As Nigerian Muslims join their counterparts all over the world for the 30-day fasting period which commenced at the weekend, we enjoin them not only to use the season to pray for themselves but also for our nation that is going through harrowing times. With the season being marked by private and group prayers, and abstinence from worldly comforts and pleasures, the overall aim is to enhance spiritual growth and foster charity and brotherly love—virtues that are sorely needed in Nigeria today.
While we congratulate the Muslim Umah on the occasion of this season, we must remind them and indeed all Nigerians that there is no better time for self-introspection than a period of self-emptying without which no spiritual being can have a truly rewarding relationship with his or her maker. During this period, in total submission to the injunction of Allah, Muslims would abstain from food and drinks from dawn to dusk and also shun all forms of vices. Making such sacrifices in the bid to be better persons also require that those who hold public offices imbibe a new spirit that would make them give honest and selfless leadership to their respective constituents by providing the most basic of services that will help reduce and ultimately eliminate poverty, ignorance and disease.
Therefore, it is important to point attention to some evergreen lessons of this great religious observance, which, if imbibed by the nation’s leaders are capable of making life more meaningful for the people. This is especially necessary at this stage of the nation’s development when killings arising from terrorism are fast becoming a daily staple; when massive graft in high places is worsening people’s standard of living; and when ethnic uprisings and sectarian violence are threatening to tear the country apart. These are particularly frowned at by God and are vehemently discouraged by Ramadan fasting, the essence of which is to expose the faithful to their spiritual roots while teaching them that true humanity does not condone violence under any guise nor does it equate to mere material possessions.
The Ramadan period encourages the spirit of sharing with, and caring for the needy and the less privileged. If this spiritual core of man is recognised, it could lead to a positive change in our perspective on life: there would be no room for senseless materialism, greed and primitive accumulation of wealth. Rather, there would be greater concern for the poor. That indeed explains why fasting during Ramadan is a leveller of sorts as both the rich and poor are exposed to hunger and thirst at the same time. Thus, after such self-denial, expectations are that the wealthy would show more concerns for the plight of millions of their less fortunate compatriots while those in positions of authority would enunciate policies targeted at alleviating the sufferings of the people.
The essence of Ramadan fast is that man is invariably better off doing the will of God than merely pleasing himself. When he is able to rein in the impulse for self-gratification, man is more liable to make his society a better place to live in, not only for himself but also for his neighbour. Therefore, the nation’s political leaders have much to learn from the message of this holy season. If only they can curtail their materialistic tendencies and pay more attention to the yearnings of the people, the country will certainly become a much happier place for all to live in. There is much greed in our polity and it has all but ruined the nation.
However, it is our hope that political leaders, at practically all levels, would avail themselves of the lessons of this glorious season. We also hope that the outcome of this annual spiritual exercise will be of immense benefit to the nation.
Ramadan Kareem to all our Muslim brothers and sisters.