14 September 2009
Acceptance or Indifference?
Most Muslims learn in their childhood about the five pillars on which Islam is anchored: Shahada, (Faith), Salah (Prayers), Saum of Ramadan (Fasting), Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca) and Zakat (Charitable giving). Whether one is a practicing or a non practicing Muslim, no other time is a better reminder of our heritage than the month of Ramadan; the month during which we fast. Once in a while I notice eyes enlarge as this information is exchanged. I hasten to reassure them that the fasting is not for a continuous month but actually only from dawn to dusk every day. Kind eyes flood with relief and comprehension.
It reminds me, as Americans, how little we know about each other. Diversity, which is the hallmark of this great country, sometimes does little to tell us much about the “other”. We are very PC in accepting differences, but often fail to fathom how and why those differences enrich the tapestry of our society. So my
question is this- if we don’t know about the “other” how can we actually have accepted what we don’t know? Is this acceptance or mere indifference?
The month of Ramadan is here again this year and millions of Muslims are fasting worldwide dawn to dusk. And when I say fast, I mean fast…. no food, no drink, no sex, period. We break the fast as the sun sets with water or a refreshing drink such as lemonade. Then we feast with a variety of food from the ordinary to the sublime. The first few days of fasting, everything tastes sublime since our bodies are still adjusting to the cycle of eating and our eyes are bigger and hungrier than our stomachs. So we pile our plates with food for three and learn in a few days that our stomachs have more sense while our sensory organs have temporary lapse. Our stomachs actually shrink and as the days go on the urge to overeat abates a lot. Now, ladies and gentlemen, if you are thinking “what a great way to loose weight”……….. you are more than welcome. Just know that’s not why Islam asks us to fast.
The month of Ramadan is a month of prayer and contemplation. It is a time to go within and reassess our lives; a time to recognize our blessings and learn and relearn discipline and self-control; a time to receive with graciousness and give with generosity. Which brings me to one of the other five Pillars of Islam-Zakat (Charitable giving).
Though Zakat can be paid anytime within a year, the practice of giving Zakat during the month of Ramadan goes hand in hand with fasting and introspection. Every Muslim with earthly possessions is obligated to pay this charitable contribution. How much will depend on each person’s worldly riches. Zakat is primarily given to the poor and the needy members of ones own family; neighbors; and other members of the community. To me this makes perfect sense. Who better to take care of a community, than it’s very own? Charity begins at home, does it not? Today in our modern civilization we have government welfare and many social services to lend a hand to those amongst us who are less fortunate or temporarily unable. While we disagree on who should be the recipients of such support and debate over how far our obligations should stretch, we all recognize that it is a necessity for our very well being. Just as this recognition is present today in all civil society, so it is built in as a social obligation for all who believe in Islam and it’s five Pillars. No matter how diverse we are in this country, the fabric of our basic humanity is not very different.
So, get going…..know each “other”
If you are fasting, hang in there. Only a few more days left. Once the sliver of the next new moon peeks out, the month of Ramadan will come to an end and fasting will be over with the celebration of Eid -Ul- Fitr.
In the meantime…………….Happy Ramadan!!!.
Nilufar A. Jamir