25 August 2009

Nigeria: Ramadan Kareem

Abuja — Moslems all over the world last weekend began the yearly ritual of fasting. It followed the sighting of the moon in various parts of the country. Fasting during this sacred month, which usually begins with the sighting of the crescent of Ramadan moon, similarly ends with the sighting of the crescent of the succeeding month, Shawwal. One important lesson from the manner that Muslims in Nigeria commenced this year's Ramadan is that the acquiescence to the guidance of religious leaders and scholars in such matters, and by whose announcement they begin the fast, makes the Ummah more united, and therefore stronger.

Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan are required to abstain from food from dawn to sun set, and remain devoted to their religious duties. The observance of this religious obligation in the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar is one of the five fundamental pillars of Islam. Ramadan fast in Islam entails abstinence from eating, drinking, smoking and conjugal relationships between dawn and sunset for the entire period of the month of Ramadan. The injunction for this religious obligation is in Qur'an 2:183 wherein God, the Exalted, said, "o ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that ye may (learn) self-restraint".

Apart from physical abstinence from food in addition to other restrictions placed upon the individual during the daytime of Ramadan, Muslims are equally enjoined to use the period to exhibit the virtues of tolerance, hospitality, charity and kindness, especially to the indigent members of the society. Muslims, therefore, are exhorted to give alms, feed the poor and invite others including neighbours who might be non-Muslims, to break the Ramadan fast with them. This single act of benevolence in Ramadan has the efficacy to foster better religious understanding, harmony and communal peace, which are the ingredients of social cohesion that societies like Nigeria need today. Ramadan fast also reinforces in the Muslim the spirit of social belonging, of unity and brotherhood, and of equality before God and His law.

Ramadan fast imbues adherents with patience and perseverance. When one fasts, one feels the pains of some physical deprivation but endures patiently. This deprivation which may though be temporary, yet, makes one realize the severe effect of such pains suffered by many others, who perhaps live in penury with limited access to the basic necessities of life. The essence of this month therefore requires Muslims to exercise moderation in their eating and other habits. They are encouraged not to be extravagant as to eat beyond a reasonably acceptable limit such that it becomes impossible to wake up and spend the night worshipping God and seeking His guidance. As a special period for seeking God's forgiveness and mercy as well as for the purification of the mind, soul and character, we call on Muslims (as leaders and followers) to seize the God-given golden opportunity availed by this blessed month to eschew all vices and corrupt tendencies, which have bedevilled this country and are consequently hindering her desire to become a truly developed and self-reliant nation.

Periods like the holy month of Ramadan serve to remind us how important the virtues of restraint, uprightness and forbearance are. We urge Muslims to strictly observe the spiritual demands of the Ramadan in order to benefit from the gains, which are aimed at imbuing man with wholesomeness and Godliness and by extension societal peace and advancement. Ramadan calls for self sacrifice and the abandonment of greed and avarice. Dealers in essential commodities should therefore not take any undue advantages of the period to make usurious gains by increasing the prices of foodstuff which already are on the high side. The practice of sudden increase in prices of commodities is against the spirit of the holy month, as it is capable of creating hardship for the Muslim ummah and citizens generally. In the spirit of Ramadan, government should be able to ensure that food is available and affordable. Daily Trust wishes all Muslims a peaceful Ramadan.

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