The Importance of Giving in Ramadan
By Idris Rawfiq - British Writer and Speaker
Someone remarked that fasting for a couple of days is all it takes is to understand the suffering of those who go without food as a normal part of life, so why do Muslims need to fast for a whole month? They were quite right about understanding the plight of the poor, but if that is all they think Ramadan is about, they miss the point.
Muslims fast because Almighty Allah has commanded them to do so. In the Qur'an, we read,[ O you who believe, fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint.]Al-Baqarah 2:183
As Muslims, we fast for the sake of Allah. Even amid the feasting and the celebrating, we should never forget this.
It is very sad that many who are not Muslim see an altogether different side to Islam. As Muslims, we need to be very careful about the example we give and about how people perceive what we are doing. Even though we look forward to the approach of Ramadan for months, many who are not Muslim see only people who are even more bad-tempered because they are not smoking, traffic that is even worse because every one is trying to get home at the same time to break the fast, or shops and businesses that operate at less than full strength because people went to bed too late the night before and couldn't get to work on time. What a shame if this is the only example we give to others.
How much better it would be if we could let others see the sweet and beautiful message of Islam by the way we celebrate Ramadan this year. As we prepare for Ramadan and as the days of Ramadan slowly pass by, we need to be asking ourselves all the time how we are going to benefit from the holy month. What are we going to do to make the most of Ramadan?
It is very important to set ourselves realizable goals and not to set our sights so high that we fail to achieve them. For example, if we are not all that faithful to Prayer during the course of the year, it is unrealistic to expect that we will pray the five daily Prayers as well as Tarawih Prayers in the mosque and that we will get up during the last third of the night to pray as our Prophet did (peace and blessings be upon him). If we don't usually spend too much time reciting the Qur'an, it is unrealistic to expect that we can recite the whole of the Qur'an during Ramadan. In other words, be realistic in the goals you set yourself.
One sure way we can all benefit from Ramadan is to give more. What do we mean by this? Well, we can give more of our time to Allah and to others; in so doing, we can understand and take to heart what Ramadan and Islam is all about.
Ramadan is the month in the Islamic calendar when our holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) first received the revelation of the Qur'an from Jibril (Angel Gabriel). For the rest of the Prophet's life, Jibril visited him during Ramadan, and they recited the whole of the Qur'an together. In the last Ramadan before the Prophet died, they recited the whole of the Qur'an together twice. For our own part, then, we can spend at least some extra time during Ramadan reciting the Qur'an and studying its meaning. In giving up some of our time, we give time to Allah. The result, in sha' Allah, is that by the end of Ramadan, we will have come closer to Allah.
For Muslims, Ramadan is also the special month of du`aa' (supplication). During the day, while we are fasting, we make prayers and invocations to Allah to remind us that it is for His sake that we fast. The Ramadan fast is neither a diet nor a punishment. We do it gladly for Allah's sake. Many Muslims try during Ramadan to attend the special Tarawih Prayers in the mosque every evening. By doing so, they will have heard the whole Qur'an recited during the month. Giving such time to Prayer, then, is another way of giving our time and our hearts to Allah.
Ways of Celebrating Ramadan
Fasting from sunrise to sunset not only teaches us to control our unruly bodies, making them aware that we control them rather than the other way around, but it also helps us to think of others who are less fortunate than ourselves, and it teaches us to give thanks to Allah for all the blessings we have that we so often take for granted. When the Adhan calls each day for the Sunset Prayer, telling us all that the day's fast is over, there are many in the world whose fast will not end. In fact, many thousands will starve to death because they have no food.
So not only giving our time to Allah, but also giving our time, talents, and material goods to others is a way of celebrating Ramadan. It really costs us very little to give out of our plenty to those who have nothing. By doing so in Ramadan, we learn to thank Allah for all the good things we have. We can join together with our friends, for example, and help the needy. Through the mosque, we can start planning ahead, before the month begins, and think of ways in which we can together help people. In the Canadian city of Toronto, for example, Muslims there have given out food every day in the city center to those who need it. Other Muslims run special soup kitchens or visit the homeless during Ramadan. What a great way that is of showing the world how much Muslims care for their world and all those in it. What a great way that is of dispelling all those misconceptions and myths that people have about Islam.
Giving, then, is central to what Ramadan is about. We give time to Allah and to others. In doing so, we not only heap down blessings on ourselves, in sha' Allah , but we also tell the world about Islam and we bring light and hope into the lives of many people who have none. Islam is the natural religion. Many in the world know nothing about Islam, except for the images of violence they see on TV. By the way we celebrate our holy month, we can show a world thirsting for Allah that Muslims are not the sabre-rattling fanatics they are portrayed as, but as people who have submitted their lives to Allah. By our giving for Allah's sake, we can teach the world how beautiful Islam really is. Maybe our giving will also, in sha' Allah, help us to be better Muslims all the year.
Idris Tawfiq is a British Muslim writer who lives and works in Egypt. He has spent many years working with young people. He was head of religious education in different schools in the United Kingdom and, perhaps more remarkably, before embracing Islam he was a Roman Catholic priest. You can visit website at www.idristawfiq.com .