Ramadan : A time of Reflection not Ritual
Our Most beloved Prophet, Peace and Blessings upon him, had taught us that there are three signs of a hypocrite: “When he speaks, he lies; when he is entrusted, he breaches his trust, when he makes a promise, he breaks it.” This hadith is a perfect standard for every Muslim to check if he is one-third, two-thirds or a complete hypocrite. I think very few Muslims today will be to satisfy themselves that they do not suffer from one or more of these signs of hypocrisy…
Now let us see why we have come to this impasse? We repeat every day in one form or another that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad (Peace and blessings upon him) is His beloved servant and Messenger but our outward behaviour fails to testify that we even understand the meaning of shahadah, let alone act and behave according to this belief.
Our masjids are still full but seldom a face betrays the signs of humility, piety and fear of Allah which should be the direct outcome of salat (al Qur’an – 29:45).
We fast in Ramadan but abstinence from what Allah has prohibited is not visible in our daily lives. Ramadan, instead, has become a season for culinary competition and gluttony in all Muslim societies. The month of abstinence is the month of wasteful consumption for us.
We go to Hajj, which is the combination of all Islamic forms of worship, but the returning hajis show that almost nothing has changed in their lives. They were more busy shopping for the latest electronic gadgets in Makkah and Madinah than spending time in the blessed House of Allah and the beloved Prophet’s (peace and blessings upon him) Mosque.
Some of us still pay zakat but not as an obligation and responsibility but as a favour to the poor. No attempt is made to pay it to a reliable fund or to the beneficiaries named by Allah (1. Poor, 2. needy, 3. collectors of zakat, 4. new converts, 5. [to set free] prisoners, 6. debtor, 7. in the cause of Allah and 8. travellers – Qur’an – 9:60). Rather zakat is paid these days to the seasonal beggars who make a beeline to the doors of wealthy Muslims during Ramadan or to the mushrooming madrasahs whose entitlement to zakat is questionable except to the extent of spending zakat on poor students. These days a few known madrasahs mop up most of the zakat funds while really needy Muslims remain deprived, especially those who do not beg whom Allah has specifically named as a beneficiary of charity (51:19, 70:25).
Having deprived every Islamic “pillar” of its spirit, we have turned them into rituals. Every religious act today is a mere ritual which is performed again and again without any attempt to understand its underlying spirit and demands on our daily life and character as individuals and as a community.
Ramadan, when life slows down all over the world of Islam, is a good time to pause, think and try to regain some lost ground. This alone will change our plight: “Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves” (al Qur’an 13:11).