Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Peace and Reconciliation are Blessings of the Month of Ramadan for Liberia

Over the last few days since the beginning of Ramadan in Liberia, most of my non-Muslim friends and workmates have continued to ask me about the significance of, and dos and don’ts of the Holy Month of Ramadan. I have most often in my own way (albeit limited) given them some information. Their inquiries are important because if they do not know, they will hold onto misconceptions, and actions influenced by misconceptions or limited information could be intolerant and/or offensive. Those who are trying to ask, or even listening to the popular radio Al-Fala are doing their best to get informed about Islam. This reemphasizes the maxim that you need to know your neighbor in order to relate to him/her better. So this edition of the series is to respond to the many queries of our friends in an open space like this one, and to make the case about how the Holy Month of Ramadan brings peace and reconciliation.

Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, and like the Hajj, it is performed periodically, that is, once every year. While a Muslim is primarily required to perform Hajj once in his/her lifetime given the ability of resources, as for the Ramadan, a Muslim is under religious obligation to fast every year in the Holy Month of Ramadan. This is also very flexible under different circumstances, like health, travel and recognizable encumbrances.

Ramadan comes as a holy Month for us Muslims and we put nearly all efforts to ensure that we strengthen our faith with our Creator, the Almighty Allah. It is revealed that it was during the month of Ramadan, the ninth lunar month in the Islamic Calendar, that the Holy Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, (may the Peace and Blessings of Allah be Upon Him) providing guidance and teachings to the people. Muslims who witness this month must therefore fast, except those in special conditions. While fasting a Muslim refrains from eating and drinking and practices continence. It is a time of worship and contemplation, and to fulfill the commands of the Almighty God and grow one’s soul.

Ramadan is also very relevant in improving social relations because during this time, family and community ties are strengthened, and the individual displays the best behavior in the community. Social science tells us that good relations within communities promote inter-community relationships and promote peace. And from all indications Ramadan provides a good opportunity for doing just that amongst Muslims and with non-Muslims. It is this strong sense of community that comes during this Holy Month that I emphasize here in this edition.

Family and community ties are strengthened in that Muslims from different social, political, and economic backgrounds come together for once to share in the blessings of this Holy Month. This unity is seen everywhere, whether at the Mosque or at a community center during Iftar – the evening fast breaking dinner. I have seen this over the years, and currently, In our own club of friends and brothers we called “THE VILLAGE”, a central Monrovia gathering, we have seen how this month have brought together some brothers, and created a family-like relationship just in the first few days of the Ramadan. An amazing thing about THE VILLAGE is that we oftentimes have non-Muslim friends who come to have Iftar (dinner) with us. This is interesting and it brings a strong message that Liberia is socially improving on issues of religious tolerance, reconciliation and peace.

THE VILLAGE, located on the peak of Snapper Hill in Monrovia, has been a meeting center for young professionals in business, government, and the non-profit sectors for years. Even though it started with mostly Muslim brothers, the quality of conversation, the modesty, and feeling of goodwill in addition to jovial exchanges have drawn together many other young professionals making THE VILLAGE an exciting informal multicultural, multi-religious gathering of young professionals in Liberia. Relations amongst the brothers of THE VILLAGE, both Muslims and non-Muslims alike have grown stronger since the Ramadan.

THE VILLAGE could be just one example, but around the country, particularly in Monrovia one can see how families and communities come together during the Month of Ramadan to share in the blessings of unity and peace that come with this Holy Month. Sharing the blessing of unity is done through eating together, praying together, and sitting together having constructive dialogues. Non-Muslims are also fully acknowledging the levels at which to interact with their Muslim neighbors. In most of the instances today, you see non-Muslims seeking answers about things they have held misconceptions for over the years. For examples, many non-Muslims treat their Muslim neighbors in extremely cordial manners during the Holy Month. This only tells us that friends are becoming more sensitive of the needs and concerns of each other and are prepared to respect the various diversities that exist in their communities. Through this, we have seen mutual collaborations, and the rate of tolerance also grow in workplaces, schools and social organizations. Ramadan adds more to that, and with the lessons and experiences of this Holy Month, it is obvious that Liberia has a growing opportunity to advance reconciliation and peaceful co-existence amongst its people.

In the Cause of Democracy and Social Justice the Pen Shall Never Run Dry