Millions of Muslims belonging to all parts of the world, including Pakistan, are these days observing the month of Ramazan. Fasting is known as sawm in Arabic, vrata in Sanskrit and roza in Urdu.
I am regularly invited to participate in various TV talk shows to exchange my views on current affairs and political developments. Recently, I was part of a Ramazan transmission on TV as a guest. During a break on the show, the female anchor (a former film star) responded to my views about the blessing of Ramazan by saying that it is necessary to embrace Islam to become eligible for God’s blessing.
This was a shocking statement for me. Although I chose to keep quiet, I thought that if the host was right, then why is there no discrimination of God’s blessings on all of entire mankind? The sun shines daily on everyone regardless of their religious affiliations. The clouds bring rain to each and every corner of the world without considering whether Muslims live there or not. God grants success and prosperity to anyone who does his job with honesty, professionalism and dignity. Even natural disasters are blind to the borders of Muslim or non-Muslim countries.
According to an estimate, there are as many as 7.000 languages spoken across the globe. God is given different names in different languages. But His teachings to serve humanity cannot be different. In Islam, God is the creator of the universe and is, therefore, kind to everyone. The sole purpose of mankind’s existence is to please God through worship and good deeds. The life of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) shows that he was always kind to everyone. Despite facing his opponents and enemies, he prayed for them. There are many instances that reflect his kindness and generosity, especially towards the weak and the poor. His kindness towards an old woman who would throw garbage at him remains a golden example of serving humanity.
The holy month of Ramazan also demands the same gestures to develop and strengthen our will power and self-control to resist bad habits and perform good deeds. Fasting does not only involve refraining from eating and drinking. Those who fast are expect to abstain from all forms of selfish desires and wrongdoings. If someone who fasts tells lies and commits fraud, an injustice or even a crime, he or she multiplies his spiritual unrest.
The concept of fasting is not only limited to Islam. Voluntary abstinence from eating has been an important rite of spiritual purification in various religions. Hinduism is known as the oldest religion in the world, with a history of around 4,000 years. The Hindu community has been fasting on various religious festivals – such as Ekadashi, Satyanarayan and Navratri – for many years. Hindus fast on every Monday during the holiest month of Kartik. It is common for Hindu devotees to fast while visiting holy places. Hindu married women also fast for the safety and long life of their husbands.
According to the Bible, a devotee must not disfigure his face like a hypocrite to show that he is fasting. In Judaism, on Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement– people fast for a day. Similarly, fasting rituals have been observed for centuries on various religious ceremonies celebrated by the followers of Buddhism, Jainism and Taoism.
The basic purpose of fasting in every religion is to inculcate positive qualities so that people can play their due role in the betterment of society. Some of those spiritual qualities include compassion, empathy, tolerance, charity, generosity, humility, kindness and reverence. Even modern medical science has highlighted the health benefits of fasting.
In our society, the ratio of intolerance increases in Ramazan even though most people are fasting. This is unfortunate. Instead of performing good deeds, we immerse ourselves in unnecessary activities, such as expressing anger and misbehaving with others. It is equally unethical to organise luxury iftar parties and publicise them on social media when there are so many people around us who do not have sufficient food for sehr and iftar. While mosques and bazaars attract large crowds in Ramazan, attendance at government offices tends to decrease. It is not fair to ignore your professional duties under the guise of fasting.
The eternal happiness and spiritual peace that a follower receives by fasting cannot be imagined by anyone else. His face glows due to the blessings of God. Since Ramazan is considered to be a month when prayers are accepted, the people of Pakistan – regardless of their religion – should pray for the prosperity and development of our beloved country.
The writer is a member of the National
Assembly and patron-in-chief of the
Pakistan Hindu Council.
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