This is, or should be, the happiest season of the year — the time when we celebrate the holy month of Ramadan and the festival of Eid, except that we must keep in mind and pray for the casualties of the pandemic, and hardships of the poor, and the ongoing threat of the coronavirus.
Life must go on, however, and we all, in our separate ways, thank Allah every day for the abundance He has bestowed upon us. While life is a blessing for those who have loving families and sincere friends, we should also turn our thoughts to those who are less fortunate than us, and give more in charity of every sort.
Charity does not consist of donating just money and goods. True charity is a matter of the heart. It comes from feeling a sense of brotherhood, kindness, and a spirit of forgiveness for all. There are 1.9 billion Muslims worldwide, a billion residing in just six countries, while the remaining numbers are spread out all over the world.
Millions of the faithful go on pilgrimage to Makkah every year. I never cease to be impressed by the sight of the thousands of devotees who gather in prayer every day in mosques all over the world. It is a testimony to the power of our faith and our beliefs and our traditions.
And yet, in spite of the virtues that Islam encourages us to practice, and the spirit of universal brotherhood that our Holy Prophet (PBUH) exhorted upon us, our Muslim world is riven by sectarianism, factionalism, tribalism, and arrogance against our co-religionists. Violence, bigotry, and prejudice against people we consider different make a mockery of the very spirit of charity that is one of the most outstanding tenets of our religion.
A Muslim world of a billion and more people, if united in a spirit of brotherhood and common cause, peace and charity, could be one of the greatest and most powerful forces in the world.
Disunity makes us weak. Greed and selfish short-sighted and ill-thought out political policies leave us all vulnerable to exploitation by others. In spite of our numbers and our illustrious history, Muslims are a persecuted minority in many countries.
If we look back in time, and consider the Muslim Sultanates of Bengal, the Ottomans, the Mughals, the Arab caliphs, and the Moorish kingdoms — it is evident we were strong. There was education, rule of law, peace and prosperity. People of all faiths were allowed to practice their religions and their trades, and live in peace without religious persecution.
Today, we Muslims are different, as is evidenced by the wars and strife that we read of every day in the news. We have lost touch with our sense of brotherhood, and are destroying each other for the profit of those who have the ability to exploit disunity.
This holy month has reminded me of what the Muslim world used to be. We need to return to the fundamental enlightened tenets of our religion, remember and retrieve the virtues that made us great, and regain our identity as real Muslims.
The next time we turn to Allah to pray, we should ask for the blessings of virtue, kindness, compassion, and, most importantly, love and unity for all. We have been endowed with free will and intelligence that we may dream and work toward something greater than ourselves, to create a better world for all, and to leave behind us legacies that are significant and meaningful.
The question we must all ask ourselves is whether we have succeeded, or are even trying to do so.
Photo: LS Archive/ Sazzad Ibne Sayed