The Ramadan season
The Muslims fasting period of Ramadan is here again, and will remain so for the next 29 or 30 days. For Muslims, this is yet another opportunity for spiritual and physiological rejuvenation because Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic Lunar calendar, is the holiest of all months when the adherents abstain from food, drink and all worldly pleasures, all aimed at forging closer ties with Almighty Allah who, it is written, is most forgiving, most merciful and most bountiful through the Ramadan season; certainly more than He is in other months.
The Muslim doctrine teaches that if Allah does not forgive one’s sins in the Ramadan, it is most difficult to imagine when such sins could be forgiven. Is it surprising therefore that fasting during the Ramadan is, unlike fasting in other months, mandatory on all Muslims?
Ramadan fasting is indeed one of the five pillars of Islam, the rest being belief in Allah as the creator of heaven and earth, as well as the only being worthy of worship; observing the Salat five times daily, giving alms to the poor and through the Zakat; and, when possible, going for the Holy Pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. It is also not surprising that despite the personal sacrifice of abstinence and conscious denial of oneself of worldly pleasures, Muslims nevertheless look forward to the Ramadan; and indeed, non-Muslims, particularly those who have Muslims as family members or friends, do appreciate the special disposition of the period.
One of the many essences of Ramadan is for the rich and wealthy to feel the pangs and pain of the poor. Ramadan brings everybody – the rich and the poor alike – to the same level. The lesson is that when the wealthy appreciate the condition of the poor and their predicament, then they (the wealthy) are in a better position to help them (the poor) out of that unpleasant condition.
While all these bounties of Ramadan offer commensurate excitement to Muslims, Nigerians cannot be oblivious of the critical times that the country Nigeria is going through. For about 15 immediate past years, Nigerians have lamented the sorry state of the country, or rather what is left of it, following assault on all fronts by plundering politicians and political office holders, terrorists who want to take over the country irrespective of the huge cost and damages; bandits who take advantage of absence of law enforcement to destroy communities, seize women and children into slavery and forced marriages; kidnappers who kill and take fellow human beings hostage purely for money; or ritualists who have no qualms slicing fellow citizens to harvest their organs. The list is endless.
And lately, Nigerians have been rendered hapless by government policies supposedly meant for good purposes but implemented so lousily as to visit untold hardship, even death, on Nigerians. Nigerians still reel from that unfortunate and needless tragedy of Naira redesign and cashless economy, when from all indications, the country’s monetary infrastructure as well as the culture and mentality of the average Nigerians are not ready for the policy. And while that is going on, politicians bared their fangs again in what was expected to be peaceful elections, the conduct of which had been in the drawing board for years, gulping over N350 billion of public funds, yet so unsatisfactory and marred in violent disruption, forced rigging and intimidation of voters among others.
The country might as well not believe in God for all that is happening. Yet, the purveyors of these episodes profess so much religion as Muslims or Christians. Muslims in Ramadan fasting should know that the acts of brandishing hate, violence, treachery, killing, name-calling, persecution and nursing a do-or-die, or winner-takes-all attitude are completely against the Islamic faith, and totally out of tune with the spirit of Ramadan. This is therefore a very critical time for them to reconcile to godliness, using the opportunity offered by Ramadan. If all seek the blessings and forgiveness of sins from God, it is only fit and proper that they seek harmonious and peaceful relationship with their fellow Nigerians.
In seeking spiritual rejuvenation at this time, Muslims should imbibe the spirit of give and take, knowing that the strength of Nigeria lies in her diversity of tribes, people and even religion. No one should seek to lord it over another on any of these grounds; and no one should, without good reason, be unduly suspicious of another from a different ethnic group or religion. In the past, the country has had rulers whose tenure had been highly productive to all faiths and all groups. This is still possible, and indeed, that is the lesson of Ramadan.
It is important also in this period for Muslims to observe strictly the injunctions of Islam as enshrined in other pillars, particularly observing the Salat regularly and at the stipulated time. They are reminded that fasting without observing the five daily prayers is practically a nullity. They must also intensify good deeds, including helping the poor and the needy through various means such as giving them money, food items and in any other appropriate ways. The Zakat remains compulsory for those with reasonable wealth; it is like tax from excess wealth, given to those in need.
To get the most benefits of the Ramadan fasting, Muslims should eat moderately during the early breakfast, just as they should equally be moderate in breaking their fast. It has been established by facts and science that moderate intake of food and drinks, as necessitated during Ramadan, is one of the best ways to stay healthy. It has been professed by scholars that fasting develops in the Muslim “the ideals of courage, fortitude and a fighting spirit to surmount the heavy odds in life with a cool and tranquil mind.”
Muslims, particularly the leaders in the country, ought to be seen to apply this Ramadan spirit to address the Nigerian project. President Muhammadu Buhari has virtually done his bit as president for almost eight years. The president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, when sworn in, has a herculean task to piece Nigeria together. The country has been highly fragmented and battered by bad politics and shoddy economy over the past few years. But it is not late to recover the country for Nigerians, including those who have sought or are seeking refuge abroad. It only takes an honest spirit as provided by the Ramadan to accomplish that task.
The Guardian wishes all Muslims a fulfilling Ramadan experience.