FASTING implies a social responsibility, and Ramadaan this year comes at a time of national crisis following deepening social discontent in our country. Our devotions of sacrifice, self-restraint and compassion for the poor are contextualised by a range of glaring social and political issues.
Our spiritual growth, we are constantly reminded by the Quran and the Sunnah, does not occur in isolation of social realities, locally and internationally. The leadership crisis in South Africa, the corrupt global imperial engagements between the USA and Russia, and the sustained impact of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, after almost seventy years, are relevant cases in point.
The latter, in particular, is of profound relevance for the fasting Muslim.
Our fast must necessarily be introspective but we also cannot fail to confront that which undermines social justice in our midst and further afield in the world.
Aspects of the true believer’s inner striving in Ramadaan are mirrored in his or her outer behaviour in the course of a struggle for justice universally.
The resistance of Palestinians against Israeli occupation is the iconic struggle of our time, largely because it is a struggle against the last settler colonial state sustained by an imperial power. There is a universality that defines this struggle, even in its transcendence of religious faith.
Colonial occupation has always been a global political phenomenon.
Yet, this anti-colonial struggle unites the three revealed, and other, faiths in this world in their universal admonishments to remain committed to justice in the face of any worldly injustice.
The capacity and the obligation to resist is the common thread in both the act of religious devotion and a political struggle.
This act of fasting, generic to all faiths that recognise God Almighty as Supreme Being, impels the believer to resist the ungodly for the sake of his or her individual spiritual well-being, and for the well-being in the worldly affairs of all people.
Ramadaan emerges, year after year, as the burning imperative for Muslims to strive for God-consciousness and spiritual growth in a deeply personal demonstration of faith and devotion in the global community of believers.
Yet, it also emerges as the force that impels all believers in their commitment to worldly justice that cannot be dissociated from the struggle within.
Both the inner and the outer are absolutely the domains of God hence no true believer can sustain a disconnect between the two.
As we commence our fast in Ramadaan, there are more than 400 children in Israeli prisons; and more than a 1 000 Palestinian prisoners in Occupied Palestine are well into the second month of a hunger strike.
Their basic demands include more humane regulations for family visits, better prison conditions and medical care, and an end to solitary confinement and detention without charge or trial.
It should strike us, and forcefully so, that the suffering of the poor and the oppressed in this world is caused by imperial forces seeking to gain and maintain control of the world’s key sources of wealth.
The interests of imperial power are sustained by the enslavement of the other.
Fasting produces the appropriate mental, physical and spiritual state not only for the God-conscious individual but for the capacity of the ummah to resist the empire.
Fasting is a time for both spiritual growth and social justice.