JAMIATUL ULAMA SA EID MESSAGE
THE celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr is a marker that the spring season of immense rewards that is Ramadaan is behind us. This invokes an emotional ambivalence as a sense of apprehension lingers while, at the same time, we rejoice with a sense of accomplishment, writes MOULANA EBRAHIM BHAM.
A believer is between fear and hope. The fear is what causes the apprehension that as servants, we did not fulfil the expectation of our Lord, our Master. The celebration brooks from the hope that emanates from the appreciation of the Almighty’s Infinite Mercy and Ever-Forgiving attributes.
‘Whoever fasts (during) Ramadaan with faith and with hope of reward, will have his previous sins forgiven.’ (Al Bukhari and Muslim)
The purity of the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr is in the fact that it is not an anniversary of a personality or the commemoration of a historical event but the celebration of the resolute spirit of Muslims, the power of endurance, the strength of our willpower and the resilience of faith.
As we celebrate the Day of Eid, let us also reflect on the many challenges and tribulations facing humanity. In doing so, we will appreciate the many favours our Sustainer bestows upon us. Socio-economic conditions challenge our nation where the gulf of inequality remains wide. Covid-19 has exacted a toll on communities and the public health response to the coronavirus pandemic has adversely affected livelihoods. Persistent social ills of crime, abuse and corruption continue to restrict the potential of our national growth.
Elsewhere, armed conflicts and the pandemic continue to pose challenges that leave anguish, loss and pain among communities. Yet, the promise of the Almighty is that His help is ever near: “… [T]he Messenger and those with him cried, ‘Where is the help of Allah?’ Indeed! But the help of Allah was ever near.” (2:214)
At each one’s personal level, our challenge is to keep alive the spirit of Ramadaan, to strengthen our bond with our Creator and with each other. Islam is the religion of worship, ibadah. But worship in our deen is not mere formalism and an observance of a set of rituals. It is a comprehensive way of life that addresses every facet of our living and being.
If we supplicate, yet others are not safe and secure from our words and our actions; if we pray and continue doing injustice to others; if we petition The All-Seeing and ignore the cries of the vulnerable, indigent and those in pain; if we beg from The Provider and do not care for those who are suffering in our neighbourhood and around the world then we have not understood the true significance of worship, the purpose of our prayers.
The verse of the Noble Quran is explicit in teaching us the purpose of fasting in Ramadaan: ‘O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint. (2:183) How do we know that we have attained a measure of self-restraint?
Firstly, self-restraint is present in a Muslim when it creates within, a consistent mind-set and a disposition towards good and virtue that comes from a consciousness of the Omnipresence of the Almighty. It is a trait which the Nabi (SAW) advised on the Sahabi: ‘Be conscious of Allah wherever you are; and follow an evil deed with a good one, you will obliterate it (the evil) and deal with people with a good disposition.’ (Tirmidhi)
Secondly, as the Almighty commands in the Noble Quran: ‘Be just: this is closest to piety.’ (5:8) Humans readily and eagerly identify with notions of justice when its course and pursuit seem to be in their interest. The litmus test is to uphold justice in the face of strong conflicting emotions, and apparent prospect of loss or being at a disadvantage.
Finally, the Noble Quran instructs the believers as follows: ‘… Do not speak ill of one another behind their backs … and be conscious of Allah…’ (49:12)
The successful candidates of the exercise in self-restraint are therefore those who have earned and renewed levels of piety that result in mental, physical and spiritual growth. A measure our all-rounded growth during the month of Ramadaan will be gauged by asking ourselves to what extent we have attained a love for virtue and a disdain for vice; greater self-discipline, patience and steadfastness; a higher level of Allah-consciousness; a lesser inclination towards self-centeredness; greater humility, kindness and compassion, and stronger unity among fellow Muslims.
Living beyond formalism implies adopting a life of self-less activism. The people of Allah are the models of virtue, goodness and social justice. They stand for fair-dealing, peace and justice in the world. They defend and promote the causes of the downtrodden and the marginalised. They are not content with their own personal righteousness and salvation only but they work to bring justice, peace and happiness to the world, starting with their immediate circles of influence.
May this Eid-ul-Fitr be the turning point of our lives where we do not only harvest the spiritual fruits of piety but also start to embrace causes that make the world a better place. Ameen.
Moulana Ebrahim Ismail Bham is the secretary general of Jamiatul Ulama South Africa.