Beyond the rituals

People observing the month of Ramadan have certain codes of conduct to adhere to.

This was back in 2010 in Darfur, Sudan.

The Head of the Mission UNAMID Professor Gambari, an Under Secretary General at the UN, was addressing his town-hall meeting, incidentally, on the first day of Ramadan.

It was quite a large gathering of more than a thousand participants of the hybrid mission in Sudan, made up of military, civilians, aid groups, and local Sudanese employees.

It was truly an international community representing so many nations from across the globe of heterogeneous culture, tradition, and faith groups.

Professor Gambari, attired in his traditional Nigerian robe and the colourful headgear, started with a greeting Ramadan Kareem in his usual loud voice.

There was a mild murmur. He looked up at the audience with a gloom in his face and repeated with a little more assertion this time.

And even louder: Ladies and gentlemen, I think I said Ramadan Kareem.

Actually, he expected the audience to greet him back with Ramadan Kareem in unison.

This time, it was a rumbling response.

The professor was happy and continued with his speech.

I was a little taken aback because in the UN environment, sensitive issues like faith and religion are treated with utmost care so as not to overreact.

Like many in the audience, I also failed to understand the professor’s expectations, and hence failed to respond the first time.

The professor, in his wisdom, experience, and his usual sense of humour, said a few sentences mentioning how people observing this holy month should behave with others.

And how others should also respect the traditions of the Muslims.

Mutual respect, tolerance, sharing, and caring were actually the crux of his Ramadan sermon, for which he took a few minutes before he went into other serious business of the day.

A Muslim should not say to his colleague, I am fasting, hence at the late hours of the day.

I have no energy left to carry on with the job; rather, come tomorrow morning.

And a non-Muslim, again, shouldn’t be munching on his sandwich in front of his fasting colleague.

And the evening feast called iftar could very well be shared with people irrespective of their faith.

The blessed month in Darfur was observed in due fervour.

While rituals are an important part of observing the holy month, its appeal is much deeper beyond the discipline of long hours of abstention, prayers, and recitation.

We call upon the Almighty for His endless mercy and favours, we seek forgiveness for all our sins and refuge from all evils.

We share our wherewithal with the less fortunate and needy. 

In this tumultuous world today we are still very fortunate to be living in peace while there are conflicts and struggles all around.

Millions of innocent people have been rendered homeless because of war and atrocities, while there are others whose country has gone bankrupt, leading them to endless misery.

We seek His mercy for the afflicted and also express our deepest gratitude to the Almighty for keeping us full of beans.  

As we get overwhelmed in our observance, we tend to ignore minor details which could make us more caring for people around us.

We can be mindful in not making indiscriminate use of loudspeakers, so as not to create inconvenience for others.

For waking people up for sehri or the early morning meal, we don’t actually need loudspeakers when every home has cell-phones with alarms.

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