Terrorist groups have accustomed us to killing and bombing in the holy month of Ramadan. As soon as the holy month arrived, Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) was quick to remind us of its despicable atrocities by the suicide bombing of all the members of three families, young and old, in churches in the city of Surabaya, Indonesia. We have not forgotten the extent of Daesh’s madness when it attempted to target the Great Mosque of Makkah in Ramadan 2017, and its failed attempt to target fasting Muslims in the Haram Al-Madinah in Ramadan in 2016. Muslims have witnessed bloody Ramadans where unspeakable acts of aggression have been perpetrated by Daesh in markets and mosques to implement Baghdadi’s message that there is, “No work in this holy month better than Jihad”.
The question we pose to these terrorist groups is why do they not contemplate the monumental historic event that occurred in the month of Ramadan that changed the course of human history, namely the conquest of Makkah. Many of us are attracted by the strategic genius of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that included secrecy, conquest and others. Few of us pay attention to the greatest lesson a man can take from this decisive battle in the history of the Muslim Ummah, namely the respect and care for people’s lives and livelihoods.
The Prophet (pbuh) entered Makkah at the head of 10,000 fighters.
He was at the peak of his strength, while his enemies, who governed Makkah, had evicted him unjustly and tormented him while he was at his most vulnerable. All of this did not prevent him from showing restraint, humility, tolerance and a desire for coexistence. He never wavered in exercising the humanitarian values of his religion with a concern for human life. In this majestic scene, the Prophet (pbuh) taught his enemies a lesson, when he first tested them: What do you think I will do to you? They replied: Treat us well. And he said: Do not be confused today, may God forgive you and He is the Most Merciful. Then he said his famous words: Go, you are free!
Ramadan is a season to rid ourselves of destructive emotions, anger, revenge, hatred, conflicts and rivalries that destroy human relations. It is the soft power of love and tolerance of the Prophet (pbuh) that opened hearts and countries. In a hadith narrated by Al-Tirmidhi, the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Shall I not inform you of what is more virtuous than the rank of fasting, Salat, and charity?” They said: “But of course!” He said: “Making peace between each other. For indeed spoiling relations with each other is the Haliqah (destruction)”.
Fasting is the refinement of the soul and spirituality. These are essential building blocks for a society in the art of building a civilization. In this context, prominent historians such as Ibn Jubayr, Ibn Khaldun and Ibn Battuta offer examples of institutions built during the month of Ramadan in Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus, Andalusia, Herat, Ghazni, Balkh, Samarkand, Delhi, Istanbul, Makkah, Madinah, Kairouan and others such as libraries, hospitals, schools, mosques, hospitality centers, wedding halls, nursing homes, orphanages, support centers for those in debt and other institutions that made Ramadan an opportunity to pump blood into the veins of the Islamic civilisation.
In this holy month, Muslims used to perform major works such as establishing cities, universities, schools and mosques. On this occasion, the foundation stone of cities such as Fez, Wasit and major scientific institutions such as those in Qairouan, Fustat and others were laid. The most famous and prestigious universities in the Islamic world such as Al-Azhar, University of Al-Quaraouiyine and Zaytuna University were established in this holy month.
Mankind is in dire need of peaceful relationships, tolerance, the spirit of cooperation and charity. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was the most charitable during this month and exerted the utmost effort to create harmony between people according to the description of one of his pure wives.
We must make serious attempts to re-understand our responsibilities and make their effects appear in all aspects of our intellectual, behavioral and moral life. We ask ourselves questions such as: How can we make worship emerge from its fragrant civilised behavior and improve our reality in this world and the Hereafter? The crucial question is: How can we turn worship into a deeply rooted culture? If we do not do so, we should not be surprised if we find that the rate of quarrels and conflicts increases in Ramadan instead of decreasing, that the economic exploitation increases instead of decreasing, and that charity diminishes instead of increasing. Such is the result of removing fasting from its context, values, and principles and progressing in the opposite direction to that which is intended by this holy month.
If a person practices worship as a mechanical practice devoid of the spirit of worship and the essence of meaning and does not transform it into a deeply entrenched culture, such worship cannot change cultural reality, emphasise order and cleanliness, and prioritize appointments, in addition to other acts of virtue and righteousness.
The relationship of fasting with civilisation is the relationship between physics and metaphysics. It is where the divine meets the mundane, worship intersects with daily transactions, and communal and personal obligations meet. It is where the rich and the poor bond and the rights of Allah and rights of His servants are respected in the most beautiful practices.
The OIC’s Voice of Wisdom Center contributes to raising awareness of the cultural and moral concepts of this holy month by launching a campaign on social media to explore the human and cultural values that terrorists are keen to ignore and who emphasize, in its place, the doctrines of murder and hatred.
Bashir Ahmad Ansari is Director of the Dialogue and Outreach Department and Director of the Voice of Wisdom Center at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.