‘Eid-ul-Fitr is meant to be a time of celebration, a day for commemorating the conclusion of a month-long fast. From ethical and moral perspectives, we should be contemplating the higher purpose and the deeper significance of our lives, trying to live meaningfully; with a heightened level of spiritual consciousness.
Role in a turbulent world
The fasting ones are referred to in the Qur’an as sa’ihun (spiritual wayfarers) on a transcendent journey towards the attainment of piety. Where has this journey taken us? Are we becoming better human beings; more considerate, more caring, more compassionate? Have we journeyed from self-centeredness to social consciousness, from self-righteousness to righteousness? Where did we start and how far have we journeyed; if at all. How do we see our role in a turbulent world at such a challenging time?
Our celebration is muted by the on-going refugee crises and the heinous attacks being perpetrated in the name of Islam. Too many negative headlines dominate our daily news; painting a grim picture of tragedy unfolding in waves upon waves. The spate of suicide bombings the past week, have left scores dead and hundreds injured. Those who are planning and orchestrating senseless killings are undermine their religions and communities. Those who are perpetrating such acts of wanton violence in the name of Islam are doing the most grievous disservice to the image of the faith.
Service to others
‘Eid-ul-Fitr promotes the spirit of Ubuntu, “humanity to others.” It is about consciously caring and sharing, about being compassionate; about deepening our understanding of our society while simultaneously empathizing with the challenges faced by those around us. It is about implementing the Golden Rule, of loving for others what we love for ourselves.
While fasting, we were far more aware of the hunger of the poor and the suffering of the oppressed and are therefore instructed to be more generous in that month. As a matter of fact, the feast of ‘Eid-ul-Fitr, marking the end of the fast of Ramadān, cannot be celebrated unless those affording ones have disbursed the sadaqa-tul-fitr, charity to the impoverished. This promotes attentiveness to social responsibility, interest in the welfare of society, service to those in need and inspires a continued spirit of generosity. In the words of the sports icon Muhammad Ali, whom we bid adieu recently, said; “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
A world of extremes
We seem to live in times of two extremes; not caring about the rights of others on the one hand, and caring only about ourselves on the other. Our world is tainted by excessive materialism fed by an insatiable system of need-to-have covetousness and greediness; fertile ground for the roots of selfishness and a culture of entitlement. Many people are so far in debt, due to buying things they do not really need, with money they don’t actually have to impress people who frankly don’t care. The lessons of Ramadān teach us that life has a purpose, live it meaningfully.
The Sufis have a saying about how heedless we have become …. “The human being sacrifices his health in order to gain wealth. Then he sacrifices wealth to recuperate his health. He is so heedless of the past and so anxious about the future that he does not appreciate the present; the result being that he does not live in the present nor the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) thus reminded us, “Live in such a way that your good deeds outlive you.”
So, at a time where news is dominated by wars, crime and corruption; where headlines are filled with grief, tragedy and distress; there is a need for the celebration of the conquering spirit, the spirit that tries to improve itself and care about the world around. ‘Eid-ul-Fitr is indeed one such celebration.
Let us recognize that our function in life is not merely to have and to hold, but to give and to serve, to get and not to forget. Life should never really be about how much money we accrue and what possessions we have; but rather how many people we serve and what good we do; because the greater our giving, the greater our living. Remember, we are here to enrich the world, and if we ever forget that we impoverish ourselves.
Extracts from 'Eid-ul-Fitr talk.