This year’s Ramadan, the “holy month” of the Islamic calendar during which the faithful basically gaze upwards in supplication to the Almighty Allah, comes at an auspicious time when our country is beset with a plethora of problems – political, economic and social – that are seemingly defying solutions. Consider that though government avers that the dreaded Boko Haram militant sect is technically defeated in that they no longer hold on to any Nigerian territory, they have been subsumed and assimilated into the Islamic state of West Africa that are now terrorising parts of Nigeria; not to mention the pervasive banditry, kidnappings, etc; In the economic field, our purchasing power continues to decrease, notwithstanding that government is dishing out more money to public sector workers. And in politics inter and intra party dissentions are growing louder…
Now at our wit’s end, the only option is for us to turn contritely upwards to the Source of all Life, Knowledge and Wisdom, the Almighty Creator of the world to imbue our leaders with the wisdom to govern aright and the followers to live aright. Noteworthy is that this year’s Ramadan is coming at a time when our leaders are about to be sworn in for a new term, when our nation is about to begin a new journey in its political history. It is also coming just about when the Christians had just finished their own fasting last month that lasted for over 40 days, culminating in the Easter festival. But for us to be pleasing to the Lord and enjoy His Grace we must sustain the lesson which the period demand of us, viz, being pious at all times, not simply during Ramadan or Lent. This requires that we keep our thoughts pure, shorn ourselves of conceit and selfishness. Love is the greatest weapon for fighting evil. ‘Do unto others what you wish them to do to you’, is a guiding principle of life.
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 while being spiritual means making the divine messages part and parcel of your life, living them at all times and in everything. 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 world, 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 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 watered by us (through vigilance) leading us step by step to All truths; whereby, we come to the certainty of the demand, “The Wisdom of the Lord rules the World, strive you men to perceive His magnitude!”. Some people are led to recognition at these times.
“Watch and Pray”, is an admonition from above. However, as with everything with us, we concentrated 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 Lord, but not before. Apparently, it is to remind us of the need to have our gaze upwards, to heaven, paradise, that religious institutions introduced a fasting period, as we often bury our heads literally downwards, engulfed in earthly pursuits. Were we to continue like this – concerned only with food, drinks and entertainment – 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, which maintain the body, the magnet that gels the physical body and the spirit or soul (according to our level of understanding), together, is a little bit loosened and so we think more of spiritual things for the time being. We have to go about it this way because of our level of spiritual immaturity. If we were spiritually more 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 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.
Will those people who have taken up arms against their fellow human beings, engaging in various atrocities, especially in northern Nigeria, be partaking in the Ramadan fast and declare a ceasefire? 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. My loving thoughts and prayers to them in this holy month of Ramadan are for them to come to true recognition and turn a new leaf. Should they continue with their mindless killings then be it known that they are not 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.
All the spiritual messages that have come down to us were willed by the Almighty 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 they left us upon their demise. Hence, the seeming confusion today… RAMADAN KAREEM.
Ikeano writes from Lafia, Nasarawa state.