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Ramadan, the Purpose and Rage in its Redness while Gaza burns

Iqbal Suleman

The outstretched hands of starved children in Gaza for a morsel of food!

O you who have committed to Allah. Fasting is ordained for you as it has been ordained for those before you, so that you might remain conscious of Allah [and His power to implement justice]”. Al-Qur’an (2:183)

The Creator has, throughout history, sent emissaries to guide people to live truthfully and justly in this dunya.

Prophets before Muhammad (pbuh) used to fast as did their God-conscious followers.

Fasting is, therefore, universal to all faiths.

Each year committed Muslims fast the entire month of Ramadan.

From the break of dawn to sunset, a person has to refrain from food, liquids or engage in legitimate sexual conduct with spouse.

This is obligatory on each adult person.

It is a month of austerity and reverence.

Many Ramadans have come and gone.

Will this Ramadan be different from the previous ones?

Sheikhs and scholars eulogise the virtues of the month.

Individuals exert themselves in extra acts of prayer, recitation of the Qur’an, meditation and charity.

What is the purpose of Ramadan?

Are we meant to be God-conscious, listening to the melodious recitation of the Qur’an and be charitable for 30 days only?

Are we meant to become only individually more righteous?

What about the meaning of God’s words in the Qur’an?

Surely, a thinking mind must delve beyond the recitation and into the meanings of the divine writ.

“It was the month of Ramadan in which the Quran was first made accessible from on high as a guidance for people and self-evident proof of that guidance, and as a standard to discern the true from the false. Hence whoever of you lives to see this month shall fast throughout it, but he that is on a journey shall fast instead for the same number of other days” (2:185).

The Qur’an then is not for mere melodious recitation, it is the primary source of guidance to determine the truth and to act in pursuit of justice.

It was in the month of Ramadan that the first verses of the Qur’an were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) while meditating in the Cave of Hira.

“Read in the name of your Sustainer, who has created. Created the social being [man] out of an adhesion [physical and emotional]. Read for your Sustainer is the Most Benevolent One, who has taught [the intelligent social human] the use of the writing instrument [pen]” (96:1-4).

It is indeed revealing that in these first verses, God calls upon the human being to recognize his origin, his Creator and his most distinctive human trait, which is his intellect and his capacity to read and write.

This intellectual responsibility is coupled with the duty to be an active free thinker in pursuit of justice.

Yet colonialism has dislocated the public Muslim mind from history and alienated him from his primary source of liberation which is the Qur’an.

It follows, therefore, that the first step in decolonizing the Muslim mind is to gravitate to the Qur’an, read it, understand it and soak the mind in its words and use it as the primary source of inspiration and guidance for life on earth.

Ayesha (ra) is reported to have said that the Prophet (pbuh) in his being and conduct actualized and lived the Qur’an.

Some have a tendency to romanticize Ramadan as a month of equality and social justice.

But even in this blessed month, the class divide among people is exposed at iftaar.

Some will gather for iftaar (breaking of the fast) that can only be described as a feast.

With three course meals, preceded by a choice of savouries and decadent milkshakes.

Most committed Muslims, however, will break their fast with the bare minimum, a few dates, glass of water, and a bowl of soup.

This is the reality in almost all working-class neighbourhoods worldwide.

Have we truly penetrated the ideological meanings and spirit of Ramadan?

Why deny yourself food and water?

What is the purpose of fasting in our contemporary world?

“And nothing is the life of this world but a play and a passing delight…” (Qur’an: 6:32).

This is a world of glitter and glamour; the fancy car and the palatial villa.

The expensive smartphone, the holiday home, hours at the gym and the shopping mall.

Worrying about investments, instalments, and then the weekend braai.

There are the branded clothes, match day and the premier league clash between Liverpool and Manchester United.

There is also the 96th Hollywood Oscar awards, the latest SUV on the market, the most fab holiday destination, the latest house on the market, the popular sitcom, the number of likes on your social media page, the date at the beauty salon and the sacred selfies.

Have we ever taken a selfie of our soul?

Is this the purpose of life, to keep on chasing the world in pursuit of wealth, possessions and fame?

Ramadan forces us to pause, get in tune with ourselves and see the circus.

“And [be sure to recognize], whatever [leisure and pleasure] you are given, [know that] it is worldly and life amusement [and diversion] and an [appealing] ornament; but whatever Allah has is better and more enduring. Will you not then use your reason [when you think through these things]?” (28:60).

The fast-paced modern living distracts us from reality and sends us on a goose chase where we become insensitive to the struggles and sufferings of our fellow human beings. Capitalism has individualized our minds, our spirit and even our faith!

We must perceive the world beyond our individual wants and not become slaves to the creed (capitalism) of this world.

The month of Ramadan gives us the opportunity to liberate ourselves from the chains of material slavery.

Now for one month, we deny ourselves the pleasures of earthly existence, food and sex. This self-denial creates a heightened and refined consciousness.

We choose to be hungry. Feel the hunger pangs!

We all claim to “know” about hunger. We hear about hungry people.

We see the living skeletons dying from starvation on our TV and smartphone screens. To look from afar is to be an outsider!

To experience and to feel is to know better. Fasting enables us to relate to the oppressed, hungry people!

It is not only self-discipline but revolutionary consciousness-raising.

This is why apart from Ramadan, the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have fasted on at least two days (Mondays and Thursdays) of every week.

No water to drink in the blistering heat! There is thirst and dehydration.

A headache and feeling of weakness.

You have been hungry and thirsty for 14 hours and you can’t wait for the sun to set.

You get irritable and angry at those around you. Now imagine the people of the world who are food insecure, who struggle for food and water every day.

Become conscious of people who go hungry for months, years or a lifetime.

Think about your neighbours in the township down the road where many are unemployed and don’t know where their next meal will come from.

Will you share your bread with them?

Even the poorest among the friends of God, would take the little in their pockets and purchase seven loaves of bread to distribute among the poor.

Take a stand against the system (capitalism) that prioritizes profits over people.

Monopolising food and keeping the prices exorbitant and at the same time disposing of food that could feed millions.

Be hungry but feel the ideological fire of hunger.

Self-denialism brings the fasting person closer to his Creator as can be discerned from the following Ramadan verse.

“And when my obliging subjects ask you about Me, behold, I am near, I respond to the call of him who calls, whenever he calls upon Me, let them then respond to Me and commit themselves to Me, so that they might [maturely] follow the right way” (2:186).

The human being has a direct line to access his Creator; there are no gatekeepers who can prevent a believer from reaching his Creator. Fasting enables us to become God-conscious and people-conscious.

Be conscious of starvation that is not a tragedy but a cold and callous strategy used by our enemies both historically and today.

As we begin Ramadan, there are 100,000 Palestinian casualties from the Israeli war on Gaza.

Of these, over 31,000 have been killed and in excess of 72,000 injured.

More than 8,000 Palestinians are missing and probably rotting under the rubble, denied the right to die and be buried in dignity.

As the world just celebrated International Women’s Day, it has allowed Israel to deliberately kill 8,400 Muslim women in Gaza and slaughter 12,300 children.

Remember, when the Prophet (pbuh) and his comrades were under siege and caged in Sh‘ab Abi Talib and denied food and water, how starvation as a weapon of war was used to kill his most beloved comrades Khadijah and Abu Talib.

Let Ramadan liberate the eyes of our mind so that we can zoom into Gaza today where for five months our brothers and sisters have been denied food and water.

Every day many are dying of starvation and an imminent famine created by the Israeli Zionists, enabled by imperial America, Britain and the European Union.

How difficult it is to break the fast and have a meal knowing that in Gaza, children are starving to death and the Israelis are feasting on the blood of innocent people.

Remember the spears that pierced the necks of the noble children of our beloved Prophet (pbuh) at Karbala and the zionist bullets that now blow the brains of the little Muhammads and Fatimas in Gaza.

Be inspired by the defiance and resistance on the bloody fields of Karbala when Abu Fadl al- Abbas went to retrieve water for the Prophet’s (pbuh) family, how the enemies viciously attacked him, they cut off his hand but he refused to surrender and fought on.

They cut off his other hand as well.

He fought on holding the can of water in his mouth and resisted until he was martyred.

Now think about the Palestinians who are attacked and killed when they go out in search of water and food (The Flour Massacre) because they like the family of Muhammad (pbuh) were denied food and water by their enemies.

Like Imam Husain and Abu Fadhl, the Palestinians remain defiant in their resistance to injustice.

They run and try to dodge Israeli bullets as they pick up a bag of flour to take home to their families.

Remember the 17,000 children who have been orphaned by Israeli barbarism.

These kids will never feel the tenderness of a mother’s touch and the protection of a father’s hug.

Don’t forget the extreme love, your leader [Muhammad (pbuh)] had for orphans as he too was an orphan.

The Palestinians are probably the most God- conscious and God-committed people on earth. They have sacrificed everything that is dear to them, their children, spouses, fathers, mothers, grandfathers, graveyards, universities and in all of this suffering, horror and loss they remain firm in their commitment to God and dignified in their resistance to the Israeli occupation.

They fervently pray in Ramadan and the Qur’an calls upon all the people of the world to stand in solidarity with the oppressed and occupied people of Palestine.

“And how could you refuse to fight in the cause of Allah and of the utterly helpless men and women and children who are crying. ‘O our Sustainer! Lead us forth [to freedom] out of this [imperial] civic society whose people are oppressors, and raise for us, out of your grace, a protector, and raise for us, out of Your grace, a protector, and raise for us, out of Your grace, one who will bring us support.” (4:75).

Who are more helpless today than the men, women and children of Gaza fighting for their freedom?

These Ramadan verses of the Qur’an expose those who are responsible for the miserable state of the world and the suffering in Gaza.

The rulers within “Muslim ranks” are also exposed as they have power to intervene and help the utterly helpless men and women and children of Gaza who are being bombed and starved to death but are sitting back and watching the genocide.

They may don the mantle and the robe but these verses strip them of their “pious garb” and reveal them to be political hypocrites and an extension of imperialism’s political apparatus and enablers of the genocide in Gaza by colluding with the zionist State. They have no mandate from the Qur’an, the Prophetic Sunnah and the people to collude with zionism and imperialism.

Ramadan should transform every fasting person into a Gazan who feels the pain and suffering of Gaza within every fibre of their being.

This heightened and developed consciousness of the individual must fuse with the organised collective consciousness of all the peoples of the world and engage in international solidarity activity, resisting zionism and imperialism, building a strong Palestinian International Solidarity Movement just like the International Anti-Apartheid Movement.

Arise with the redness of Ramadan!

Iqbal Suleman is a social justice lawyer and former head of the law clinic for Lawyers for Human Rights in Pretoria.

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