Tuesday Column By VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
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Ramadan 2018 has now reached its climax as the faithful count down to its last ten days which is packed with religious activities. Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar is often referred to as the ‘holy month’; understandably, because in this period, we think more or are expected to think more of the Almighty GOD while attending to earthly affairs of feeding, entertainment, etc., for some hours after sunset; the remaining few hours in the 24 hour cycle we spend in sleeping. And when we are asleep, our thinking faculty departs us; we are unable to ‘sin’ when we are fast asleep, so to speak. Thus at Ramadan, we engage in fasting – refraining from food, water and sex during the daytime, endeavour to delve into the teachings of the Prophet to better understand and imbibe them in truth, engage in charity and prayers. In brief we endeavour to be pious.
Nigerians are said to be a religious people which is true but whether we are really spiritual is another matter altogether. Being religious means observing the doctrines and practices; while being spiritual means making the divine messages part and parcel of your life, living them at all times and in everything – in thought, word and deed. What is the use of being very conversant with our religious texts, able to quote them from beginning to end easily, if we do not practise in toto what was given to us from Above? If we actually live the tenets of our religions, thus becoming spiritually active, we would not be grappling with the varieties of hatred that suffuse our country and our world today, resulting in mindless murders, violence and wars (big and small) that envelope us. Alas, for most of us, we labour to be pleasing in the eyes of the Lord during Ramadan and the Lenten (Easter) season. But soon after, we get carried away by the hustle and bustle of everyday living, soon relapse into our old ways, gel with the noisy crowd for whom nothing is sacred anymore, and soon forget the enduring truths which our quiet reflections during the important periods of Ramadan and Lent bequeath on us. These droplets of truths are like spiritual seeds within us which need to be constantly nurtured (through vigilance, in order not to falter) leading us step by step to all truths; whereby, we come to the certainty of the demand, “The Wisdom of GOD rules the World, strive through your recognition, men, to perceive His magnitude!” Some of us do come to better recognition at these fasting periods.
“Watch and Pray”, is an admonition from Above. However, as with everything with us, we concentrate mostly on the word ‘pray’, forgetting the twin part ‘watch’ which requires of us to exert ourselves, to constantly see to it that we are on the right path and toe it. We may now say there are many distractions in today’s world that retard us from keeping our gaze and feet on the path shown. That is why we have to bestir ourselves and stand up against the darkness. But when once we evince an honest, earnest volition in that regard, we can be sure of help from the Almighty but not before. Apparently, it is to remind us of the need to have our gaze upwards, to heaven, paradise and endeavour to think of GOD always that a fasting period was introduced because we often bury our heads literally downwards, engulfed in earthly pursuits. Were we to continue like this – concerned only with food, drink and entertainment 24/7, 365/366 days of the year – the little flame or droplet of Truth within us would soon wither off and we shall lose all support from Above, the source of all life. ‘Seek you first the kingdom of GOD and all other things shall be added unto you’.
The aim of fasting is to make us concentrate on matters celestial. In depriving ourselves of food and water for a long time the magnet that gels the physical body and the spirit or soul together is loosened a little and so we think more of spiritual things for the time being. We have to go about it this way because of our spiritual immaturity. If we were spiritually mature, we should be able to think of GOD at all times whether on an empty or full stomach. It is just like praying; most of us are able to concentrate only with our eyes closed; whereas a few others are able to pray just as fervently even with their eyes open, oblivious of their surroundings in their state of concentration.
Are those in the north eastern part of our country who have taken up arms against their fellow human beings or others engaged in other mindless murders in other parts of the country and world partaking in the Ramadan fast? If they profess to be adherents of the religion, they should, should they not? Then, should they undertake this sacred obligation genuinely, steadfastly and humbly – fasting, praying, seeking to better understand the message of Prophet Muhammed (SAW) by digging into his words, then they should come to a better recognition. Our loving thoughts and prayers are for them to come to true recognition and turn a new leaf. But in still engaging in such evil acts, they show themselves as not being true Muslims. You do not simply become a ‘Christian’ or ‘Muslim’ by the name you bear or by regularly going to the Mosque for prayers or attending church services. What makes you a Christian or Muslim is living the teachings which preach love, peace and justice.
The lessons learnt at Ramadan should not end with it. It should be a continuous experiencing. Ramadan Kareem.
This piece which was first published in June, 2017 has been updated.