by Zafar Bangash (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 3, Ramadan, 1441)
Ramadan is the month of deep spiritual reflection and rejuvenation of the body and soul. Contrary to the habit of some Muslims that think they can spend the month sleeping during the day and revel and eat at night, it is a month of contemplation and action.
Let us list some of the major events in Islamic history that occurred in this month. The first and foremost is the revelation of the noble Qur’an. It was sent first from the Lawhun Mahfuz (the Well-Guarded Tablet in divine form—85:22) and then the first few ayat were revealed to the noble Messenger (pbuh) in the solitude of the Cave of Hira. Of course, we know that the Qur’an was revealed over a period of 23 years and interwoven into the life struggle of the nascent Muslim community led by the noble Messenger (pbuh).
Several other life-and-death events also occurred in this month. The small nascent Muslim community in Madinah was tested in the Battle of Badr on the 17th day of Ramadan. It was their first Ramadan but Allah granted them victory against the much larger and heavily-armed mushrik force. It was the victory of Imaan over shirk in which Allah helped the committed Muslims with hosts they did not see (9:40).
In the fifth year of the Hijrah, Muslims spent the entire month digging a wide, deep trench several miles long to protect Madinah from the mushrik hordes that were coming to attack the City-State. And then three years later, Muslims marched on Makkah in the month of Ramadan. They walked 300 kms on foot, on camels or on horsebacks. So, it is clear that Ramadan is not a month to be spent sleeping during the day and indulging at night. The martyrdom of Imam Ali at the hands of a misguided person of the Kharijite cult, Ibn Muljum, also occurred in this month. Imam Ali was struck with a poisoned sword as he was offering Fajr prayers. His martyrdom had a profound impact on the course of Islamic history whose consequences we continue to endure to this day.
The above activities occurred at the larger state level. At the community level, families and communities gather for iftar (the breaking of fast), communal prayers (such as Taraweeh), and community services. This year, however, Ramadan has turned out to be very different, unlike any other in history. Muslims are spending it under virtual quarantine due to the pandemic. Even members of the same family are unable, if they live in separate houses, to get together for iftar. This is a most unusual situation.
Many Muslims also perform Umrah during this month, especially in the last ten days of Ramadan. It has been suspended due to the pandemic and it is quite likely that the annual pilgrimage of Hajj may also not be possible this year.
These are clearly very unusual and surreal times but it should not discourage Muslims from doing the things they can do. One is to become more conscious of those that are under permanent lockdown. There are millions of people either in prisons or other forms of restrictions because of the policies of oppressive powers. The people of Kashmir and Palestine, and in particular Gaza, immediately come to mind. These people have been under lockdown for decades. Much worse, they are also being targeted and killed. The people of Kashmir and Gaza have also face prolonged blockades that prevent them from getting desperately needed food and medicines.
The same terrible situation has been imposed on the people of Islamic Iran and Yemen. Both are subjected to punishing sanctions that have exacted a heavy toll of their populations. Iran has endured these terrible sanctions for more than 40 years because it refuses to surrender to the global bully, the US. Yemen has been subjected to a brutal war for more than five years.
Let us share a thought for these unfortunate people and then compare it with our own plight under quarantine that will end, hopefully in the not too distant future. There appears no light at the end of the tunnel for the people of Iran, Kashmir, Palestine and Yemen. While we feel sorry for ourselves because we cannot do the things that we are used to, it should cause us to reflect on the plight of people that are in much worse situation than ourselves and thank Allah for the blessings that He has bestowed upon us.