The Month of Peace, Tolerance and Civilization Building

6/6/2018 - 1:00:00 PM - by Bashir Ansari *


he terrorist groups have accustomed us to killing and bombing in the holy month of Ramadan. With the arrival of the holy month, Daesh has been quick to remind us of its despicable atrocities by the suicide bombing of all the members of three families, young and old, in churches of the city of Surabaya, Indonesia. We have not forgotten the extent of Daesh’s madness when it targeted the Great Mosque of Mecca in Ramadan 2017, and its failed attempt to target the fasting Muslims in the Haram Al-Madinah in Ramadan in 2016. Since Daesh, Muslims have witnessed countless bloody Ramadans where unspeakable acts of aggression have been perpetrated in markets and mosques to implement Baghdadi’s message that there is, “No work in this holy month better than Jihad”.
The question we pose to these groups is why do they not contemplate the monumental historical event the occurred in the month of Ramadan that changed the course of human history, namely the conquest of Mecca. Many of us are attracted by the strategic genius of the Prophet (PBUH) that included obscurity, secrecy, conquest, and others. Few of us pay attention to the greatest lesson a man can take from this decisive battle in the history of the Muslim Ummah, namely the respect and care for people’s lives and livelihoods.
The Prophet (PBUH) entered Makkah at the head of ten thousand fighters. He was at the peak of his strength, while his enemies, who governed Mecca, evicted him unjustly and tormented him while he was at his most vulnerable. All this did not prevent him from showing restraint, humility, tolerance and coexistence. He never wavered in exercising the humanitarian values of his religion with a concern for human life. In this majestic scene, the Prophet taught his enemies a lesson, when he first tested them: What do you think I am doing to you? They replied: treat us well. And he said: Do not be confused today, may God forgive you and He is the Most Merciful. Then he said his famous words: Go, you are free!
Ramadan is a season to rid ourselves of destructive emotions, anger, revenge, hatred, conflicts and rivalries that destroy human relations. It is the Prophet’s soft power of love and tolerance that opened hearts and countries. In a hadith narrated by al-Tirmidhi, the Prophet (PBUH) said: “Shall I not inform you of what is more virtuous than the rank of fasting, Salat, and charity?” They said: “But of course!” He said: “Making peace between each other. For indeed spoiling relations with each other is the Haliqah (destruction)”.
Mankind is in a dire need for peaceful relationships, tolerance, the spirit of cooperation and charity. The Messenger of Allah was the most charitable during this month and exerted the utmost effort to strike a harmony between people according to the description of one of his pure wives.
Fasting is the refinement of the soul and spirituality. These are essential building blocks for a high society the art of building a civilization. In this context, prominent historians such as Ibn Jubayr, Ibn Khaldun and Ibn Battuta offer examples of institutions built during the month of Ramadan in Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus, Andalusia, Herat, Ghazni, Balkh, Samarkand, Delhi, Istanbul, Mecca, Medina, Kairouan and others such as libraries, hospitals, schools, mosques, hospitality centres, wedding halls, nursing homes, orphanages, support centres for those in debt and other institutions that made Ramadan an opportunity to pump blood into the veins of the Islamic civilisation.
In this holy month, Muslims used to perform major works such as establishing cities, universities, schools and mosques. On this occasion, the foundation stone of cities such as Fez, Wasit and major scientific institutions such as those in Qairouan, Fustat and others were laid. The most famous and prestigious universities in the Islamic world such as Al-Azhar, University of Al Quaraouiyine and Zaytuna University were established in this holy month.
We must make serious attempts to re-understand our abject responsibilities and make their effects appear in all fields of our intellectual, behavioural and moral life. We ask ourselves questions such as: How do we make worship emerge from its fragrant civilised behaviours that improve our reality in the world and the Hereafter? The crucial question is, how can we turn worship into a deeply rooted culture? If we do not do so, we should not be surprised if we find that the rate of quarrels and conflict rises in Ramadan instead of decreasing, that the economic exploitation increases instead of decreasing, and that charity diminishes instead of increasing. Such is the result of removing fasting from its context, values, and principles and progressing in the opposite direction to that which is intended by this holy month.
If a person practices worship as a mechanical practice devoid of the spirit of worship and the essence of meaning and does not transform it into a deeply entrenched culture, slave worship cannot change their cultural reality, emphasise order and cleanliness, and prioritise appointments, in addition to other acts of virtue and righteousness.
The relationship of fasting with civilisation is the relationship between physics and metaphysics. It is where the divine meets the mundane, worship intersects with daily transactions, and communal and personal obligations meet. It is where the rich and the poor bond and the rights of Allah and rights of His servants are respected in the most beautiful practices.
The OIC’s Voice of Wisdom Centre contributes to raising awareness of the cultural and moral concepts of this holy month by launching a campaign on social media to explore the human and cultural values that the radicals are keen to ignore and who emphasise, in its place, the doctrines of murder and hatred.

* Bashir Ahmad Ansari: Director of Dialogue and Outreach Department and Director of Voice of Wisdom Centre at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.