (saw) says, “If one does not abandon falsehood and other actions like it, God has no need that one should abandon one’s food and drink (Sahih Bukhari).

Undoubtedly, “Fasting as an institution for moral elevation can be judged from the fact that Allah does not impose check only upon eating, drinking and sexual intercourse from dawn to sunset, but also exhorts His servants to refrain from other foul acts, for example, backbiting, indulging in foul speech and telling lies, among others (iium.edu.my)

Until we imbibe the lessons of Ramadan by fasting appropriately and understand that fasting goes beyond abstinence from eating or drinking to include abstention from all foul acts so we can become God-fearing, a non-conformist and disobedient patient would continue to blame the highly competent medical doctor who has given him appropriate prescriptions.

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‘To Make Fasting Impactful, Individuals Must Make Sincere Renewal Of Their Intention And Purpose’
(Dr. Abdullahi Shuaib, Co-Chairman, NIREC Lagos State Chapter)

FIRST and foremost, all praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds. May His peace and blessings be upon Prophet Muhammad and all believers and followers of his teachings!

I want to recast the question as follows: “To what extent has fasting reflected in our character and conduct as a people? And how can these religious obligations impact positively on our private and public life? Ramadan fasting is one of the pillars of Islam and it is one of the most visible pillars because of its spiritual and socio-economic activities.

As with other pillars of Islam, the overall goal of Ramadan Fast is to rejuvenate the spiritual rebirth of the faithful ones through a spiritual retreat and reconnection of the soul and heart of the believers with their Creator – Allah. It is one of the unique spiritual exercises whose secret is between the fasting Muslim and his Creator. Hence, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him said: “Allah revealed to him that “Fasting is for me and I shall reward the fasting person for his fast.” The implication of this is that anyone who claims to be fasting, but his intention of fasting is not dedicated solely for the sake of Allah, his fasting is of no substance because Allah is not in need of his abstinence from eating and drinking during the day of Ramadan. This is so, because the goal of fasting is Taqwa, which can be translated to mean the fear of Allah or God’s consciousness or self-restraint Q2: 183.

There is no denying the fact that the level of atrocities, such as back-biting, quarrelling, unnecessary arguments, fighting, stealing and communal clashes, among others, are generally at a lower ebb during Ramadan because of the ambience of the season, its blessings and observance of its virtues.

Having said that, there are four categories of those who observe Ramadan fasting and from their nuances and character, one can easily assess the extent of the effect of the spiritual rebirth in their life.

The first category includes those who observe the fasting with their soul, mind and heart simultaneously. This set of people belongs to the class of Muttaqun (God-fearing ones).

The second category consists the specially breed devotees of Allah who observe the fasting with their five faculties. The third people are those who abstain from only eating and drinking in the daytime throughout the month of Ramadan, but their faculties are not totally insulated from indulging in frivolous activities.

The fourth category comprises people known as ‘Ramadaniyyun.’ These are people who fast only in the month of Ramadan without upholding the ethics and values of Ramadan. Their case is like those who pray five times daily but the prayers do not prevent them from committing evils and shameful deeds. Rather, the essence of prayers they perform is to prevent them from shameful acts and detestable activities Q29: 45.

One of the ways to make Ramadan fasting impactful in both private and public life is for individuals to make sincere renewal of their intention and purpose of observing the fasting. Furthermore, they should set for themselves achievable milestones in terms of spiritual devotion, character building, self-reformation and revival of family and community values, such that at the end of the fasting exercise, individuals should assess themselves dispassionately vis-a-vis their set goals.

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‘It’s Not About Going To Church, Mosque On Daily Basis’
(Ustaz Taofeek Yusuf Eniafe, Chief Imam of Anu Oluwapo, Orile, Oshodi, Lagos)

A YORUBA proverbs says, “You can force a horse to the river, but you cannot force it to drink water.” This is exactly what is happening today; it is not because the preachers are not doing their work. For instance, Muslims observe the five times daily prayer, just as Christians do their fellowship on daily basis. But we intend to forget that God is the only One that controls our lives. Majority of us believe in God, but we did not handover our lives completely to Him. We still believe that we can do things on ourselves. God Himself said in the Holy Qur’an that whatever you want or wish cannot be done without Allah’s consent. The area where I am not happy some preachers are missing the point, is when they begin to preach prosperity message and telling people if they come to our church or mosque, they will prosper, they sell their goods and have their visa. They don’t tell them that they should have faith in God, that He is the One that can make things happen.

The security situation in the country is the way it is because we fail to recognise God’s presence and His ability to do things. When a man has it in his mind that he must be rich by all means and to make it happen, he joins a group and begins to do some silly things to actualise his dream, then there is a serious problem. Men of God have a lot in their hands to do and while some are doing what they’re supposed to do, others are not, which is why the country is the way it is now. The majority of people goes to church or mosque, but are not obedient to God’s Word and instructions. They would hear the sermon, but they have different motives. They read the Qur’an but out in the world, they’re enmeshed in evil. Who do you blame? But that is the scenario and it’s unfortunate. So, not many people fear God as we speak right now, which is why we have problem of insecurity everywhere.

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For example, the American motto is: ‘In God we trust.’ But here, we believe there is no God there because of the way they talk, dress and do things. To be sincere with you, however, they believe in that God more than Africans. They love one another and can sacrifice their lives for others, but it is not so here. One thing I have discovered in this country is, if Mr. A is doing well in his business that is what everybody will copy or do. Kidnapping started in a very small way in this country, but today, the thing has become a big business because money for ransom is now in millions and for that reason everybody is into kidnapping, even those in uniform are also involved. They believe it is another lucrative business in Nigeria. Even servants now plan for their masters to be kidnapped, because they want to collect ransom.

Again, the political elite or those in power have failed in their responsibility. If you can eat three square meals a day, remember those who cannot afford three meals a day. Let us remember the less privilege in the society. You remember what happened when government said they were distributing palliatives? How many people got that palliative? But they locked those things up in warehouses and they were rotting away until EndSARS protesters discovered them. Who on earth would have known the secrets of governments in every state, if not for those youths? But in America, every citizen’s account was taken and government deposited money into individual’s account, while here, our government was hoarding palliatives belonging to masses. We believe we are worshipping God here, but it is not about going to church and mosque on daily basis. You can enter paradise by serving one another. These are some of the issues fuelling insecurity, kidnapping, banditry and Boko Haram, among others.

A Nigerian singer once sang that, “A hungry man is an angry man.” You and I know that when somebody is hungry he can do anything. The gap between the rich and poor is just too much. My advice to Muslims is: if they can abstain from eating, drinking, fornication, stealing and fighting within a month, they can as well forget them forever. If you know God is with you in the month of Ramadan and has answered your prayers within that month, you should not go back to those things you left behind.

Forget about your bad attitude and seek the face of Allah for the rest of your life. If you can abide with Allah during 30 days of Ramadan, you can abide with Allah all through your life and you will see the wonders of Allah in your life. That is the only way for us to be closer to Allah, our Maker.

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