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Communitarian Values of Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr

Eid al-Fitr or the “Festival of Breaking the Fast” marking the end of Ramadan will be celebrated by Muslims across the globe shortly. Eid is the culmination of a month of fasting wherein the faithful spend their time praying and striving to make a stronger connection to God.

Ramadan is not just an abstention from food and drink. It is an exercise in self-restraint, patience and discipline. Eid is an honoured celebration, particularly for those who sacrificed their primal needs and desires and fasted with pure intentions.

Sadly, many of the usual festivities will not be possible once again as the world continues to battle the spread of the coronavirus. The special Eid prayers, which are usually performed in mosques or in parks, may have to be done in restricted ways such as multiple smaller congregations. Celebrations may have to be observed only within households or virtually. Sharing food and exchanging gifts with friends, families and neighbours may need to be done via post.

Islam is a knowledge-based religion and Muslims are reminded to use their collective wisdom in religio-social practices. Health and safety come first and extra care must be taken to celebrate Eid within the guidelines. We are still living in strange and testing times!

Virtuous actions based on firm belief

Muslims are those who possess a firm Iman (belief) and carry out Amal al-Salih (virtuous deeds). These two Arabic terms are mentioned together in many places in the Quran. However, a believer’s Iman and Amal are only accepted and rewarded by God if an individual has proper Niyyah (pure intention) in both. A Muslim must possess certain amount of basic knowledge to understand these three terms – Iman, Amal and Niyyah – and their inter-relationship.

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Iman is a state of one’s heart and mind. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) described “Iman is that you believe in Allah and His Angels and His Books and His Messengers and in the Last Day, and in Qadar (fate), both in its good and in its evil aspects” (Muslim). Amal al-Salih refers to Iman-based actions in comparison to other good actions that are not linked with Iman. As such, Amal al-Salih is about believers’ accountability to Almighty God in serving fellow human beings and looking after the planet.

Possessing a firm Iman and performing positive actions are metaphorized in the Quran as a good tree which is firmly rooted with sky-high branches (Al-Quran 14:24). Conscientious Muslims are expected to have this strong belief and associated actions, all based on pure intentions and sound knowledge, to benefit not only fellow humans but the world around them.

As a communitarian religion Islam teaches its adherents to work with and support fellow adherents as well as wider society. This activism is in essence Amal al-Salih which is not only socio-economically and morally beneficial, but also spiritually uplifting for a believing individual and the community. It elevates believers’ actions to a height that other actions can rarely reach.

Zakah and Sadaqah drive socio-economic levelling

Ramadan uniquely creates self-restraint in an individual and purifies a heart with spiritual richness. It also creates an unparalleled fellow feeling amongst Muslims within families, locally and globally. With spiritual rewards for good deeds multiplied manifold in this month, believers increase their worship of God and gain more knowledge to know their religion better. At the same time, they loosen their pockets through Zakah (compulsory charity) and Sadaqah (voluntary charity), transferring wealth to both the poor and needy.

Ramadan reminds believers of life’s fateful reality, where all their worldly possessions will come to no meaning once they are in the grave. The Quran tells them – {And in their wealth is a recognised right. For the (needy) who asks and the one who is deprived}(Al-Ma`arij 70:24-25). Zakah thus liberates believers from the addiction to wealth and greed that often leads to inequality and corruption. Zakah and Sadaqah enhance socio-economic harmony, increase gratitude to God and bring socio-economic and spiritual benefits amongst people.

For the joy of Eid to be inclusive in the community, Muslims who possess food in excess of their needs must pay Zakat al-Fitr before the Eid prayer. Zakat al-Fitr is a religious obligation for each member of a family which is not needy or poor. The primary goal is to ensure those who are needy or poor can also celebrate Eid.

The entire month of abstinence is a lesson for those who are privileged on earth to empathise with fellow believers and others around them. This divine opportunity for a socio-economic levelling up is a unique gift that God has given as a religious injunction. It is time Muslims today revive this with its full glory and effectiveness. 

Eid Mubarak to you all.

About Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari
Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari is an educationalist, author and parenting consultant. You can follow him on Twitter @MAbdulBari