The Muslim feast of Ramadan begins today. The Holy month of Ramadan, which is being marked all over the Muslim world is believed to have been sent down as the final divine message for mankind. Adult and healthy Muslims are expected to abstain from all food, drink, sex or smoke between dawn and dusk each day till the sighting of the crescent moon of Shawwal in 29 or 30 days’ time. The fast is the fifth pillar of Islam and presents great opportunity for believers to come closer to the Almighty Allah.
The main purpose of the Ramadan fast is to teach Muslims self-control and perseverance. Fasting is described in the Holy Qur’an as an act that helps one to become a better Muslim; “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn piety and righteousness.”(Quran 2: 183)
Ramadan, the 9th month of the Islamic calendar is considered one of the most blessed, if not the holiest month in Islam. The month of Ramadan culminates in the festive occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr as Muslims thank Allah; celebrating the festival with religious fervor. This month is full of contemplation and celebration as Muslims immerse themselves in reading the Holy Qur’an and spending maximum time in prayers and meditation.
Muslims are not only supposed to refrain from eating and drinking during the stipulated timing but they are also required to curb all negative emotions like acrimony, anger, covetousness, envy, gluttony and lust. Dishonesty and dubiousness also negate the essence of fasting. Instead, increased charity and goodwill are promoted since they attract rewards in manifolds and improve the condition of the weak and vulnerable in the society.
The spirit of sacrifice that is symbolized by deliberately depriving the body of its needs engenders humility, mercy and kindness in the hearts and minds of Muslims. These three great qualities are needed in enormous quantities now more than ever that the world is still experiencing the effects of COVID 19 and the attendant negative impact on the economy generally not just in Nigeria but across the globe.
This year’s Ramadan, like last year’s, will still be quite different due to the COVID-19 global challenge and social isolation laws. For 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, the cultural traditions and customs of this religious month of fasting will have to be forsaken for the safety of the global community.
The current Coronavirus rules involve hygiene practices that Muslims are encouraged to do in general daily life. Muslims believe that cleanliness is half of the faith, and perform “wudu”, which is a ritual purification that involves handwashing and washing of the face, arms and feet five times a day before each obligatory prayer.
In this time of physical distancing, as Muslims, we will be forced to reconnect to our God and the Qur’an on a deeply intimate level. Interestingly enough, this is the authentic practice of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)). He would isolate himself for days in a cave at the top of a mountain to introspect, reflect, worship and connect with God. During the last 10 days of Ramadan, he was known to self-isolate in a spiritual seclusion practice known as “itikāf”.
In the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), tarawih night prayers were initially offered in congregation for three days. However from the fourth night onwards Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) prayed tarawih in his own home, saying “O people! Perform your [tarawih] prayers at your homes, for the best prayer of a person is that which is performed at his home except the compulsory congregational prayer.”
The authentic spirit of the Ramadan is one of self-discipline, introspection, self-discovery and self-development. Ramadan during this global pandemic may seem disheartening at a superficial level, however, this newspaper believes it has arrived at Allah’s own appointed time.