The blessed month of Ramadan has come and gone. Today while celebrating our achievements, our spiritual victories, we must stop to review some of the most important lessons we have or should have learned from this exercise.
The spiritual regimen of fasting, vigils, recitations and devotions were meant to inculcate in us a true sense of spiritual identity.
It was primarily meant to teach us who we really are; why we are here in this world; and where we go from here.
Ramadan took us from the fast-paced life around us to make us aware of our spiritual roots; it taught us that what makes us truly human is not our material possessions, passions or physical cravings, but our spiritual and moral essence.
Once we recognize this spiritual core of our personalities, we could
indeed change our whole perspective on life. In this vision of Islam, there is no room for materialism, there is no time to be caught up in the rat race, there is no room for greed, and there is no justification for oppressing others.
Allah says: [Seek through what God has bestowed on you the abode of the next world, and forget not your portion of the mundane world; do good unto others even as God has done good unto you, and do not sow corruption in the land, for certainly, God loves not those who sow corruption.] (Al-Qasas: 77)
Our spiritual disciplines in Ramadan taught us how to keep the thought of Allah and the Last Day always in our mind, whatever activities we are engaged in.
A Muslim who is recharged during Ramadan is ever conscious of his standing before the Lord. Such a true believer cannot take any life which Allah has declared as sacrosanct; he cannot rob others of what they possess; and he cannot but treat everyone as he himself would like to be treated.
This is the essence of what it means to be a true Muslim.
The second most important lesson of Ramadan is to be compassionate and caring. Ramadan exposed us to hunger and thirst. After feeling the pangs of hunger and thirst, we should have become more empathetic to the plight of millions of less fortunate people around the globe. A true Muslim can never be apathetic to the suffering of others.
To put this into practice, we as Muslims must take responsibility and get involved in real projects that are aimed at fighting poverty, hunger, and homelessness. Unfortunately, such problems do exist in every corner of the world. We have religious and civic obligation to help make the whole world a better place for all of Allah’s Creation.
This cannot be a marginal issue, when we know how serious it is in the sight of Allah. We can no longer remain selfish and inward looking. We must contribute to the mainstream.
Another important lesson of Ramadan is the collective responsibility for building a more ethical and moral society. This can only be done if we stand together and become united on ideals and values we cherish.
Today Muslims are misunderstood. We cannot blame others for our predicament. We and we alone must take responsibility for changing our condition. Allah says: [Certainly Allah never changes the condition of a people unless they themselves change what is in themselves.] (Al-Ra`d: 11)
There is no denying of the fact that there are many in the media, think tanks and government who are busy creating the image of Muslims as “The Other” in order to promote their own agendas of imperialism, greed and colonialism.
The so-called clash of civilizations propounded by Samuel P. Huntington has now become a buzzword. It is a dangerous slogan which all intelligent people must guard against. Today it is used to target the Muslims, tomorrow it may be another religion, race or people.
As Muslims we have a responsibility to tell the world what we stand for and what we are against.
We are for peace, justice, pluralism and tolerance.
We are against terrorism, injustice, and imperialism.
We must stand and speak up against the discourse of hate, intolerance, selfishness and bigotry that are increasingly raising their heads among some Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
We must speak out against the “hijacking of Islam” by the extremists.
We believe that there is much in common among all great religions of the world, that we can work together to create a better world for all of humanity.
Since the world has become a global village, the survival of humanity depends on whether we can live in tolerance. This is the core message of the Qur’an as is stated in this verse: [O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and then rendered you nations and tribes so that you might know one. Certainly, the noblest of you in the sight of God is he who is most conscious of Him. ] (Al-Hujurat: 13)
In order to get this message across we must come out of our cocoons and realize the crucial nature of the challenges facing us as a people. We must know that the phase of building mosques is over. It is high time that we focus on developing a new generation of Muslims who can shoulder the responsibilities of carrying the message of mercy reflected in Islam as intelligently and responsibly as possible.
This requires from us a reassessment of our priorities as Muslims and charting new directions with courage and foresight. As the old saying goes, a dog barking in the backyard cannot bring about any real change. We must make our presence felt in all segments of the mainstream society. We must become more active in community service and politics, and struggle to make our Muslim community an inspiration and model of how to be responsible citizens of the whole world. In this regard:
We should continue our relationship with the Book of Allah, the Almighty, by reading, reflecting and acting upon it;
We should be consistent in dhikr or remembrance of Allah;
We should be more charitable and generous;
We should increase our daily share of nawafil (supererogatory acts of worship), which includes prayers as well as fasting;
We should break our bad habits and acquire new good habits.
In this way we will inshaa’ Allah, improve ourselves as individuals as well as members of the Ummah. Thus we will be able to make a difference in ourselves and in the society we are part of.
Finally, let us make our voices heard in speaking out against oppression of any people. Let us make our voices heard in speaking out against poverty and hunger. Let us make our voices heard in speaking out against homelessness. Let us make our voices heard in speaking out against injustice. Let us join hands with all peace loving people of the world to build a better world. Most importantly, let us act on these Islamic ideals.
Let us remember those who are suffering in various parts of the world under various forms of oppression and persecution.
Let us remember our brothers and sisters in Palestine, in Chechnya, Kashmir,Somalia, etc.
Let us remember all those who are oppressed regardless of their race, religion or nationality.
Let us remember that the Lord of the worlds will hear their prayers and will come to their help in His Own time.
Let us pray for those who have passed away, both the young and old, the male and female; may the beneficent Lord shower them with His mercy.
Let us remember those who are sick and suffering; may the Merciful Lord heal them and grant them health and wellness.
Let us implore Allah to bring sanity into the minds of our rulers and leaders, to restrain themselves and thus build bridges of understanding, instead of seeking to solve problems through war, violence and aggression.
Let us pray that Allah grant us peace and felicity and success, Amen.