The bounties of Ramadan
Ramadan has traditionally been celebrated by Muslims in the Arab world and beyond as a month of many bounties. The month-long fast is one of the pillars of the faith for the more than 1.6 billion Muslims around the globe. During Ramadan, the month in which the Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohammad, the faithful are exhorted to exercise self-restraint as they abstain from food and drink from the first light of dawn until sunset.
More than that, it is a special time of spiritual commitment during which believers are expected to devote themselves to religious worship and recitation of the Quran.
It is also a joyful season that helps strengthen the family fabric. Increasingly, it is the only time of year when Arab families can escape the pressures of modern life to gather and renew bonds.
But the majority of Muslims in the Arab world are consumed by anguish and uncertainty as this year’s Ramadan begins.
Muslim communities throughout the region are pitted against each other in seemingly endless sectarian strife, all in the name of rival interpretations of the faith.
Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in Syria and Iraq have been driven out of their homes by terror and war, and sectarian violence is destroying the lives of thousands more in Libya and Yemen.
Millions of confused youth suffering from joblessness, insecurity and chaos wonder what the future will bring. They see little hope.
The nihilistic exploitation of the faith by extremists and the death and destruction being perpetrated under the banner of Islam are sources of pain for the overwhelming majority of Muslims, who watch helplessly as their religion of peace is hijacked by terrorists.
This year, Ramadan should be an occasion to promote anew the moderate interpretation of the faith that has taught Muslims for generations that this is a time of personal striving to do good deeds, to help the less fortunate and to avoid discord and malice. Ramadan is the month when peace and reconciliation are cherished as quintessential values of Islam.
Violent extremists are trying to misuse key moments in Islamic history coinciding with the month of Ramadan as justification for terror and bloodshed and to confer legitimacy to their criminal attacks on innocent civilians. This distorted interpretation of Islamic history should be loudly challenged and rejected and its proponents vigorously denounced.
Despite the bloody efforts by extremists to exploit its true meaning, Ramadan remains nonetheless a time of unity in Arab societies, even when they are divided by politics, social and economic fractures.