THE root of the word “Ramadan” is from “ramd” (to burn), hence Ramadan signifying the burning away of sins. It is imperative to note that fasting in the month of Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam. “O you who believe, observing ‘As-Sawm’(the fast) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you might be pious” (Q2:183). The month of Ramadan is a period of spiritual discipline and elevation through fasting.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic year, wherein we observe strict fasting from dawn to sunset. Islamic lexicographers are of the view that Ramadan was established when the month occurred in hot season. It might be extremely rigorous and mortifying when Ramadan happens to fall in summer when the days are long, but it should be noted that it’s not static and it moves round all seasons and it has a kind of kinetic approach. Sawm (fasting) is derived from the word “sama” which means to abstain from food, drinks, smoking, sexual pleasures and evil thoughts, deeds and speeches from dawn to dusk for the sake of Allah. It is a means of attaining taqwa. Its excellence is much extolled by the Prophet (SAW) who said that during Ramadan, “the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are shut and the devils are chained by the leg and only those who observe it will be permitted to enter at the gate of Heaven called ‘Raiyan’. Those who keep the fast “will be pardoned all their past venial sins.” (Mishkat, Book 7,chp 1,pt 1).
Globally, we are already in the month of Ramadan. It must be observed by every Muslim (male or female) except the sick, the infirm, pregnant women and women who are nursing their children. Young children who have not reached the age of puberty are exempted and also people on a journey of more than three days. However, expiation is necessary in case of a sick person or traveller and they should observe the fast as soon as they are able to perform it.
Coronavirus and Ramadan
The coronavirus issue cannot be overemphasised because of its pandemic and exponential nature. It is an existential threat to the whole world. Humanity is endangered; the effect is much more than health crisis. It affects all aspects of human life, religious, economic and social.
COVID-19 has created the biggest lockdown ever witnessed in the world and this is as a result of the nonchalant attitude of some nations when the virus emanated from China. Ramadan is noted worldwide for its spiritual and charitable excellence and there is optimism that it will reduce the problems of the masses and the middle class in the areas of palliatives and provision of food for sahur and iftar in the nation during the observance of the stay-at-home order.
Prior to the commencement of Ramadan, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, stated that 60 per cent of Nigerians live below the poverty level, hence the need to tackle the hunger virus simultaneously with coronavirus by ensuring that adequate palliatives are provided for the masses.
It is pertinent to note that faith plays an important role in overcoming COVID-19 and it is hoped that Ramadan will provide the spiritual strength, commitment that will give rise to the defeat of the pandemic.
In the meantime, to further break the chain of transmission of the virus, we have to continue to implement the social and physical distancing, fumigation and disinfection of the whole nation.
For now, drugs are still being tested in clinical trials and the world is awaiting the discovery of an ideal vaccine to combat COVID-19. We have to look up to Almighty Allah the more in this season of sacrifice, self discipline and generosity. Let us save lives and seek the blessings of Ramadan.
- Sheikh Nojimudeen, an author and a teacher is the Chief Imam of Challenge Central Mosque, Ibadan.
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