By VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
For almost a month now, the Muslim faithful have literally been gazing upwards in supplication in this month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Ramadan 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 while attending to earthly affairs of feeding, entertainment et al 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 simultaneously departs us; we are unable to ‘sin’ when we are fast asleep, so to speak. Thus at Radaman, 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.
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 watered by us, (through vigilance, not faltering) 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 of us do come to recognition at these times.
“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 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 maintains the body, the magnet that gels the physical body and the spirit or soul 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.
Are those people who have taken up arms against their fellow human beings in their quest to carve out a state within a country or countries, notably in the north-east and Middle Eastern countries, 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. For, alas some of these militants still engage in mindless killings and bombings as happened in parts of Nigeria, Europe, Asia, etc., even during the holy month of Ramadan. In still engaging in such 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.
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. These include Bhudda, Zoroaster, Muhammed. As issued from the mouths of the Messengers and Prophets, they were pure. But they were distorted by men (human beings) once they us left us at death. Hence, the seeming confusion today… Ramadan Kareem
Ikeano writes via [email protected] from Lafia, Nasarawa State.