In a world where so much needs to be done, and in a region where so much is needed, time to focus on prayer and on a community in prayer is precious. This week is the start of Ramadan—our most sacred month.
Ramadan is a time of fasting, prayer and contemplation. It is when we review what we have learned of discipline, submission to the will of Allah and compassion for our brethren. This is when our solidarity as Muslims held together by one faith and surrender to Allah is both tested and affirmed.
This is the month when heaven’s gates are opened and those of hell are shut, and the devils within hell chained, or so the Prophet Mohammad has been quoted as saying. The sanctity of Ramadan stems from our belief that it was during this holiest time that Allah revealed the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet Mohammad on Layat al-Qadr, The Night of Power.
Our daily fasting from sunrise to sunset begins when the first crescent moon of Ramadan is seen in the night sky, and it ends when the last crescent moon of the month appears. This is when we remember most keenly just how much we depend on Allah for all that we need: We do not eat or drink while the sun lights up the sky.
This teaches us what hunger and thirst truly mean, a very direct lesson that enables us to understand the need of the poor and hungry on their level—thus giving us compassion for them and empowering us to offer them what we can.
During Ramadan, we do our best not to allow negative thoughts and emotions to take root in us. We avoid swearing, complaining and gossiping—things that we actually should avoid year-round, so I consider Ramadan a time for practicing this restraint.
This is the month that we focus on our relationship with Allah by cutting out distractions that may interfere with our deep contemplation on this vital part of our lives as Muslims.
We pray throughout the day—and when the fast becomes difficult, that is the best opportunity to pray. We focus on being charitable and generous when we have enough to share. This is the month when we give more time to studying the Quran.
NEED TO PRAY AND ACT
With the word “terrorist” so often attached to the words “Muslim” and “Islamic,” we need this space and time for prayer more than ever. Even as we are battered for people who commit acts of violence in Allah’s name and call themselves Muslim, we who seek peace must not lose hope that we will gain that peace.
Let me be very honest: Submission to the will of Allah is the way and meaning of Islam. We must overcome our own weaknesses and our very natures to follow the will of Allah. This is why we are asked by our faith to pray constantly, that we may act and speak in tune with Allah’s will.
Muslims in Mindanao, like the other Filipinos in Mindanao, must contend with poverty and acute need on many levels. That is our everyday reality, even as we work to improve this situation.
We have a city to rebuild: Marawi. The residents of the country’s only Muslim city are still recovering from five months of war that destroyed their homes and livelihoods. So many of them are still internally displaced and praying for a home—and it is Ramadan. This month of fasting and rectitude is likely to be more difficult for them than before. They will need our prayers and our help more than ever.
Ramadan is a good time to make Marawi’s residents, indeed our brethren across Muslim Mindanao, feel the solidarity that binds us in fasting and prayer, in hope and in joy.
We can practice the charity and generosity that are already part of Ramadan by sharing meals with our brothers and sisters from Marawi as the rebuilding is in progress. We can pray for them and make our compassion felt by reaching out to them and offering them what help we can—whether that help comes in the form of assistance in rebuilding or business sent their way that will help them get back on their feet.
Those who sow terror in the name of Islam capitalize on the solidarity we consciously cultivate during Ramadan to recruit people. We who do not want terrorism and violence must counter this by building solidarity for peace and prosperity in our communities. Where there is enough for the people, there is less reason to join a terrorist group. Where there is peace, people will not seek conflict.
Let us come together in solidarity for the peace that is our lifelong goal as Muslims. Conflict and terror can only be sustained for so long. It is peace that lasts, and it is peace that we will always seek. This time of contemplation, restraint and prayer builds up our spiritual fortitude. Why not make it a time to rebuild a community like Marawi?
Perhaps we can also use this time to pray for, and act peacefully on behalf of, the Rohingya. These are our brethren who have been rendered stateless and who now seek shelter in refugee camps.
If the radical groups claiming to fight for Islam with guns and terrorism make themselves known for these acts of violence, we can stand for the peace that is Islam and work to ensure that the people who would be vulnerable to their recruitment are kept safe from them.
It isn’t as easy to do as it is to write about, I grant that, but our introspection and contemplation this holy month of Ramadan offers us both the time and opportunities to bring our contemplations from the conceptualization stage to the implementation stage—and we don’t need grand gestures. What we need are small, sustained acts of kindness and goodness, done daily. Hopefully beyond the month of Ramadan.
As much as my job involves communicating with the people, my faith instills in me the discipline of keeping in constant touch with Allah—that communication being prayer.
I am not perfect in fulfilling my obligations as a Muslim, but even in the struggle to meet those obligations, like other Muslims, I am mindful of what those obligations are, so I pray for strength rooted in love, that I may be able to do the tasks set before me.
I don’t see Ramadan as a time to sacrifice. I see it as a time to bring my focus to the things that matter the most to me: My relationship with Allah. My family. My community. It is a time of joy for me, despite the temporary hunger and thirst. It is a time when I sift between what is lasting and what is not.
Ramadan is also a time for family celebrations and reconnecting with family and friends. When the three day feast of Eid al-Fitr (the breaking of the fast) comes around, I get together with my family and my friends and we feast heartily and exchange gifts with each other.
Muslims worldwide do this together, simultaneously. This praying, fasting, abstinence, spiritual contemplation and joy are something that binds us together in our beliefs, no matter where in the world we are. This is our strength as Allah is our strength. This gives me the faith to keep believing that the good we do outweighs the evils the world perceives when it looks at us.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.