Spiritual value of Ramadan, Lent coincidence are enormous – Islamic clerics
Even though this is not the first time that Muslim and Christian faithful are fasting at the same time, the coincidence of this year’s Lent and Ramadan fast, Muslim clerics say holds some religious imperatives, just as it is laced with enormous spiritual value. CHRIS IREKAMBA reports.
‘Fasting At The Same Time An Act Of God’
(Dr. Ismail A. Musa, Chief Imam, UNILAG Muslim Community)
ALL over the world, Muslims and Christians are in a rare period of observing fasting simultaneously for about two weeks. The coincidence of the period of fasting must be recognised as an act of God. By divine design, this type of phenomenon may not be repeated until the next 33 to 34 lunar year. The lunar year is 11 to 12 days shorter than the solar year.
Fasting is one of the several-shared identities of the world in two major religions even though, there are minor differences that adherents of both religions have to observe.
In Islam, the month of Ramadan is spent in utmost devotion, such as spending a considerable period of the night in prayers (tarawih), celebrating the praises of Allah (Adhkar) and contemplative recital of the Quran (Tilawah). Muslims show more kindness to the poor and needy during this month than any other period. The fact that the Prophet (Peace Be Unto Him) informed us that the devil was chained within the month underscores the unimaginable opportunities of unhindered connection with the Creator and benefiting from His inexhaustible blessings. The practice of presenting expositions on the valuable messages of the Quran called Tafsir is a common practice in mosques throughout Nigeria and many parts of the Muslim world. The various sermons, admonitions and exhortations on the mass media are opportunities for moral regeneration if properly focused on our social ills including, the menace of banditry, kidnapping, cultism and others.
A major shared value between Muslims and Christians is supplicating to God on a regular basis either singly or jointly. Adherents of the two religions value fasting and prayers as forms of worship and as avenues to seek divine interventions in global and local challenges. Muslims who are currently observing Ramadan should not limit their supplications to their individual needs but should seek divine interventions for the many societal ills that are plaguing the country and the world at large. The Night of Majesty (Lailatul-Qadr), which the Qur’an (97:3) describes as being better than a thousand months should, in part, be spent in asking God to end the hardship in Nigeria and other countries across the globe.
Doing this means that we affirm that God has a fundamental role in human affairs. The use of an exclusive secular approach to tackle human problems tantamount to assigning a second fiddle role to God. God is much more knowledgeable in the affairs of man than the collective wisdom of the entire humanity. We should tap from the spiritual resources freely accessible to all and sundry. We should all be involved in seeking spiritual interventions to solve our problems rather than relying on the imperfections of the humanintellect.
‘Coincidence Has Enormous Spiritual Value’
Nasir Awhelebe Uhor, Vice President General, Rivers State Council for Islamic Affairs & Zonal Chairman, Association of South-South Muslim Ummah)
THE coincidence of the Ramadan and the Lenten season has enormous spiritual value if only we can muster the will to exploit it for our collective redemption and salvation as a people.
Just consider this: “O you who to have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous,” Qur’an 2:183.
And this: “Yet even now”, declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping and with mourning,” Joel 2:12.
Even this: “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the River Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him, a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way since we had told the King: “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek Him,” so we fasted and implored our God for this, and He listened to our entreaty,” Ezra 8:21-23.
And finally this: “Indeed we have revealed it (Qur’an) in the Night of Power (in the month of Ramadan) … The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. Therein descends the Angels and the Spirit (Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) by Allah’s permission, on every errand: (they say) “Peace!” (Continuously) till the rise of morning! Qur’an 97:1-5 (all bolds mine).
Meaning that we are in a special period when Muslims and Christians the world over, with all their hearts through fasting, are or should be deeply engaged in serious and sustained efforts towards becoming righteous and returning to Allah in remorse. The affairs of the country are and have been in the grip of Christians and Muslims since it came into being in 1914. With human and natural resources second to none in Africa, how come we have become not only so poor but also plagued with insecurity on a scale never witnessed before, not even during the Civil War! How come that we are neither safe on the road, rail or in the air?
The spiritual message of this joint fasting season is clear: in addition to fasting at the same time, Muslims and Christians must also work together sincerely with all their hearts to salvage the country, if they are to attract Allah’s listening ear and be granted peace and security. And there is no better time to start than this season, what with shaytan and his demons being locked up in hell, and Allah’s angels swarming the earth throughout the night screaming “Peace!” and urging mankind to pray for mercy and strive for their almost to achieve righteousness. Qur’an 2:183
Now what, for instance, if all Nigerians in positions of authority return to Allah with all their hearts, head on chest and fasting, and praying with sincere remorse? There is no way Allah will not listen to their entreaties and grant the country peace and security in this special season.
But, the problem is whether those in authority, who are either Muslims or Christians, will humble themselves before Allah (Ezra 8:21-23) by living righteously, or discharging their duties righteously. Will they uphold justice and equity in their dealings with the people? Will they harness and equitably deploy the huge resources of the country towards alleviating the excessive yet avoidable hardship or suffering of the people?
‘Observing This Significant Act Of Devotion Together Brings Us Closer To Almighty Allah’
(Imam (Dr.) Abdullahi Shuaib, Co-chairman, Nigerian Inter-religious Council (NIREC), Lagos State Chapter)
FASTING, especially in the month of Ramadan is one of the pillars of Islam, which is compulsory for all adult Muslims. As a means of attaining spiritual rebirth and character building, fasting is not peculiar to adherents of Islam or Christianity. However, from the prism of Islam, fasting is ordained on all believers as it was done to those before them (Q2:183) in order to attain God-consciousness.
Over the years, the Lenten season and Ramadan fasting have occurred concurrently. Amazingly, the occasion has seen adherents of the two major world religions observing this significant act of devotion to get much closer to the Almighty Allah. So, one may be tempted to ask whether fasting at the same time by both Muslims and Christians is by happenstance or divine intervention? Whichever way we look at it, it affords us a great opportunity from both sides of the divide to optimise our spiritual journey towards attaining the greater good for all and sundry.
The people at the helms of affairs comprising both Muslims and Christians are expected to bring on board their spiritual virtues and moral compass to address human and governance challenges, one of which is the perennial insecurity in the country.
Therefore, as we fast, we are expected to embark on a spiritual rebirth to reconnect our hearts to our creator, by indulging in the recitation of the holy divine book, doing pragmatic sober reflection on the verses read, being altruistic and performing regular vigils to beseech the Almighty Allah for His mercy to soften the hearts of those in the leadership and the led, and also to purify our hearts from ignorance, greed, self-centeredness, enmity, bitterness, rancour, hatred and wickedness, among others.
Furthermore, as faithful, we should never lose hope of the mercy of Almighty Allah, notwithstanding the wrongdoings perpetuated by a few mischief-makers. Rather, we should avail ourselves of this fasting season to forgive ourselves and seek Allah’s forgiveness (Q39:53), renew our intentions to make our fasting an impactful character-building mechanism that would shape our spiritual, socio-economic and political relationships so that justice, compassion to one another, empathy with the less-privileged, harmony and peace will become the order of the day in our country.
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