Ramadan — Time for celebration
Adil Salahi Arab News
THE month of Ramadan is a special season that signifies much for every Muslim who fasts in the day and volunteers other forms of worship at night. His motive is the great prize of forgiveness of past sins. As Ramadan is over, Muslims celebrate a festive season, called Eid Al-Fitr, or the feast that ends the fast. It is no wonder that the end of our month of Ramadan, which is a season of worship and blessing, is an occasion of festivity and celebration. Ramadan is certainly a hard month for Muslims. They have to resist their natural desires during its days and they are encouraged to spend at least part of each night throughout the month in voluntary devotion. All this comes on top of the normal duties of life, which makes the obligation of fasting and the recommended night devotion truly hard.
This, however, epitomizes the life of the Muslims who realize that there is always a higher aim to strive for. They look at themselves as trustees of God’s message. They call other people to it and struggle in order to make it known to all people, so that they may have a chance to accept it and reform their lives according to its principles. One can hardly find an advocate of Islam who has a casual attitude to life. The month of Ramadan, with its strong emphasis on the fulfillment of duties, is instrumental in the development of the serious attitude of Muslims. This is the reason why Muslims receive the month of Ramadan when it approaches with open arms, as it were. They go through it with patient perseverance because they realize that it is a season of great benefit to them. Self-discipline and the strengthening of their social ties are simply a part of the bargain. What is more is that for those who fulfill their duties with sincerity of intention and honesty of purpose, forgiveness of their past sins is guaranteed.
It is not surprising, therefore, that we celebrate the end of Ramadan. We welcome the fact that for the next eleven months we are free of the obligation of fasting, although we may volunteer to fast any time during the year, to gain more reward from God. But we celebrate, above all, our forgiveness. As human beings, we are always liable to err, indulge ourselves in some sinful practices or neglect our duties. Some of us are better than others with regard to adherence to the code of life God has provided for us. But we all make mistakes: A momentary distraction from the right course, a fleeting thought of sin or a sinful act of disobedience to God. All sorts of mistakes are possible. None of us is free from temptation; none is immune from falling. Hence, Ramadan provides us with a chance to wipe our slate clean, to feel that we are on the side of God, to renew our determination to follow the path He has set for us. After Ramadan, we feel as if we are born anew. Hence, we celebrate the Eid, as we visit one another, offering congratulations and blessings.
There is an important social aspect to the end of Ramadan and the approach of the Eid. As the Prophet has taught us, the acceptance of our fasting by God is made conditional on our payment of Zakah Al-Fitr. This is a prescribed charity, small in amount, but made obligatory to everyone who has more than enough for his family’s food on the last day of Ramadan. Moreover, everyone has to pay this charity on behalf of his wife and children as well as any other dependents he supports. Only those who do not have enough for their food are exempt, and those, as well as other poor people who may be less unfortunate, are the recipients of this noble act of charity. The idea is to relieve all poor people of the worries of their needs for this festive season. As the Prophet encourages us to pay this zakah to the poor, he makes its purpose very clear: “Make them rich for the day.”
Islam places strong emphasis on the strengthening of social ties within the Muslim community. It does not like such a great occasion as Eid Al-Fitr, which marks the acceptance of the fast and the forgiveness of those who have carried out their obligations in the proper manner to pass while a section of the community is unable to take part in the festivity because of their need. Hence, the payment of Zakah Al-Fitr is made a religious duty, which is unique in all systems of taxation, religious or secular.
This zakah is imposed on people, not on their wealth or income. Thus, everyone, even babies born a minute before the Eid prayer, should pay this zakah, or have it paid on their behalf by their fathers or guardians. Some scholars are of the opinion that a prospective father should also pay it for his unborn child, if his wife is pregnant.
The amount paid is estimated in measure. It should, preferably, be given in a measure of wheat, dates, barley, corn or rice, or any other product, which is considered the staple diet of a particular community. The measure is roughly equivalent to a little over two kilograms of wheat, or four times the fill of the cupped hands of an average person. It is possible, according to an increasing number of scholars, to pay this zakah in cash, particularly where there is abundance of shops and commodities. If in a certain community there are few shops, and commodities are scarce, then Zakah Al-Fitr must be paid in kind. A unique aspect of this form of charity is that some of those who receive it, the very poor, receive so much of the zakah of their fellow Muslims that they find themselves with more than they need for their food on the last day of Ramadan. Therefore, they become liable to pay this zakah to others who are less fortunate than they are.
The deadline for the payment of Zakah Al-Fitr is the Eid prayer, normally offered a short while after sunrise on the day of the Eid. As for the range of time allowed for its payment, it should be remembered that it is payable in the last few days of Ramadan. Some schools of thought allow its payment at any time during Ramadan.
One aspect of the blessings of Ramadan is that on the day when it is over, not a single person of the Muslim community goes hungry for the lack of food or because he is poor.
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