By Farhath Fayiz Saleem
Ramadan is the holiest month for Muslims. This year, Ramadan begins on 25th April depending on when the new moon is sighted. Ramadan is the ninth month in the Muslim lunar calendar. Every year, Muslims around the world fast during daylight hours – from dawn until dusk abstaining from drinking, eating, immoral acts and anger. They engage in good deeds such as prayers, reciting holy Qu’ran and charity activities. During the holy month, Muslims wake up early to eat a pre-dawn meal called ‘Suhoor’ and they break their fast with a meal referred to as ‘Iftar’. It is common for mosques to host iftar for large gathers especially for poor and needy. Mosques are open for five-time prayers during the daytime as well as for night prayers called ‘Taraweeh’ which is also held in mosques with a larger gather. This year is certainly the most challengeable and hardest year due to corona crisis which caused millions of deaths across the world. So far approximately 171,000 deaths has been reported globally due to COVID -19 and Sri Lanka has been able to manage with only seven corona deaths because of the tight safety measures taken by the Government to prevent the nation from this infectious virus.
Normally Muslims gather in mosques for prayers and other religious activities especially in the holy month of Ramadan. Muslims are willingly involved in more charity activities, especially in this holy month. Thus, prayers, reciting holy Qu’ran and charity activities are also encouraged during this month. But, this year COVID -19 pandemic has changed these religious process for Muslims because social or religious gatherings have been banned temporarily in order to prevent the spread of COVID -19 virus. The Government of Sri Lanka and community leaders and also many Islamic Institutions have strictly advised to stop social or religious gatherings as a preventive measure. As Muslims, it is our responsibility to cooperate with the Government to follow the rules and regulations and to take precautions to curb the spread of the virus by banning or limiting social and religious gathering in the mosques.
Several Islamic institutions and community leaders actively are involved in educating the Muslim community in this regard. Wakf Board of Sri Lanka – the monitoring body of the Muslim mosques of Sri Lanka and the Director of Department of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs have given guidelines to the management of mosques to follow the measures until further notice. They direct all the trustees and mosque managing committees in the country not to open up mosques for public gatherings and not to have any congregational prayers including five-time prayer, Friday (Jummah) prayer and Taraweeh prayer etcetera. And mosques have also advised not to have any other congregational activities such as ifthar programmes. Further, it says, not to prepare or distribute meals or porridge in the mosques premises and strictly advised not to act against Government laws and regulations given by health and defence authorities in relation to COVID – 19 pandemic.
In this holy month of Ramadan, it is a good opportunity to be involved more in charity activities to help our nation during this hard time. So far, several Islamic charity organisations have actively been involved helping other communities without any religious or racial barriers because everyone has difficulties to obtain their necessities under lockdown and tight restrictions due to the COVID -19 outbreak that has paralysed the entire world. The government has taken steps for lockdown/curfew safety protocols for the safety of the nation.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised using virtual alternatives, where possible, for social and religious gatherings. Many Islamic charity organisations and community leaders of the Muslim community in the country also urged to stop congregational prayers and to close the mosques temporarily cooperating with the government to prevent this infectious disease. They suggest alternatives to pray at home and make Dua (supplication) to Almighty Allah in prayers at home to seek protection for the whole nation and for the people who are victimised due to corona diseases globally.
Muslims believe that Almighty Allah (SWT) accepts whatever supplications (Dua) submitted to Almighty Allah will definitely be accepted during the holy month of Ramadan. It is the opportunity to pray for the nation and whole world seeking the help of Almighty for the protection from this infectious virus.
The Holy Qu’ran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in this holy month. The Holy Qu’ran teaches every good deed to whole humanity. It teaches us how to live with other communities in a society with peace and tranquillity, especially understanding diverse culture of different faiths giving respect to other religions. When living with peace and tranquillity it avoids personal hostility. In the month of Ramadan, it is the opportunity to “purify” our bodies as well as our souls by developing a greater sense of humility and spirituality. It teaches a greater sense of generosity and forgiveness. Fasting develops feelings of generosity and good-will towards others. Fasting also teaches self-control or restraint, good manners and good habits.
During the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the Arabian Peninsula was a region in which various faiths were present. There were Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Polytheists and others not affiliated with any religion. When one looks into the life of Prophet, there are many examples to portray the high level of tolerance shown to people of other faiths. When Prophet Muhammad ruled the state of Madinah, as a leader, social reformer and an administrator of the state, He made the constitution with the framework of political principles, procedures and power of government including equality - to treat the people of other faiths without any harm. All people, no matter what religion, race or class they come from are supposed to be treated equally – they have the same rights as majority Muslims in the state of Madinah. Prophet Muhammad said to his fellow Muslims, “the people come from different faiths or religion cannot be discriminated and disrespected for their beliefs. If a person claims to be Muslim, he is not allowed to insult or disrespect another religion”. People of other faiths were considered members and citizens of Madinah society regardless of religion, race or ancestry and they were protected from harm as much as Muslims. During the period of His ruling there were different groups of tribes in the state of Madinah. The prophet gathered these different tribes under one system of governance. Any attack on other religion or the tribe was considered an attack on the State. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) strictly warned against any maltreatment of people of other faiths saying, “Beware! whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will, I (Prophet Muhammad) will complain against the person on the day of Judgment”(Abu Dawud).
The Holy Qur’an also does not teach to force non-Muslims into Islam. It teaches love and compassion for every human being, no matter their religion or faiths. The Holy Qu’ran provides an environment where people can fully enjoy freedom of thought and freedom of religion and allows people to live by the faith and values they believe.
Holy Qu’ran is not only for the Muslims. It gives a message to the whole of mankind. It teaches good deeds to mankind. Islam teaches to treat neighbours whoever Muslim or non-Muslim the way they would like to be treated by others. Prophet Muhammad said, “He is not a believer whose stomach is filled while the neighbour to his side goes hungry”. And Prophet teaches to help the neighbours with charities. Prophet Muhammad said. “The Angel Gabriel was so adamant in reminding me to be charitable with my neighbours that I thought he might make him my heir” (Al-Bukhari).
The Holy Qu’ran teaches generosity. During the month of Ramadan, the Muslims generously donate for charitable causes. And they willingly help the needy people and neighbours whoever they are Muslims or non – Muslims. It is the time to strengthen the relationship with the neighbours of different faiths understanding each other.
We can learn a number of lessons from this pandemic experience. It teaches the whole nation about the food wastage and the wastage of resources. In this holy month we can channel those wastages towards needy people who are struggling for their necessities in day-to-day life. And also what we learn from the holy month of Ramadan, when we remain thirsty and with hunger in the month of Ramadan, we experience the affliction that the poor and needy people of the society experience the whole year. Hence, fasting is a way of bridging the gap between the different classes and groups in the society. And we will make this opportunity to help the families who suffer as the result of lockdown and COVID -19 victims. Ramadan Mubarak!
Original Headline: Ramadan – The Holy Month of Fasting
Source: The Daily News, IK