Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why We Fast

There's a downside to hiring a babysitter who's a neat freak.

"Why didn't you ever organize our room like this?" my six-year-old asked me after spending an afternoon last week cleaning her closet out with the sitter, who taught my girls how to fold clothes "like they do in the stores."

"Well, that's what Ramadan is for," I told her as I inspected her drawers, where the socks were surprisingly rolled up, lined up and color-coordinated. "We are supposed to spend the month working on putting everything in its own place."

While "putting everything in its own place," or adl in Arabic, is not usually on most people's agenda for Ramadan (like supererogatory prayers, Quran recitations and supplications are), it is precisely what we are supposed to practice to gain the most out of this blessed month.

God says: "O you who are commited to God, fasting has been declared a mandatory service upon you as it has been declared a mandatory service upon those before you so that you may acquire taqwa (God-consciousness)...." (Quran 2: 183)

And later: "See to it that adl is done because it is closest in proximity to taqwa (God-consciousness)." (5: 8)

It was Ali, the husband of Fatima, one of the four perfect women of all times, who defined adl, usually translated as justice, as "putting everything in its own place," both in the personal as well as socio-political-economic settings.

"Adl means giving every possessor of right his due," explained cleric Murtaza Mutahhari. "So everyone should get all of his due, such as equality before law, economic equality, racial equality, liberty and due of property."

Muslims are supposed to fast all day this month to heighten their awareness of God the Almighty as well as the world around them. The hunger pangs we feel should not only help us relate to or donate to the poor and disenfranchised around the world, but it should also compel us to do something to systematically bring more balance, equality, non-discrimination and rights to others as is their due.

"Let's understand why there is imbalance in the world," says scholar Salim Yusufali. "Why is it that we have the 99% and the 1%?"

Last weekend a group gathered in front of the U.S. Consulate in Toronto to protest America's support of the brutal Saudi regime, which in early July arrested, imprisoned and tortured one of its scholars for speaking out against injustice.

"You are living the spirit of Ramadan by being actively present in the field," Zafar Bangash, imam of the Islamic Society of York Region mosque told the crowd.

It's by no coincidence that Imam Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution, in 1979 declared the last Friday of Ramadan as Al-Quds Day in solidarity with all the oppressed people of the world, especially the Palestinians suffering at the hands of the Zionist regime.

Millions of people around the world--of varied religious and ethnic backgrounds--continue to hold rallies on that date to protest the oppression around them, and we should encourage our communities to also do their parts to "put everything in its rightful place."

But first I have to figure out whose socks are whose and which drawers they belong in....


Anonymous said...

Good points Salina...however, the greatest protest is speaking/standing up for oppression that surrounds our daily lives. People we see working in our homes, even babysitters, nannies, or people who mow the lawn or all the "fix it" guys out there, and all the "others" who are blatantly underpaid and mistreated in unspoken ways right in front of our eyes. Oppression exists in our own homes when parents no longer have time or the inclination to read bedtime stories, or cook healthy meals for the kids, or spend a single quality moment for instruction of any kind, need I say more. As a pediatrician, I am disgusted by the "developmental delays" I observe around me, when children no longer KNOW to stand up and give their seats to the elderly, or let a fasting person break fast before grabbing all the food on a table! These are our failings as a people, not our children. To sit silent in the masjids every night praying away is not enough while the kids are outside trashing the bathrooms and conference rooms. Where is the order. Then there are the places in our own homes and communities where we wait for a needy person to ask/beg for help without seeing the obvious needs that exist before us. We offer money, donations but what about a smile, or a friendly visit, or help with laundry and groceries when someone is sick or old, again the list is endless. These are the unspoken oppressions, never mentioned in newspapers or CNN. You will never hear about it, pretend you never saw it, and never speak about it again. The protest has failed most for all those people sitting right next to us, amongst us, working for us, and wondering why we choose to remain silent. May Allah(SWT) reward you for your efforts!

Salina Khan said...

I totally agree, Doctor. We need to do all that you mentioned. Unfortunately, we all too often fall prey to the "blame the victim" thinking and don't help those suffering right under our noses. However, we also need to work on making changes in society that will solve the ROOT causes of these problems so we don't have to keep applying band-aid fixes. It's like the story about the people in the village who kept running into the river to save babies they kept finding coming down the river. Then some wise villager went upstream to stop the people who were throwing babies into the river and solved the problem once and for all! Thank you for sharing your thoughts!