As Muslims all over the world prepare to end the month-long spiritual exercise of Ramadhan fast today, it is important to point out the spiritual importance of the exercise. This is as Nigerian Muslims gear to celebrate the Eid El Fitr or Sallah in a sober mood, following the damper the bad economic situation of the country has placed on families. AMINA ALHASSAN, SALIFU USMAN, (Abuja) and YAHYA SARKI, (Birnin Kebbi) write.
bout two billion Muslims from all over the world have been fasting during the month of Ramadhan, the ninth lunar month of the Islamic calendar. The month also commemorates the revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), through the Archangel Jibreel (Gabriel) over 1,438 years ago. Fasting in Ramadhan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, along with Faith in God, Five Daily Prayers, Alms Giving, and Pilgrimage for Hajj.
According to the Quran (Chapter 2, verse 183), fasting from dawn to sundown, every day in the month of Ramadhan has been prescribed to Muslims as a religious obligation for spiritual cleansing.
Dr Abdulfattah Adeyemi, director, Baynakum Family Counseling Centre, Abuja says, “It is a form of retreat to gain a reconnection with the Creator by purifying the soul and engaging the mind in a deep reflection on the purpose of our existence and the destiny of mankind. It is like gaining control over the self, a sort of personal victory over the dictates of the flesh and a rigorous personal journey towards attaining the state of “taqwa.”
According to Dr Adeyemi, “The Arabic word Taqwa is translated in many ways including God consciousness, God fearing, piety, and self-restraining. Thus Muslims are asked to fast daily for one month from dawn to dusk and avoid food, water, cohabitation with spouse and vulgar talk during that period for the sake of God. In fasting, the believer also willingly abstains, from something, say, an action, attitude, or habit, for a set of time. These things are usually hard to do without; hence, fasting seems to place some restrictions on our freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we feel like.”
Fasting as required in Islam according to Dr Adeyemi “is the true freedom that gives us the opportunity for self-realisation. And when God rules that we must abstain from food, drink and conjugal relations with our spouses, it ensures the state of setting us free from the shackles of our base desires. It is in such a condition that we can truly grow upwards spiritually.
“Therefore, fasting might not be only from abstaining from eating at all, one can, in addition to that, fast from intake of unhealthy foods as well as glasses and bottles of unwholesome drinks. A person can ‘fast’ from places they are unhealthily drawn to, bad company, from being a slave of his phone, being addicted to the internet and the social media, misleading magazines, wasting hours watching television, listening to meaningless music, bad news, and so on. If we suspect that we have become a ‘freak’, or ‘extremist’ about something, that is something to fast from.”
Ramadhan fasting he said, “is not for showing off. It is not a sort of reality show, a scripted act or a drama to impress or entertain other people. It is not for getting others to say we are some holy or saintly group. A renewed closeness with God and a greater sensitivity to spiritual things are usually the results of fasting. Many people who have successfully completed a Ramadhan fast tell of feeling a nearness to God that they have never before known. The fact that growth is an unseen mystery is one of our great sources of hope of increase in faith. We might try to search our hearts at the end of Ramadhan fasting, and we can be discouraged by how we feel. We might discern no ‘mountaintop experience’ that we have longed for. This does not mean that we have not increased in faith. What is important is to focus on carrying out God’s injunctions as sincerely as we can.
“Ramadan is a 29 or 30-day month of self-regulation and self-training, with the hope that this training will last beyond the month of Ramadan. If the lessons learnt during Ramadan, whether in terms of dietary intake or righteousness, are carried on after Ramadhan, their effects will be long lasting.”
Eid ul Fitr: Celebrating Amidst Economic Hardship
Certainly, these are not the best of times for Sallah celebrations for Nigerian Muslims, especially those whose incomes are fixed. Their paltry monthly salaries can barely buy anything much in the market as prices of almost every item have tripled from what it was this time last year.
The fact that the ‘Eid ul Fitr’ (Sallah) celebration, ending the month-long Ramadhan fast is coming at a time when salaries of both public and private sectorworkers are not paid on time or when due, also makes it even more excruciating, virtually making everyone to lament. This is also a time when many people have lost their jobs or are out of business due to hard financial constraints triggered by economic recession.
Few hours to the Sallah celebration, Nigerians are lamenting the hike in cost of transportation, food items as well as other commodities needed to celebrate Sallah.
According to a cross section of Nigerian Muslims, who spoke our correspondents, the high cost of foods was caused by the economic recession and inflations which the APC-led government seems to have not addressed yet.
A house wife, Fatima Hussaini decries that a small bag of rice has risen to between N8, 500 and N9,000 from N6, 000 and N6, 500 it used to be last year.
While another one, Yemi Ayorinde predicts a “very low-key celebration” this year. “I used to entertain a lot during Eids but this year, it’s just the family,” she said. Giving an insight on how some people are making ends meet, she told our correspondent that families are joining forces to buy what they need. “People are combining their widow’s mite to buy and share needed food items.”
Although price of goods have skyrocketed and the situation is tough for Habiba Mainasara, a civil servant, she says she still gives gratitude to Allah for having completed the Ramadhan without any health problems. “Many people are ill and could not fast, some even passed away before the Ramadhan but we are alive and well to witness the end. May Allah accept our acts of worship and bring ease to all the hardships this country is facing,” she prayed.
Traders, whose expectations were high of bumper sales during this Sallah celebration have also seen hopes dashed as most customers in the market lack purchasing power due to harsh economic conditions.
A cow butcher in Masaka Market, Malam Yusuf Adamu, who spoke to our correspondent, blamed the low patronage on hardship and inflation in prices of goods, especially as it affects his products.
According to Adamu, who has been selling cow meat for nearly 15 years, business processes have really changed, stating that things are now very expensive in the market even when there is no money to purchase them.
“We are still expecting customers to come but, compared to last year, we would have started feeling the impact of Sallah celebrations by now. We hope that things will improve as we move closer to Sallah.
“Many people have been sacked from work and business people do not see money to buy more goods. For instance, those who used to buy meat of N5000, N4000 or N3500, hardly buy N2000 meat now. Some can’t even afford N1000 worth of meat because of the bad economy.
“The price of cows has increased more than we used to buy. What we used to buy between N100, 000 and N120, 000 is now N200, 000 and N225, 000 now,” he added.
An Islamic teacher, Abdulrazak Kolawole, said in spite of the economic hardship, Muslims should be grateful for witnessing and completing another Ramadhan.
“The holy month of Ramadhan is a great favour bestowed upon humanity by God and His Prophet (Peace be upon Him). Yes, there is economic hardship in the land, but as Muslims, we should be grateful to God for witnessing and being part of those who completed their Ramadhan fast.
“Through the fasting, we have gotten recharged, refreshed and reinvigorated. In this month, all aspects of Islamic faith are revived and further revitalised to enable us, the Muslims to be strong in health, mind and heart. If performed with full dedication to and fear of Allah, the fasting gives us believers new strength required to live as true Muslims. For me, these are greater benefits of Ramadhan and not extravagant celebration of Sallah.
“Every aspect of Islam has a message for humanity. Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan has a very strong spiritual message. A true man of faith has kindled the fire of faith within him, and fasting is something that enhances his faith. Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: “Fasting is prescribed for man to purify his soul. Fasting is not a mere act of deliberate starving by abstaining from the delights of food and drink from dawn till dusk.
“Hardship or no hardship, Muslim faithful should be comforted with the fact that their lives have been purified and rebirthed,” Kolawole explained.
In Kebbi State, our correspondent learnt that the timely release of salaries by the Kebbi State government has brought some measure of succour to civil servants in the state towards helping them to prepare for Sałlah celebration. And with the gradual approach of the rainy season and harvesting of local rice, the price of rice has started dropping gradually, particularly paddy rice. However, one cannot say the same for fabric like brocade, ankara, laces and accessories such as shoes and handbags, which are still very costly for the average Kebbi family. This is blamed on the high foreign exchange rate.
Malam Ibrahim Ngaski, who has two wives and nine children confesses that the preparation for Sałlah in terms of meeting the family’s needs requires good and careful planning. Ngaski admits that the situation wasn’t that different between this year and the last. ‘’I started planning ahead of the coming Sałlah by engaging in monthly contributions and joining a cooperative society to provide all the necessities of my family, especially the children. What I observed is that prices are still the same as last year but textile materials this year cost more. For example, I bought a textile material for N5000 when Ramadhan fasting started three weeks ago but that same material now costs N8000, an increase of N3000,’’ Ngaski opined.
For Hajara Ibrahim, a widow taking care of her five children in the absence of their father has been very tough. Although she works as a nanny, the N15,000 she earns monthly is hardly enough to cater for herself let alone of her children. ‘’Life has not been easy for me and my five children. How can I buy clothes, shoes and food? I will resort to taking loans or items on credit from friends to provide for my family’s needs for Sallah. I also thank God that the family I work for is very kind and gave me a new wrapper and 10 yards of brocade for my children. We want our government to help us regulate the prices of all items, including foodstuff,’’ she said.
In Kebbi, it also be noticed that tailors, clothes shop owners, domestic animals and food sellers are having improved patronages. Yusuf Tela Rafin Atiku is a tailor in Birnin Kebbi with about 26 years experience. He claims this year is better than the previous one when it comes to customers’ patronage. A lucky person, one would say. According to him, this year, many of his customers have already settled their bills before he had completed their outfits.
However, the story is quite different for Abubakar Noma, a grain seller and Sirajo Mamuda, owner of Sauki Textiles Centre in Birnin Kebbi, who sells different kinds of men and women clothes and textiles. Sirajo admits that his shop has rather witnessed less patronage compared to last year owing to the high cost of materials. “Many people come in with the intention of buying but leave without anything due to the high cost of the items. It is not our fault but the high exchange rate of foreign currency, although it had started declining in the early days or beginning of Ramadhan.”
Abubakar Noma’s stand in Shiyar Sarakuna, Nasarawa, Birnin Kebbi has wide varieties of grains such as rice, millet, beans, guinea corn, soybeans, etc. ‘’Take rice for example, it costs N150 per bowl last year, while this year it is N350 per bowl. Millet is N280 per bowl this year while last year the same measurement cost N100 naira.
A bowl of beans has jumped from N250 to N500. So you see how the food items are costly this time around,” he asked.