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Ramadan, the purpose and Rage in its Redness while Gaza burns

Oh you who have committed to Allah. Fasting is ordained for you as it has been ordained for those before you so that you might remain conscious of Allah and his power to implement justice”. Quran (2-183)

The Creator has throughout history sent emissaries to guide people on earth to live truthfully and justly. Prophets before Muhammad (p.b.u, h) used to fast together with their God conscious followers. Fasting is therefore universal to all faiths. Each year committed Muslims fast an entire month of Ramadan which spans approximately 30 days. From sunrise to sunset, a person has to refrain from eating foods, drinking liquids and engaging in sexual conduct. This is obligatory on each adult person.

It is a month of austerity and reverence. Many Ramadan’s have come and gone. Will this Ramadan be different from the previous one? Sheikhs and scholars eulogise the virtues of the month? Individuals exert themselves in extra acts of prayer, recitation of the Quran, meditation and charity. What is the purpose of Ramadan? , Are we meant to be God conscious, listening to the melodious recitation of the Quran and be charitable for 30 days only? Are we meant to become only individually more righteous?  What about the meaning of God’s words in the Quran? Surely a thinking mind must delve beyond the recitation and into the meanings of the divine writ.

“It was the month of Ramadan in which the Quran was first made accessible from on high as a guidance for people and self-evident proof of that guidance, and as a standard to discern the true from the false. Hence whoever of you lives to see this month shall fast throughout it, but he that is on a journey shall fast instead for the same number of other days” Quran 2-185

The Quran then is not for mere melodious recitation, it is the primary source of guidance to determine the truth and to act in pursuit of justice. It was in the holy month of Ramadan that the first verses of the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h) while he was in the cave of Hira at the age of 40.

“Read in the name of your Sustainer, who has created. Created the human being out of an adhesion, physical and emotional. Read for your sustainer is the Most Benevolent one, who has taught the intelligent social human the use of the writing instrument (pen)” Quran 96-1 to 4.

It is indeed revealing that in these first verses of revelation, God calls upon the human being to recognize his origin, his Creator and his most distinctive human trait, which is his intellect and his capacity to read and write. This intellectual responsibility is coupled with the duty to be an active free thinker in pursuit of justice. Yet Colonialism has dislocated the public Muslim mind from history and alienated him from his primary source of liberation which is the Quran. It follows therefore that the first step in decolonizing the Muslim mind is to gravitate to the Quran, read it, understand it and soak the mind in its words and use it as the primary source for inspiration and guidance for life on planet earth. Lady Ayesha is reported to have said that The Prophet (p.b.u.h) in his being and conduct had actualized and lived the Quran.

Some have a tendency to romanticize Ramadan as a month of equality and social justice. But even in this holy month, the class divide among people are exposed at iftaar with the setting sun. Some will retire to an iftaar (breaking of the fast) which can only be described as a feast or “pig out”. With three course meals, preceded by a choice of savouries and decadent milkshakes. This is the reality in suburbia, Sandton, Emmarentia, Westville, Houghton etc. Most committed Muslims however will break their fast with the bare minimum, a glass of water, a few dates and a bowl of soup. This is the reality in working class neighbourhoods like Mannenberg, Alexandra, Kagiso and Hekpoort.

Have we truly penetrated the ideological meanings and spirit of Ramadan? Why Ramadan? Why fast and hunger yourself? Why deny yourself water and be thirsty? What is the purpose of fasting in our contemporary world? “What is this world but play and amusement”? Quran (6-32). This World-the glitter and glamour. The fancy car and the palatial villa. The expensive smartphone, the holiday home, the hours at the gym and the shopping mall, the investments, the instalments, the weekend braai, the branded clothes, match day and the premier league clash between Liverpool and Manchester United, the 96th Hollywood Oscar awards, the latest SUV on the market, the most fab holiday destination, the latest house on the market, the popular sitcom, the number of likes on your social media page, the date at the beauty salon and the sacred selfies. Have you ever taken a selfie of your soul?  Is this the purpose of life, to keep on chasing the world in pursuit of wealth, possessions and fame, running around like a clown?  Ramadan forces you to pause, stop, get in tune with yourself and see the circus. “The material things that you are given are but the conveniences of this life and the glitter thereof, but that which is with Allah is better and more enduring, will you not then be wise” Quran(29-60)

The pace of modern living distracts us from reality and sends us on a silly goose chase where we become insensitive to the struggles and sufferings of our fellow human beings. Capitalism has individualized our minds, our spirit and even our faith! We cannot perceive a world beyond our individual wants because we have become slaves to the creed (Capitalism) of this world.

The month of Ramadan gives us the opportunity to liberate ourselves from the chains of this world. Now for one month, you deny yourselves the pleasures of earthly existence, food and sex. This self-denial creates a heightened and refined consciousness. You now chose to be hungry. Feel the hunger pangs! What does it feel like? We all claim to “know” about hunger. We hear about hungry people. We see the living skeletons dying from starvation on our TV and smartphone screens. To look from afar is to be an outsider! To experience and to feel is to know better. Fasting enables one to relate to the oppressed, hungry people! It is not only self-discipline but revolutionary consciousness raising. This is why apart from Ramadan, the Messenger (p.b.u.h) is reported to have fasted on at least two days (Mondays and Thursday) of every week.

No water to drink! The blistering heat. Thirst and dehydration. A headache and a feeling of weakness. The insatiable quest for water. You have been hungry and thirsty for fourteen hours and you can’t wait for the sun to set. You get irritable and angry at those around you. Now imagine the people of the world who are food insecure, who struggle for food and water every day. Become conscious of people who go hungry for months, years and a lifetime. Think about your neighbours in the township down the road where many are unemployed and don’t know where their next meal will come from. Will you not share your bread with them? Even the poorest among the friends of God, would take the little in their pockets and purchase seven loaves of bread to distribute amongst the poor. Take a stand against the system (Capitalism) that prioritizes profits above people. Monopolising food and keeping the prices exorbitant and at same time disposing of food that could feed millions. Be hungry but feel the ideological fire of hunger.

Self denialism brings the fasting person closer to his Creator as can be discerned from the following Ramadan verse.

“And when my obliging subjects ask you about Me, behold, I am near, I respond to the call of him who calls, whenever he calls upon me, let them then respond to me and commit themselves to Me, so that they might maturely follow the right way” Quran 2-185

The human being has a direct line to access his Creator, there are no gatekeepers who can prevent a believer from reaching his Creator. Fasting forces you to become extremely God conscious and people conscious. Be conscious of starvation that is not a tragedy but a cold and callous strategy used by your enemies both historically and today. Today, the 10th March on the eve on Ramadan, there are more than one hundred thousand casualties from the Israeli war on Gaza.  30 870 Palestinians have been killed and 72 402 have been injured. More than 8000 Palestinians are missing and probably rotting under the rubble, denied the right to die and be buried in dignity. As the world has just celebrated International women’s day it has allowed Israel to deliberately kill 8400 Muslim women in Gaza and slaughter 12 300 children.

Remember when Muhammad (p.b.u.h) and his comrades were under siege and caged in Shib Abi Talib and denied food and water, how starvation as a weapon of war was used to kill his most beloved comrades Khadijah and Abu Talib. Let Ramadan liberate the eye of your mind so that you can zoom into Gaza today where for five months in succession your brothers and sisters have been denied food and water. Right now, every day, many are dying of starvation and an imminent famine created by the Israeli Zionists and enabled by Imperial America, the U.K and the European Union. How difficult it is to break the fast and have a meal knowing that in Gaza, children are starving to death and the Israelis are feasting on the blood of innocent people.

Remember the spears that pierced through the necks of the noble children of Muhammad(p.b.u.h) at Karbala and the Zionist bullets that  now blow the brains of the little Muhammad’s and Fatima’s in Gaza. Be inspired by the defiance and resistance on the bloody fields of Karbala when Abu Fadl Al Abbas went to retrieve water for the Prophets (p.b.u.h) family, how the enemies viciously attacked him, they cut off his hand, he refused to surrender and fought on, they cut out his other hand, he fought on holding the can of water in his mouth and resisted until he was martyred. Now think about the Palestinians who are attacked and killed when they go out in search of water and food (The Flour Massacre) because they like the family of Muhammad (p.b.u.h) were denied food and water by their enemies. Like Imam Hussein and Abu Fadhl, the Palestinians remain defiant in their resistance to injustice. They run and try to dodge Israeli bullets as they pick up a bag of flour to take home to their families.  Remember the 17000 children who were made orphans by Israeli barbarism. These kids who will never feel the tenderness of a mother’s touch and the protection of a fathers hug. Don’t forget the extreme love, your leader (Muhammad (p.b.u.h) had for orphans as he too was an orphan.

The Palestinians are probably the most God conscious and God committed people on planet earth. They have sacrificed everything that is dear to them, their children, spouses, fathers, mothers, grandfathers, homes graveyards, universities and in all of this suffering, horror and loss they remain firm in their commitment to God and dignified in their resistance to the Israeli Occupation. They fervently pray in Ramadan and the Quran calls upon all the people of the world to stand in solidarity with the oppressed and occupied people of Palestine.

“And how could you refuse to fight in the cause of Allah and of the utterly helpless men and women and children who are crying. “O our Sustainer! Lead us forth to freedom out of this imperial civic society whose people are oppressors, and raise for us, out of your grace, a protector, and raise for us, out of your grace, one who will bring us support”. Quran 4-75.

Who on earth today are more utterly helpless than the men, women and children of Gaza who are fighting for freedom.

These Ramadan verses of the Quran expose those who are responsible for the miserable state of the world and the suffering in Gaza. The rulers within “Muslim ranks” are also exposed as they have power to intervene and help the utterly helpless men and women and children of Gaza who are being bombed and starved to death but are sitting back and watching the Genocide. They may don the mantle and the roble but these verses strip them of their “pious garb” and reveal them to be political hypocrites and an extension of Imperialism’s political apparatus and the enablers of the genocide in Gaza who collude with the Zionist State. They have no mandate from the Quran, the Prophet and the people to collude with Zionism and Imperialism.

Ramadan should transform every fasting person into a Gazan who feels the pain and suffering of Gaza within every fibre of his own being. This heightened and developed consciousness of the individual must fuse with the organised collective consciousness of all the peoples of the world and engage in international solidarity activity, resisting Zionism and Imperialism, building a strong Palestinian International Solidarity Movement just like the International Anti-Apartheid Movement.

Arise with the redness of Ramadan.

Iqbal Suleman

Suleman is a social justice lawyer and former head of the law clinic for Lawyers for Human Rights in Pretoria.