Today is the first of Ramadan, the month for spiritual reawakening and reaffirmation of faith. It is the month in which Allah “sent down the Criterion to His servant, that it may be an admonition to all worlds”. Allah said, “When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them); I respond to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me; let them also, with a will, listen to My call, and believe in Me; that they may walk in the right way.”
I hope and pray that this Ramadan will be a time when He responds to our prayers and we listen, with a will, to His call.
“Oh ye who believe, fasting is prescribed to you just as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint. (Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (with hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will, it is better for him and it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.
“Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an as a guide to mankind, also clear (signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting. But if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful.”
These Qur’anic verses (Surah Al-Baqarah: 183-185) refer to the importance of Ramadan and emphasize the spiritual aspects of fasting — a month devoted to worship, but not one in which the believer renounces the world or runs away from his responsibilities. He abstains from food and drink for a limited period. The stress is on self-discipline. Fasting is not meant to punish the body, but to strengthen the mind, directing it to higher things.
Scientists agree that machines require a rest period due to “metal fatigue”. Almighty Allah created us and knows that we are weak in body and spirit; we are in need of occasions to boost and revitalize our weak Iman (faith) so that we may adhere to the commands of Allah in the way shown to us by our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
During Ramadan, mosques are full of worshippers, and acts of charity increase, ties of brotherhood strengthen, anger and temper are controlled and an atmosphere of peace prevails. According to psychologists, these are several of the beneficial aspects of conscientious fasting.
We should also resolve to be steadfast in the good habits acquired during the holy month of fasting. Let us all once again pledge ourselves to follow the example of the Holy Prophet who was the most active during the month of fasting.
One is saddened to see today when many people view the month of Ramadan as a time for sleep, laziness and, therefore, of decreased productivity.
I think it is high time that the media, parents, the family and sociologists emphasized that Ramadan is a month of worship and active work and that by adjusting our lifestyles in the proper way we can do both and also be more productive. The turning away from Islamic precepts and teachings has ushered in a host of problems. And turning night into day defeats the very purpose of the fast.
Indeed, the month of Ramadan should be used to reflect and to contemplate in order to determine whether we Muslims are really on the true path. An honest answer will clearly reveal how far we are from the teachings of Islam. Muslims should be bold enough to admit that many of their problems are created by themselves. To admit this is the first step toward solving the numerous problems facing the Muslim Ummah. We, as Muslims, are obliged to follow the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). I believe that the only solution to our present difficulties is to read, understand and follow the teachings of the Qur’an in its proper perspective.
If we do that, we will know that those of us who see dark conspiracies behind our ills are way off the mark. The Qur’an says: “Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves.” The conspiracy that is destroying us is not hatched by others, but by ourselves; it is a conspiracy of inaction.
So let us put an end to this habit of blaming others for our own shortcomings and inertia. Our enemies, real and imagined, can harm us only to the extent we remain lacking in initiative and outmoded in our thinking and way of doing things. What is needed is some soul-searching and a readiness to think and act differently. And let us also remember, on this day and in all the days ahead that our faith demands that our concerns go beyond our own selves and families to our brethren in faith and brothers in humanity. An increasing number of people are falling victims to wars, hunger, incurable diseases, internal strife, and genocide and human rights abuses.
Iraq is living through a terrible tragedy. Freed from the grip of a tyrant, it has ended up in the embrace of anarchy where no life is safe, no home is safe and no street is safe. The “liberators” and the “defenders” are locked in a macabre contest, neither willing to accept the humiliation of causing less bloodshed than the other. Both are weeping for the people of Iraq and swearing by their freedoms, while sending their killing machines — one on fighter bombers and the other on suicide bombers, to explode Iraqis into atoms.
Palestinians are still denied the minimum decency and dignity due to human beings. UN agencies, human rights organizations, the European Union and decent men and women everywhere have condemned Israel’s carnage in Palestine in recent years from Jenin to Rafah as war crimes. The Gaza incursion alone, which began Sept. 28, has cost as of Wednesday, 112 Palestinian lives, most of them civilians, including a number of children. As in all its previous operations, Israel has made sure, with massive demolition of houses, razing of farmlands and destruction of olive groves, that the living have nothing to live for. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, since the intifada began four years ago, Israeli troops have demolished 2,751 homes and have uprooted or burned 382,695 olive trees. Palestinian cities have become separated from one another by 659 checkpoints, roadblocks and trenches. Then, there is the wall Israel is constructing to “keep it secure” — but not along the border but mostly through the West Bank, adding vast areas of Palestinian land to Israel.
The carnage in Chechnya continues. According to figures supported by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, ten years ago, Chechnya had a population of two million. Today it is 800,000. At least 200,000 civilians, including 35,000 children, have been killed by Russian soldiers. Another 40,000 children have been seriously injured, 32,000 have lost at last one parent and 6,500 both parents.
Our own country, blessed as the place to which, in a month of Ramadan, “was sent down the Qur’an as a guide to mankind, also clear (signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong)” has seen innocent blood shed by those who claim to act in the name of Islam. By their acts, they have shamed us and its central message of peace and mercy brought by the Prophet, of whom Allah said, “We sent thee not, but as a Mercy to all creatures.”
Our mission in Ramadan and all the other months in all years is to take upon themselves that message of “mercy to all creatures.”
Our heart goes out to all those who suffer on account of their faith, occupation or simply because they find themselves on the wrong side of a border or wrongly accused of a crime they learned about only after the news was flashed on TV screens and newspaper pages. The victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and in the terrorist bombings from Indonesia to Pakistan to Egypt also deserve our sympathy, as do those innocent people who died in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Let us once again pray that in this Ramadan a sincere effort will be made by all Muslims to come closer together and closer to God through fasting, prayers, zakah and charity. And, through hard work, let us make this a better world for our children and us. And while doing our duty by our fellow men, our families, children and community, let us pray, as Abraham and Ismail did, while raising the foundation of the House (Holy Kaaba): “Our Lord, accept from us, for Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing; Our Lord, make us Muslims, bowing to Thy Will.”