Once upon a time, there was a land wherein it was common practice for everyone to be happily affected by, and even actively participate in any kind of religious festival or event around them. It did not really matter whether it was a Christian, or a Muslim, everyone in the various communities enjoyed the events and they all rejoiced with their associates, colleagues, neighbors or family members who were part of that creed even though they were not. The only difference between say a Christian and a Muslim on Christmas day or the day of Eid was, who paid the bill because everybody celebrated and those that belonged to the celebrated faith hosted or sent refreshments to those that did not.
All that was way before terms like diversity, multicultural, multi-religious and tolerance became trendy in Europe and America. The land where such peaceful and joyous communion reigned was Ghana and the period, not long ago, was before the Christians started seeing Satan everywhere and saying “I reject it” or “I am strong” or “I bind you in the name of Jesus” and Muslims started feeling the need to wear long beard, dress like middle easterners, terrorism became a part of everyday language, and competing for Sundays with Christians.
By the way, it must be said that what guided the behaviors of the peaceful religious era in Ghana was not tolerance but wisdom, that says we can co-exist.
Those Ghanaians were wise enough to see humanity in all religions; they were capable of reminding themselves that they all worshiped the same
God via different formats. They were wise enough to believe that all religious festivals and events were to be celebrated by anyone alive and that whoever is alive, regardless of his or her professed creed, can reap the blessings and hopes that the prayers and rituals of the celebrated religion can bring.
As Muslims all over the world continue their thirty days of fasting, part of our simple hopes is that everyone everywhere should wish all the Muslims they know or meet a blessed Ramadan (Ramadan Mubarak) and a noble Ramadan (Ramadan Kareem).
We also hope that those fasting and, indeed, those around them, will truly discover a fuller meaning of Ramadan, which, as we are often reminded, is the third pillar of Islam, Faith or belief in the Oneness of God and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad; being the first, followed by Salat- the five daily obligatory prayers, followed by fasting during the month of Ramadan, Concern for and almsgiving to the needy;) and finally, The pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able.
“O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard against evil.” (The Holy Quran, 2:183)
The Holy Quran contains many references to an afterlife for those who do good deeds, and this includes fasting. Regarding the concept of heaven (Jannah) in the Quran, verse 35 of Sura Al-Raid says, “The parable of the garden of Eden which the righteous are promised! Beneath it flows rivers. Perpetual is the fruit the fruit thereof and the shade therein. Such is the end of the righteous and the end of the disbeliever is the fire”. (Quran 13:35)
I personally also like to remind them that according to Islamic theology, “the night of power” (Lailut ul-Qadr) was during the month of Ramadan.
That was the night the holy Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God, was revealed. And that night will begin on Saturday, August 20, 2011; it is the night when all prayers are answered and it is belief in Islam that God Almighty will come down from the seventh heaven to listen and bless his beloved.
Muslims believe that the month of Ramadan is filled with blessings, heaven knows that Ghana and, indeed, the world, especially was we wait for the verdict in the election petition case at the Supreme Court, need a lot of it right now and it is my fervent hope that everyone can share from the blessings that these fasting and prayers will bring.
Due to the nature of Ramadan, there are some blessings and some simple hopes that Muslims can help Ghanaians fulfill in the remaining days.
Fasting is intended to teach Muslims to reflect and practice self-discipline and self-restraint. It will be great blessings for Ghana if in the coming days, our Muslim public officials can really follow the requirements of Ramadan and truly refrain from looting or wasting the country’s treasury they have the privilege and duty of managing for all.
Imagine how blessed we shall be if for the thirty days all the Muslims in the country, from the policemen on our roads to politicians and other public officers from our local governments way up to the executive, decide to fully follow Ramadan and truly refrain from asking and taking bribes.
Imagine what will happen if, because of them Ghanaians of other religious faith would follow suit.
Ramadan is also a time Muslims are asked to remember and reflect on the suffering of the poor. Those Muslims charged with the duty of managing the affairs of the country have the opportunity of individually reflecting on the plight of the poor, they have the challenge of bringing together other Muslims in the same spirit to come up with cogent plans to truly deal with the situation of the poor and the under-privileged.
What a blessing it would be for the country if matters of health, education, unemployment and infrastructures are treated by those truly moved by the spirit of Ramadan.
In the remaining ten days of fasting, (which is a special night) Muslims are also asked to be generous, as a people, one thing Ghanaians, rich
or poor, upper, middle or lower class, can rarely be accused of is tightfistedness, on the contrary the practice is to be generous to a fault.
Unlike elsewhere though, Ghanaians tend to be generous only to individuals, without stopping that, it might just be great if as a people, we start being generous also to causes, institutions and principles.
This country needs its Muslims to start giving more of their time, energy and intelligence to help deal with its many problems and weaknesses.
The country needs people who are willing to serve and to give just, because they believe and because they are generous.
May the almighty Allah guide and protect us all.