Ramadan is the blessed month in which the noble Qur'an was revealed and fasting prescribed (Surah al-Baqarah, 2: 183-85). Fasting (Sawm) in the month of Ramadan (9th month of lunar calendar) is one of the five pillars of Islam (Arkan al-Islam). Fasting is not just abstaining and desisting from food and drinks (from dawn to dusk), but it is one of the blessings of Almighty Allah which gives us many opportunities to come closer to our Creator; and to serve the Creation in best possible ways, with multi-fold rewards for every action and deed: from offering extra prayers to dhikr to helping poor and needy, and even uttering 'good word', as stated in a Hadith: "It is also charity to utter a good word" [Bukhari & Muslim]). The fasting is an act for which the reward is unlimited, as a Hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari states: Allah said, "Every good deed of Adam's son is for him except fasting; it is for Me; and I shall reward (the fasting person) for it'".
This year, like the previous one, Ramadan has come at a time when whole humanity is facing COVID-19 pandemic crisis, and there has been a huge spike in positive cases in the last few weeks. Therefore, following SOPs (like wearing face masks, maintaining social distancing, using sanitizer, etc.) as a precautionary measure is the perfect antidote to stop the spread of this virus and to save the humanity from this disaster. Last year, Greater Kashmir, in its front page Editorial ("Ramadan: Does it change us!", 25th April 2020) put forth it rightly in these words, and are fitting aptly amid the current situation as well: "This year the month of fasting—Ramadhan—comes at a time when the pandemic has brought human arrogance to knees. From West to East the man has realised that with all our worldly strengths—industrial, capitalistic, and militaristic—we are finally defenceless. This pandemic has exposed our exploitative, and oppressive relationships with our fellow human beings, and with the nature. Ramadhan is the time we search our souls and seek forgiveness for all our acts of oppression and exploitation". On 14th April 2021, GK, in its editorial ("The Month of Relationships") underlined the same reality again with a new message: "We are right now passing through terrible times, where people have suffered in many ways. There is a pandemic that has unsettled human societies. People have lost livelihoods, and it has made their lives stressful. It is a full scale crisis."
It is an undeniable fact that in 2020 Ramadan in the lockdown looked "strange", but the opportunities and blessings were "no less". The same is true with the current Ramadan as well, as one sees a huge spike in corona positive cases and deaths with the 'second wave'.
Ramadan is not only observed as a month of fasting, but it is a month of 'Responsibilities': of giving charity, of goodness, of generosity, and helping each other. It is a month that fosters communal solidarity and individual piety. GK, in its editorial ("The Month of Relationships", 14th April 2021) puts it beautifully as: "The beauty of Ramadan is that it makes an individual to look beyond one's self. The other becomes important. And in a world where the other is important life is most beautiful": Ibn 'Abbas (RA) narrated: "The Messenger was the most generous of all people, and he used to become more generous in Ramadan" (Sahih Bukhari). It is a month of 'unlimited' rewards: Almighty Allah said: "Every deed of man will receive 10 to 700 times reward, except Siyam (fasting), for it is for Me and I shall reward it (as I like). There are two occasions of joy for one who fasts: one when he breaks the fast and the other when he will meet his Lord" (Sahih Muslim).
We should try our utmost to create an atmosphere of fellow feeling. We should spend on poor, weak and marginalised; and as we get double reward for the good acts during this month, so we are doubly guilty if we ignore them. This month teaches us, among others, that "if we don't hold the hand of weak and oppressed, we are abject criminals".
Ramadan is a month which gives us an opportunity to recover, repair, and improve our relationship with Almighty Allah and with the humankind—described as the 'Crown of the Creation'. Ramadan gives an opportunity to tell the world that "we care for human race"; "we stand by the poor, by the oppressed, and by the exploited", irrespective of their religion, race, colour, language, culture, community, status, etc. Ramadan is the month of "universal goodness": doing good for everyone—poor, needy, weak, oppressed, deprived, destitute, etc. The Companion Abu Dharr (RA) reports that the Prophet (SAW) said, "Help a poor person who has a family or do something for an unskilled person", Abu Dharr (RA) asked, "What if I lack the strength to do this?", the Prophet (SAW) said, "Refrain from doing harm to people. This is an act of charity you do to yourself" (Sahih Bukhari).
Ramadan is a month which gives us an opportunity to come closer to our Creator, to think and care about humankind, and amid the current grim situation due to 'Corona second wave', it is high time that we devote more and more of our time, energy, and devotion for this greater cause—to care about 'our relations with our Creator' as well as take care and do serve the 'deprived' humankind: to maintain a perfect balance between Huquq al-Allah and Huquq al-'Ibaad. "Connecting to God must translate into connecting to people. If this month doesn't create an atmosphere of fellow feeling, and if we don't rescue each other in this month, we lose the spirit of this month. … Blessed are the people who do charity, and help those in need. There is no bigger act than making others happy" (GK Editorial, 14th April 2021).
It is high time that we turn to Allah, repent for our sins, and seek forgiveness, so that to become more worthy of Mercy, Compassion, and Kindness of the 'Most Gracious, Most Merciful'—Rabb al-Alameen. May this Ramadan (even amid this current strange situation due to 'Corona Second Wave') prove a blessed and wonderful month for us all! May Allah bring us all closer to Him and to each other! May Allah help us in attaining the spirit of this blessed month!
Author is a Kashmiri Academic, and writes on socio-religious and educational aspects