Dear Muslim Brothers and Sisters, as-salaamu alaykum!
On 22nd February, 2023 Christians began the Season of Lent. The whole season of Lent is a three-fold call to personal renewal: a call to renew and deepen our personal relationship with God (prayer), a call to return into the silence of our hearts and honestly examine our conscience, take detail stock of our life, even in matters of minor importance, (fast) and a call to be consciously sensitive to the needs of those around us, especially the less privileged, (alms giving /sharing). We shall end our fasting period on Holy Saturday, 8th April, 2023.
On Wednesday, 22nd March, 2023 Muslims will also begin the fast of the month of Ramaḍān and end on 21st April, 2023. Hence the months of March and April are sacred months for both Christians and Muslims – a period of intense prayer, fasting and alms giving.
For Christians and Muslims, fasting is a time for God to speak to us through his Word (Bible/Quran) and for us to speak to God through prayer. Hence prayer is a conversation with God, a time to find time to speak with God (ictikāf)
Fasting, my dear Muslim brothers and sisters should not be limited to only abstaining and/or denying oneself of material things. In other words, true fast should not be left to the stomach alone. In Dagare to fast means “to tie the mouth”.
Much as it is fully true, it would be very unfair and, in fact, our fast would be incomplete and fruitless if other sensitive parts of the body are not also disciplined. First is the tongue, the PRO of our inhuman thoughts and unguided and unedifying utterances. It amounts to hypocrisy to deny oneself food and drink and go about deforming, damaging and destroying people’s character and reputation.
It is in this light that Pope Francis in the Season of Lent exhorted all Catholics to fast from hurting words and say kind words. In most cases, it is the false solidarity of the ear that encourages the tongue not to fast. If the ear does conscious and determined fasting, the tongue would be compelled to fast.
It is not every scene/event or object that must be looked at and admired by the Believer in God. Therefore, the eye must also be made to consciously fast. It is very worrying to imagine some of the photos and videos Christians and Muslims store and watch/admire on their phones.
As you watch those nudity and pornography, just pause and in your conscience, ask yourself, “is this the purpose for which God has given me the eyes?” Let us not forget that on Judgment Day, our bodily parts will witness against or for us: “On this Day we will seal their months, their hands will speak to Us, and their hands will speak to Us, and their feet will testify to what they used to commit” (Qur’ān 36:36).
As we consciously abstain and deny ourselves some material things we could afford with relative ease, Muslims and Christin are encouraged during Lent and Ramaḍan let go the value of those things as reliefs to people who, for no fault of theirs can hardly afford what we can conveniently throw away. We are also sternly discouraged to desist from giving out things that we don’t need in the name of love/sharing.
We don’t have the power to turn the poor and needy who are created in the image of God into our dustbins. Beyond the giving and sharing of material reliefs, Lent and Ramaḍān call on us to be kind and charitable in our thoughts and with our words.
It is very disturbing and, in fact, scandalous the havoc caused by the “Pull him down” syndrome in families, offices, communities, in businesses, in politics and even in the Church/Umma. The expected or imagined failure of the neighbor does not, and cannot necessarily increase your success. True charity is the ability to acknowledge, compliment and celebrate the talents, gifts, qualities, honest achievements and successes of others, including those we hate and those who hate us.
Let us pray that the Fast of Ramaḍān and Lent will transform Muslims and Christians to abstain from evil feelings, thoughts, words and actions and to make us to “be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36), and make us patriotic citizens of God. As-salaamu alaykium!
Rev. Fr. Dr. Aloysius Nuolabong
Co-ordinator, Christian-Muslim Relations and Dialogue Committee