Saturday, September 13, 2008

Do not turn Ramadhan into a hunger strike in September

By : Mohamed Hanipa Maidin

Whether we realize or not when we fast in the month of Ramadhan we are in fact carrying out the commandment of our Lord as stated in the following verse of the Quran

“O you who believe, prescribed for you, obligatory [for you], is the Fast, just as it was prescribed for those, communities, that were before you so that you might guard yourselves, against acts of disobedience” ( 2 : 183 )

Because of this verse fasting becomes obligatory upon any muslim. Generally we may say almost all muslims in this country believe in this commandment. Even those who fail to observe this ibadah dare not say that fasting is not mandatory. In Islam fasting falls under the category of “ma’lum minna deen bidharurah” ( things which any muslim must know as a matter of necessity ) . Thus its mandatoriness cannot be disputed let alone challenged.

Whenever the month of ramadhan comes to us, we hardly hear any argument which says that the abovesaid verse cannot be applied. It seems that all muslims irrespective of their backgrounds are united in accepting the obligation of fasting in ramadhan. Thus we do not hear various excuses such as the verse cannot be carried out as we are living in a multi racial country or by implementing it there will be chaos or worse it may impede the influx of investors.

Unfortunately the same attitude is lacking to some muslims when they are confronted with another verse in the Quran which is also placed in the same chapter. The verse reads as follows :-

“ O you who believe, prescribed, made obligatory, for you is retaliation ( qisas ), on equal terms, regarding the slain, both in the attributes [of the one slain] and in the action involved; a free man, is killed, for a free man, and not for a slave; and a slave for a slave, and a female for a female.” ( 2 : 178 )

This verse talks about the obligation of muslims to implement qisas ( the law of retaliation ) in a crime of murder. Allah promises in His book that the law of qisas ( if implemented ) will bring life to the people ( wa lakum fi al-qisasi hayatun ya ulil albab ). The Quran is not an ordinary statue. It is the book of God comprising inter alia of His promises. He will never break His promise. Muslim must believe that the crimes of murders can only be reduced if the law of qisas is implemented. Ignoring it does not bring any harm to God but to ourselves.

If the verse on al-saum ( fasting ) is directed to the believers the verse on al-qisas is also addressed to the same category of people. Logically when we claim ourselves as true believers we must treat these two verses as equally important.

Unfortunately when some muslims are told that the verse on qisas is also mandatory and this divine’s command must also be translated into practice we will hear so many excuses. Some will easily refute the applicability of this verse . They will say that this divine law is not suitable to this country as we are living in a multi racial country. Some will argue that if we implement this law there will be chaos in the country. Some will even contend that the implementation of this verse will scare off the investors thus undermining the economic growth as if the latter like to invest their money in the country where there are many murderers.

For those who dichotomize these two verses – accept the verse on saum but reject the verse on qisas- they are hereby reminded with the following verses from the same surah ( chapter )

“O you who believe, come, all of you, into submission and follow not the steps of Satan ; he is a manifest foe to you ( 2 : 208 )

This verse enjoins us to take Islam in toto . Islam is a perfect religion thus its teachings cannot be compartmentalised. A muslim is prohibited to believe in one particular verse and reject the other verses of the Quran. If he does so Allah says the muslim will be humiliated ( hizyun ) in this world and in the Hereafter he will be facing a very grevious punishment .

It must be borne in mind that both verses on saum and qisas are the explicit commands/orders ( al-awamir ) from Allah. And Islam ,as stated by Imam Abu Hanifa, is a total submission to and observance of Allah’s commands ( Al-Islam hua taslim wa al-inqiyad li awamirillah )

Imam Ibnu Qayyim made a very interesting observations on the difference between ignoring God’s commands ( tarku al-awamir ) and committing the prohibited things ( irtikab al manahi ). He says :-

“ In the eyes of God failing to implement God’s commands ( tarku al-awamir ) is more serious than committing the prohibited things ( tarku al-awamir ‘a’zam ‘ein dallahi min irtikabi al –manahi )

Indulgence in prohibited activities normally stems from one’s ignorance , negligence or carelessness. On the other hand failure to implement God’s orders stems from an act of pride or boasting oneself ( al-kibr ).

Ibnu Qayyim nicely illustrates the abovesaid points by citing two separate incidents in the Quran. One is on the story of Adam. Adam was ordered by Allah not to come near to the forbidden tree in the Paradise. Due to his carelessness he committed the prohibited acts. Nevertheless he subsequently repented and Allah accepted his repentance.

The other incident is the story of the Devil ( satan ). The satan was commanded by Allah to proscrate before Adam but the former refused to obey such a command. His refusal was not due to his carelessness. On the other hand it stemmed from his utter arrogance and superiority complex. The devil was of the view that it was better than Adam . Due to its smugness, satans’ sins will never be forgiven by Allah.

The attitude in accepting the verse on saum and rejecting the verse on qisas indicates that some muslims only remember Allah in the month of Ramdahan but forget Him on another months. To this the muslim scholars used to say

“ The most wicked group are those who do not remember Allah save in Ramadhan”

When we fast in this blessed month we must endeavor to carry out our fast as demonstrated by the prophet Muhammad s.a.w. Thus before we enter this blessing month it is incumbent upon us to equip ourselves with necessary preparations We must know the do and don’ts in this blessed month. Remember we are fasting in the month of ramadhan and not the month of september. As far as the muslims are concerned september is not significant to him at all . Those who fail to follow the shariah and the Prophet’s ways of observing ramadhan are in fact only performing a hunger strike in the month of September !!!

What are the prophet’s ways of observing this great ibadah ? To answer this question the muslims have to refer to many books written on this subjects. In a nutshell we can conclude that the way the Prophet observed the saum was by committing himself to all good deeds which brought him closer to Him. Be that as it may the Prophet spent much of his time by reciting the Quran, performing sadaqah, helping the needy and performing nawafil prayer at night etc.

Let me share some examples on how some muslims observe this ibadah . Take for example the practice of sahur.

The Prophet enjoined the muslims to perform sahur as in it lies a blessing ( barakah ). He also stated that the difference between the muslims’ fasting and the fasting of the people of book books ( ahlul kitab ) is on having a breakfast in sahur.

Unfortunately some muslims, due to their carelessness or ignorance, fail miserably to observe this practice. They used to take supper rather than sahur. As a result they will miss sahur and in turn loose the barakah.

Likewise on the practice of Iktikaf ( performing ibadah in the mosque ) in the last ten of ramadhan. The Prophet spent these periods by performing iktikaf in the mosque. This sunnah is still rarely practiced by some muslims in this country. It is rather an exception than a norm.

Hopefully there will be a drastic change in the ways muslims observe their fast in this blessed month. It is also hoped the muslim will not exit this blessed month as he entered it ( la yakhruju minhu kama dakhulu fihi ).

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