Following yesterday’s announcement of the sighting of Ramadan crescent by the Sultan of Sokoto and President General of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Nigeria, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, this year’s Ramadan fasting commences today. Nigerian Muslims will join other Muslim faithfuls around the world in observing the month of fasting, abstaining from food, drinks and conjugal relationships between dawn and sunset for the entire period of the month.
The observance of the yearly fast in the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar is one of the five fundamental principles of Islam. As revealed in the Holy Qur’an, Almighty Allah enjoined Muslims to fast in the month of Ramadan: “O you who have believe Fasting is decreed upon you as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.” (2: 183).
Apart from physical abstinence from consumption, in addition to other restrictions during the daytime of the 30-day Ramadan period, Muslims are equally enjoined to use the period to exhibit the virtues of tolerance, hospitality, charity and kindness, especially to the indigent members of the society, irrespective of faith and tribe. They are thus exhorted to give alms, feed the poor and invite others including non-Muslims to break the Ramadan fast with them.
Equally, we enjoined Muslims, at this auspicious time, to consider the hardship of others. It is a month of sharing and demonstration of brotherhood.
The act of benevolence in Ramadan is an effective instrument of fostering better religious understanding, harmony and communal peace, which are necessary ingredients for the social cohesion that is most desirable in these trying times in Nigeria. Ramadan fast imbues the genuine practitioner with patience and perseverance. When a Muslim fasts, the pains of physical deprivation is felt but patiently endured. This deprivation and endurance, though temporary, makes the individual to be conscious of the effects of such pains suffered by many others, who perhaps live in penury with limited access to the basic necessities of life.
The essence of this month, unique in the Islamic calendar, requires Muslims to exercise moderation in whatever they are engaged. They should guard their tongues from idle chats, refrain from backbiting and telling lies, gossiping and obscenities. Muslims are encouraged not to gorge themselves on meals that it becomes impossible to wake up and spend the night in prayers and supplication.
Muslims in Nigeria, including leaders and the led, should seize this opportunity of Ramadan to eschew all vices and conduct that have bedevilled this country and hindered its goal of becoming a truly self-reliant and developed nation.
The monumental security challenges that the country has grappled with in recent years require all Muslims to display wisdom and exercise self-restraint, and to be actively engaged in finding the solution to them. Those engaged as preachers should be true to their calling as leaders in society, and be sensitive to the peculiar circumstances the country is in. Inflammatory and inciting words or expressions should be avoided in their commentary of the Qur’an, or Tafsir, sessions. They can also play a helpful role during this holy period by educating their audiences on the virtues of employing non-violent and peaceful means to advance any grievance they may harbour. They should also persuade aggrieved groups to toe the part of dialogue with relevant authorities, as the example of Prophet Muhammad’s Treaty with non-Muslims at Hudaybiyyah illustrates. Ramadan calls for the abandonment of greed. It is a period that dealers in essential commodities are tempted to take undue advantage to make usurious profits by increasing the prices of foodstuff which are already on the high side. They should resist the temptation, which would add to a peaceful and commodious period of fasting.