The imperative of Ramadan in a time of COVID-19
Some persons will wonder why a Catholic Priest should write in positive regard of the celebration of Ramadan. The world has been challenged by religious fanaticism. Religious fanatics accept only the fundamentals of their religions. These fundamentals they have misconstrued, and misrepresented. They are filled with unrestrained and misdirected zeal. They can kill and engage in violence to keep their understandings of their religion “pure.” The world will be a better place, if there is total respect for the rights to religious freedom and conscience. Each of us should be open to the fact that there are values in other religions that we can learn from. If you don’t respect other people’s faiths, why do you want them to respect your own faith? For many of us, the faith we uphold is often a product of our background or place of origin. We were born into a place; we became adherents of the religion of that place, and became convinced of it. I agree with Malcolm Muggeridge who writes concerning Jesus that his coming into the world is the most stupendous event in human history. But he notes that perhaps had he been born in Mecca or Bangkok his position could have been different.
There is too much religious intolerance in our country. We should be persuaded of the catholic position that is open to appreciating the values of other religions. Pope Francis in his Angelus Message in 2013 rightly notes that what the world needs today is not a culture of confrontation or conflict, but encounter and dialogue that builds harmony and peace among people. In Nostra Aetate (Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions), the Catholic Church affirms regarding other religions that she “looks with sincere respect upon those ways of conduct and of life, those rules and teachings which, though differing in many particulars from what she holds and sets forth, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men” (no 2). Elsewhere in number 16 of Lumen Gentium, the church teaches that: “But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind.” In furtherance of the profound admiration offered in Nostra Aetate, she teaches: “The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting” (no 3).
Therefore, it is standing on solid ground that we wish all Muslims a holy/peaceful season of Ramadan. Aljazeera in “Ramadan 2020: Why is it so important for Muslims?” on 20th April 2020 rightly notes that: “Ramadan is the ninth month in the Muslim lunar calendar. Healthy adult Muslims fast in Ramadan from dawn until dusk. This includes abstaining from drinking, eating, immoral acts and anger. Other acts of worship such as prayer, reading the Quran and charity are also encouraged during the holy month. Muslims also believe the Quran was revealed in Ramadan.”
Muslims are our brothers and sisters. We should share in solidarity with them as they fast/pray. Fasting is a discipline that is observed in many other religions. Fasting in any religion should be linked with right living and humanitarian love. Ramadan calls for a closer walk with Allah, the most gracious and merciful. To fast and not display the graciousness and mercy of Allah is an aberration. It calls for living an authentic human life free from corruption, violence against others, religious discrimination, etc. As the giving of the Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad is celebrated, it behoves the people of the holy book to challenge all aberrations and distortions of the holy book by so-called Islamists, religious terrorists, and extremists. Muslims should retrieve afresh the authentic teachings of Islam. They should not allow religious extremists/ fanatics hijack the holy book from them.
This Ramadan is being celebrated as the world is passing through the COVID-19 scourge. All humanity should strive to galvanise resources to help conquer COVID-19. This Ramadan is an opportunity for Muslims all over the world to continue to use more than ever before their enormous wealth to aid humanity overcome this pandemic. Muslim scientists should not relent in their efforts to conquer this virus. In the place cited above, Aljazeera states further that: “it is common for mosques to host large iftars, especially for the poor and needy. Nightly prayers called Tarawih are also held in mosques after iftar. Different cultures have different traditions during Ramadan, whether it is a special food they must cook, or eating iftar with the extended family. Islamic tenets such as generosity inspired most of these traditions, including sharing food and inviting guests over for iftar.” There is an imperative to give help especially the poor/needy. The poor are suffering. Palliatives meant for the vulnerable are not getting to many of them. Muslims and all of us who share in solidarity with them can break the bottlenecks denying food and resources to the poor/ needy. Through this Ramadan may peace return to all nations; and may our rulers truly become servant-leaders. Amen.
Fr. Ikeke, an Associate Professor, teaches Philosophy at the Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria.
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