For almost two billion Muslims across the world, Ramadhan is always a special period because of its significance as one of the holiest seasons in the year. It is a period marked by solemnity and devotion during which conscious efforts are made to improve on the relationship between oneself and God on the one hand and oneself and fellow human beings on the other.
Throughout history, Muslims have taken advantage of the holy season to compete in righteous deeds in order to renew their commitment to all that is good and noble. The Prophet, Muhammad (SAW), said, “The month of Ramadhan, the month of blessings, has come upon you, wherein Allah turns towards you and sends down to you His special Mercy, forgives your faults, accepts your prayers, appreciates your competing for the greatest good and boasts to the angels about you. So show to Allah your righteousness; for verily, the most pitiable and unfortunate one is he who is deprived of Allah’s Mercy in this month”.
As Nigeria passes through these turbulent times during which human blood is shed with impunity and man’s inhumanity to man is at its peak, the Ramadhan season has several lessons for all. Five of these lessons are especially germane to our national renaissance.
First is forgiveness. This is a period during which people seek forgiveness of their sins and also forgive those who have wronged them as part of the renewal process that Ramadhan engenders. There is a lot of bickering and bitterness among Nigerians and the right thing to do is to forgive one another. If we have the courage to forgive others on account of the perceived or actual wrongs they have done to us, we would rid ourselves of the torment of hate that stinks like skunk all over the land and cyberspace. The fundamental principle is to forgive and forget; this is a pre-condition for gaining divine pardon and moving forward.
The second lesson of the season is love. As “an emotion of a strong affection and personal attachment, a virtue representing all of all human kindness, compassion and benevolent concern for the good of another”, love is the heart of faith and a core lesson of Ramadhan. As a matter of fact, one’s faith will be utterly deficient until one loves for the other what one loves for oneself.
The Ashanti people of Ghana have a saying, which is “No matter how badly people treat you, make an effort to always show love in return because there is no medicine to cure hatred.” Ramadhan teaches love as the gap between the rich and the poor is breached as they undergo the same experience. It is through love that we can heal the world. Nigerians should therefore reflect and realize the need to love one another regardless of ethnic, religious and political affiliations. A life devoid of love for the other is a lost life.
Another lesson of this season is discipline or self control and one needs a lot of self control to survive this world dominated by bigots. Some of our leaders have formed the habit of “reacting” to anything and everything because they lack discipline. It is discipline that makes a fasting person avoid eating when food is available and he is hungry. It is self-control that makes a person avoid all the attractive vices that render one’s fast meaningless.
According to the tradition of the Prophet, “Fasting is a shield (or screen or shelter from committing sins). So, the person observing fasting should avoid sexual relation with his wife and should not behave foolishly and impudently, and if somebody fights with him or abuses him, he should tell him twice, ‘I am fasting’….” In this respect, the Ramadhan season teaches the need to be disciplined; the Ramadhan season teaches the need to avoid harming and hurting others. Those who claim Islam and hurt and harm others, killing people and bombing places are not representing Islam and Muslims.
The fourth lesson of Ramadhan is honesty and sincerity. We are a nation of liars and many of us are dishonest, a trait that has given the country a bad international image. Our leaders are dishonest and the followers are insincere. However, dishonesty renders one’s fasting invalid and it is a vice that we must consciously guard against.
Honesty is said to be the best legacy and one thing that this season imposes on us is to be honest in our dealings. “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting)”, the Prophet (SAW) said. It is utterly dishonest to feign concern about the state of insecurity in the land and at the same time stoke the embers of violence by polarising people along ethnic and religious lines for political advantage.
The fifth lesson of this holy season and the ultimate is piety or God consciousness. This consciousness makes one to live the letters of Ramadhan during and after the month of fasting. In other words, piety as the overarching lesson of the holy month entails that a Muslim should Read the Qur’an, Ask for forgiveness, Maximize good deeds, Attend sincerely to others, Do no wrong, Hasten towards virtues, Avoid sins and iniquities and Never be provoked.
It is the combination of these lessons that makes fasting achieve its purpose of making us better human beings. It is therefore auspicious to take advantage of the holy season, imbibe its lessons and appreciate the ephemerality of life by doing what is right and eschewing what is bad now and always.
BRING BACK OUR BOYS; BRING BACK OUR PEACE
After the defeat of our Super Eagles by France following another defeat by Argentina (we didn’t actually prey on the Argentines as wrongly suggested last week), Nigerians can at least focus on more crucial things like bringing back our peace.
There is this tendency to blame the referee, the coach or the players by many Nigerians who know nothing than to talk and talk. What is important in any competition is to do one’s best and that is exactly what the Super Eagles have done.
As we bring back our boys from Brazil, let us also bring back our girls, our sense and our peace. The need of the day is for our political gladiators to change from politicians to statesmen and realize that all power is ultimately transient.
In his “Inside stuff: Political reminiscences, 1938-48 (11)” in the “West African Pilot” newspaper of July 16, 1948, the late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe reminded the politicians of his day of the difference between a politician and a statesman.
He wrote, “A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman of the next generation. A politician looks for the success of his party; a statesman for that of his country. The statesman wishes to steer, while the politician is satisfied to drift.”
Nigeria is drifting; she urgently needs some steering. The time is now!