Tuesday Column By VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
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Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic Lunar calendar is referred to as the ‘holy month’ understandably because in this month, the faithful think more or are expected to think more of God while attending to earthly affairs of feeding, entertainment and the like for some hours after sunset; the remaining few hours in the 24 hour cycle is spent sleeping. And when we are asleep, our thinking faculty simultaneously departs us. We are unable to think or better said, our frontal brain is silenced when we are in deep sleep. We are unable to sin when we are fast asleep. Thus, at Ramadan, the faithful engage in fasting – refraining from food, drink and intercourse 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, individually and jointly with others. In brief we endeavour to be pious at this period
This year’s Ramadan comes at an auspicious time when our country is beset with a plethora of problems, most notably insecurity that is growing wings. The dreaded Boko Haram sect though constantly bombarded with fatalities according to military press releases, have since merged with the Islamic state of West Africa province (ISWAP) and are still terrorizing parts of the country. There is pervasive banditry, kidnappings, unmitigated assault on policemen and their structures and of course the age-long farmers/herders clashes is taking a dangerous dimension with some herdsmen running berserk in the face of threats to their economic survival due to climate change. In the economic sphere specifically, our purchasing power continues to decrease literally every month. And in politics inter and intra party dissentions are growing.
Unable to find enduring solutions to these multiplicity of problems and now at our wit’s end apparently, the only option is for us to turn contritely upwards to the Source of all Life, Knowledge to imbue our leaders with the wisdom to govern aright and the citizenry to live aright. Also noteworthy is that Ramadan 2021 is also coming just about when Christians ended their own fasting (Lent) culminating in the Easter festival early this month. It will end just when another spiritual event which mankind are now beginning to seriously grasp sets in, (towards the end of May), namely, the Outpouring of Power by GOD, from the summit of Creation for the renewal of the Universe. Should this Power not come then all that is created shall slowly wither and die off, it shall be the end of all days, all creatures in all the realms from the highest to the lowest shall cease to exist and only He the Almighty Creator shall be as it was in the very beginning. We should reflect on why the two fasting periods follow each other and end some two weeks before the monumental event of the pouring out of Power from the steps of the throne of God for the renewal and maintenance of the Creations. I believe it is to prepare us inwardly to receive this Primordial Power which shall touch all of us, in humility. Each shall receive according to the purity of his/her heart.
Last year the Lent/Easter/Ramadan and the yearly Outpouring of Power by God from OnHigh, the power that sustains the Universe and which we make use of in our everyday activities for our continued existence, all came in quick succession and during the Covid-19 lockdown. The lockdown enabled some of us to reflect on the times in which we stand. Importantly, notwithstanding the distractions that the Covid-19 conspiracy theorists sought to create, the accompanying Covid protocols are meant to teach us some virtues/truths symbolically. For example, the requirement for constant hand washing with soap and sanitizer points to the truth that cleanliness is next to Godliness, it conjures the symbolic image of purity. The other protocol demanding that we keep apart, shun hugging, kissing and other close bodily contacts as a form of greeting is meant to reawaken in us the sense of shame as a virtue, for, shamelessness has been let loose in our societies in the name of ‘civilization’, fashion, etc. The third protocol of covering our mouth with a face mask signifies to us , the virtue of silence – that we should speak only when it is necessary, disdain talkativeness, gossiping.
Apparently, it is to remind us of the need to think of God and His Word that religious institutions introduced a fasting period, as we are often engulfed in earthly pursuits, catering more to our physical body, neglecting our spirit. Were we to continue like this – concerned only with food, drinks and entertainment our spirit shall lose support from Above, the source of Life.
Are those that have taken up arms against their fellow human beings and country in the north east, rampaging bandits and kidnappers, criminal herders and cattle rustlers in other parts of the north also fasting? If they profess to be adherents of the religion they should, should they not? Should they undertake this high obligation h- fasting, praying, seeking to better understand the message of Prophet Muhammed (PBOH) – genuinely, steadfastly and in humility, then they should come to recognition. Our loving thoughts and prayers are for them to come to recognition and turn a new leaf. But should they continue with the mindless killings and other despicable acts in this holy month of Ramadan, then they show themselves as not being true Muslims. You do not become a Christian or Muslim simply by the name you bear or by regularly going to the Mosque for prayers, attending church services. What makes you a Muslim or Christian is living the teachings which engender love, peace and justice.
All the spiritual messages that have come down to us were willed by God and given to the various peoples according to their levels of spiritual maturity at the time, by the Messengers and Prophets of God. As issued from the mouths of the Messengers and Prophets, they were pure. But they were distorted by human beings once these people left at death. Hence, the confusion today…
Most of us labour to be pleasing in the eyes of God during Ramadan and Lent after which we relapse to our old ways, get carried away by the hustle and bustle of everyday struggles, mix with the bellicose crowd for whom nothing is sacred anymore, eventually forgetting the enduring truths which our quiet moments of reflections during the important periods of Ramadan and Lent bequeath us. These droplets of truths are like spiritual seeds within us which need to be nurtured by being vigilant, courageous in walking the path shown. The challenge is for us to remain steadfast, pious at all times, beyond Ramadan. Indeed, we should think of God, reflect on the Word of God always as it will lead us step by step to all Truths, whereby we come to the certainty of the of the demand, “The Wisdom of God rules the World! Strive through your recognition, men, to perceive His Magnitude!” …RAMADAN KAREEM