THIS year’s Muslim fasting season, the Ramadan, could not have come at a more auspicious time than now when the Nigerian nation has just emerged from a political conundrum that threatened to split the country. The sighting of the new moon in some places yesterday (subject to confirmation by the religious authorities) has signified the end of Shaban and meant the beginning of a month-long fasting for all Muslims worldwide.
Yes, the general elections of last March and April marked a watershed by producing, for the first time in this country, a new Federal Government led by the opposition party. The campaigns and the elections were conducted under a foreboding atmosphere that led many people to believe that Nigeria was about to fulfill a political prophesy of disintegration. That the predicted apocalypse did not happen and instead, the political environment was imbued with hope today make the Ramadan’s commencement highly significant.
Aside the spiritual import of Ramadan being a key pillar of Islam, when every Muslim is mandated to keep away from food, drinks and worldly pleasures, this season calls for a spiritual rejuvenation of the faithful. Such an endeavour is clearly needed to support the newly acquired hope of all Nigerians, emanating from the promise of change by the new government led by President Muhammadu Buhari. A combination of spiritual reinvention/piety offered by Ramadan; and the immense goodwill surrounding the new government, is a possible pointer to the beginning of a national rebirth. And this, all Nigerians should seize with both hands.
It is equally worth emphasising that the fasting is mandatory for all Muslims, except for the aged, the sick and pregnant women. Indeed, those who are unable for one reason or the other to observe the fasting wholly are enjoined to fast for the number of days thus missed, after the Ramadan month and before the next Ramadan.
The significance of the holy month should not be lost on every faithful. It is the period when Allah revealed the Holy Quran – the ultimate guide to Islam and all Muslims. It is an exceptional period of forgiveness of sins, mercy and blessing of God, beyond those of any other period or month. To effectively benefit from this largesse, Muslims, in addition to fasting, are to strictly observe all other fundamental injunctions of Allah such as praying, supplication, giving succour to the poor and the needy; as well as being their brother’s keeper at all times. Moderation remains a key expression to all deeds, actions and utterances. By subjecting themselves to these rituals, and willingly denying themselves, Muslims are able not only to pass through the Ramadan, but also to allow Ramadan and its immense benefits to pass through them.
This period again provides another opportunity for Muslims, and all Nigerians, to reorder their value system, enact a positive change on their lives and work towards making the country great. Despite its acclaimed huge potential, Nigeria has experienced stunted growth over the decades; with a particular penchant for taking a step forward and three steps backward. This negative development has been attributed to false living, corruption in high places, nepotism, gross lack of consideration for fellow citizens and of course, religious bigotry.
It is particularly disheartening that Islam that prides itself as one of the finest, God-driven and most tolerant religions in the world has somehow allowed itself to be abused by fanatics such as Boko Haram, ISIS and Al-shabaab. While the mainstream Muslims globally denounce the principles and horrifying tactics of these groups, they have not been able to stop them from using the name of Islam in pursuit of their agenda.
In the spirit of Ramadan and all the piety that it represents, it is the duty of all Muslims and all governments to rally round themselves and put a permanent end to the inhumanity and carnage being perpetrated in the name of Islam. There can be no reconciliation of the dastardly activities of Boko Haram; of wanton destruction of innocent lives and property, with the tenets of Islam as a religion of peace.
All Muslims should take advantage of the avalanche of publications, public preaching or tafsir, public lectures and broadcast normally available during this period, to enrich their spirituality and improve on their Godliness. The focus, all through, should be to promote holiness and public good; and to eradicate societal ills such as disease, poverty, ignorance, crime and wickedness.
The Ramadan perhaps beckons on the leaders and the wealthy more than the others, as they, by virtue of their standing, are better placed to change the society for good. It is, therefore, imperative that they embrace their assignments in all good conscience; just as it will be regrettable if they fail to latch on to the prevailing high spirituality to bring about the much-desired change for the country.
We wish all Muslims a rewarding fasting season. Ramadan Kareem!