Four years of my childhood, between 1983 and 1987, were spent in Sudan. As part of an expatriate family, I lived a rather sheltered and idyllic life revolving around family, school and my beloved pet goat, Billy. Yes, pet goat — you heard that right.
In between all of this, however, came the great Ethiopian-Sudanese famine of 1983. The famine was the main focus of an eight-hour television transmission during those days, as the Sudanese government sought funds for more than a million people seeking refuge from drought and starvation.
The subject was discussed frequently in our house and the images of malnourished children trying to swat flies away from their faces rotating on television remain with me to this day.
I find it no coincidence that to this day I cannot bring myself to waste food. Even if I’m sick to my stomach and ready to gag, I will still wipe my plate clean. Furthermore, it causes me ridiculous amounts of consternation when others do not do the same.
Now, I’m not advocating that everyone inflict such torture upon themselves to avoid wasting food but I’m coming to my point here which is this: As most of us have been taught, Ramadan serves both in bringing us nearer to Allah as well as reminding us of the suffering and hunger of others and the need for acts of kindness. This Ramadan, there is much to contemplate and many who need our charity and prayers.
We must remember in our prayers our Yazidi and Christian brethren who are suffering the most atrocious form of persecution in the Middle East. We cannot forget the people of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and other nations being assaulted by the monster of war. There is one thing though that most deeply cries out for our attention: There are multiple famines currently affecting Yemen, Somalia and Southern Sudan. These famines are only partially due to drought and mostly due to war and the displacement of people due to war.
These are man-made tragedies.
Let us then direct our charity and prayers towards the 20 million people in Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan who are at imminent risk of starvation. For whom this Ramadan brings not the spiritual comforts of fasting but hellish hunger and the helpless horror of watching the most vulnerable among them slowly die.
We seek closeness to Allah, and in our supplications we ask him to aid us and our loved ones in the trials and tribulations of life. But, we would be amiss and the soul of our worship would be hollow if we did not each do whatever is in our power for the millions of brothers and sisters who cannot find peace this Ramadan. For whom hunger is not a choice but a calamity forced by the actions of others and for no fault of their own.
I have always believed that Islam is a religion of action: Of striving constantly and earnestly not only to further our own lot but to ease the suffering of others. Let us try and become the instruments of healing for He, who is the supreme healer.
As Allah tells us in Surah Al Maun:
“Hast thou observed him who belieth religion?
That is he who repelleth the orphan,
And urgeth not the feeding of the needy.
Ah, woe unto worshippers
Who are heedless of their faith
Who would be seen at worship
Yet refuse small kindnesses!”
This article was originally posted on Patheos.com. And it’s hereby republished with kind permission.