Ramadan, A Blessing For Everyone
September 28, 2006 § 4 Comments
There is one thing for certain in this life… well actually there are several things that we can be certain about. But, one of those certainties is that education is an essential part of life and the motivating force behind human development and the global peace process. Which is why during the month of Ramadan it is important to focus on education as well as charity and brotherly love.
However, I don’t necessarily mean education in the typical academic sense, for instance math and science but more in terms of how education and an open mind relate to da’wah (an invitation to Islam). I realized this on the way to drop my son off at his elementary school in Manhattan. We were running late, so I called a car service so that we would be on time. The car arrived and we were on our way. A few minutes into the trip I noticed a small talisman hanging from the drivers rear view mirror, which had suratul falaq inscribed on it. So I said to the driver,
“Are you a Muslim?”
He responded uncomfortably, “yes” and then I said to him,
With Sahajj (my son) paying close attention the driver welcomed the warm wishes and continued working. Minutes passed and we arrived to the school safely, I thanked him and spoke a little Arabic (Egyptian Arabic) to find out if he knew Arabic but he did not, he was a Sub-Saharan African Muslim. I asked if he was fasting and he acknowledged that he was.
Interestingly, he did not think I was a Muslim, although coming from my neighborhood people often mistake me for a “Dominican”, so I am used to it. To my surprise before we stepped out of the car,
“You know you should try it some time… it really is a good thing for God”
the driver said in a thick Ghanaian accent. My heart was overjoyed at this exchange, I am a Muslim and I believe wholeheartedly in the Book and its Messenger, so I couldn’t help but think,
This was da’wah, the driver was doing his part! I was really feeling this brother… I acknowledged that I was a Muslim and that I was fasting; his excitement grew as big as his shining eyes. We greeted each other the traditional Muslim way and he said some nice things to my son. I tipped the generous man handsomely, asked God to bless him and his family and we were on our way.
This was a great example of an attempt at da’wah and really a part of Ramadan that we often forget. Ramadan is a time when Muslims become closer to each other. There is no doubt that we become unified by refraining from indulgences together and breaking these restraints together. But Ramadan is also a time when Muslims should offer the sadaqa of da’wah to non-Muslims. It is a perfect time because Muslims gather much more frequently during Ramadan, with hunger pains, bad breath and all we love being together during the month of Ramadan. I found a perfect example of this kind of invitation exemplified by Imam Hassan al-Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn MI, who barely had time for lunch during the interview where he said,
“Then, this week, there’s so much to do in getting ready for at least about 1,200 people who’ll be here every night of Ramadan, and that includes a lot of non-Muslim visitors who like to come here, too,”
as reported in an article. The month of Ramadan presents a great opportunity for da’wah, it really does, and this opportunity is being accessed by Muslims in Detroit as David Crumm of the Detroit Free Press reports,
“Some of that energy is focused on the political activism and hot-button issues that show up almost every week in news reports. But there is an even more widespread and potentially more lasting movement among Muslims that is less visible to outsiders.” (D. Cromm, The Detroit Free Press)
he concludes that,
“It’s a movement among Muslim students and professionals to connect in fresh ways with the non-Muslim community.”
Now it may not necessarily be the typical idea of da’wah that results in a religious conversion but rather a conversion of ideas, stereotypes, biases and prejudices, an invitation to peace. Muslims get a lot of bad press and I would like to see more recognition for the efforts of Muslims reaching out to their communities, especially in my home town of New York City.
For example, the NYU Islamic Center has its hand in the community providing charity services and community building projects as well. The NYU Islamic Center has also produced several of the bloggers that you frequently visit such as Haroon Moghul, Ali Eteraz and myself (although I have taken the semester off). In addition Ali Eteraz is developing a project called, “Muslims for Social Work“, it is a great idea and I am totally down to support the program.
Likewise, Imam al-Qazwini has his hands in a lot community initiatives this Ramadan. And of Ramadan he says,
“The goal of Ramadan is not that we want to keep people hungry and suffering. That’s not the idea at all, the idea is to get closer to God this month and to reflect on the needs of other people.”
and as a final thought he adds,
“And, of course, at places like the Islamic Center, we have open doors for anyone who wants to come and see what goes on here. Perhaps Ramadan can be an instrument in opening the eyes of more Americans to the true essence of Islam.”
Which is essentially what this post was meant to convey, that the month of Ramadan is a blessing from God that allows us the opportunity to converge with Muslims and non-Muslims as well.