By Muneeb Nasir
(Excerpt from Friday Khutba (sermon) delivered at Masjid Toronto on Friday, August 13, 2011)
Fasting must have meaning in the present moment.
In an op-ed piece in the Toronto Star on Sunday August 7, 2011, (Making fasting relevant during famine), Rabbi Dow Marmur wrote: “Religious practices devoid of social responsibility and practical action, not just for the poor on our doorstep but also in the world at large, are alarmingly insufficient. Fasting, however wholesome, would be an empty gesture unless it is also a call to action.”
The question for us in this month of Ramadan is: What should be the effect of our fasting at this time?
Fasting is asking us to take responsibilities for our actions.
It asking us to ask ourselves: “What are we doing for ourselves” What are we doing for others? What are we contributing?
Shouldn’t fasting – this act of resistance to, and transformation of, the self – have an effect on those around us and on the social welfare of the needy?
How relevant is our fasting if it doesn’t drive us to be concerned about the people suffering in Somalia and in East Africa?
How relevant is our fasting if it doesn’t drive us to be concerned about the thousands of Canadians who are homeless on any given night.
How relevant is our fasting if it doesn’t push us to be at the forefront of the poverty issue which is a disgrace in a country so rich – poverty which affects millions of people in Canada; which affects one in every six children in Ontario; and which forces tens of thousands of people to go to food banks.
Shouldn’t fasting awaken us to the fact that we are eating and being clothed through the sweat of workers in developing countries who are, for the most part, not being paid fair wages.
All of these questions should be in our hearts and minds in these days of Ramadan.
During this month, in this year 2011, we will be asked about our response to one of the most serious famines in the world and the defining event of this Ramadan in the hijri year 1432.
As we look at the distressing images coming out of Somalia and from the camps in the surrounding countries, I remind you of a scene from the Day of Resurrection that was painted for us in a Hadith Qudsi:
On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“Allah (mighty and sublime be HE) will say on the Day of Resurrection:
‘O son of Adam, I fell ill and you visited Me not.’
He will say: ‘O Lord, and how should I visit You when You are the Lord of the worlds?’
HE will say: ‘Did you not know that My servant So-and-so had fallen ill and you visited him not? Did you not know that had you visited him you would have found Me with him?
O son of Adam, I asked you for food and you fed Me not.’
He will say: ‘O Lord, and how should I feed You when You are the Lord of the worlds?’
HE will say: ‘Did you not know that My servant So-and-so asked you for food and you fed him not? Did you not know that had you fed him you would surely have found that (the reward for doing so) with Me?
O son of Adam, I asked you to give Me to drink and you gave Me not to drink.’
He will say: ‘O Lord, how should I give You to drink when You are the Lord of the worlds?’
HE will say: ‘My servant So-and-so asked you to give him to drink and you gave him not to drink. Had you given him to drink you would have surely found that (the reward for doing so) with Me.’”
(It was related by Muslim).
On this Friday, in this month of Ramadan, we must ask ourselves: How have we responded to the servants of Allah dying of hunger, thirst and illnesses in Somalia and East Africa?
Let us protect ourselves from these questions on the Day of Resurrection.
God will change nothing for us if, you and I, as a result of our fasting and other acts of worship in Ramadan, are not moved into action when we are witnessing such a tragedy.
Donations to Somali Relief effort can be made to Islamic Relief Canada http://www.islamicreliefcanada.org/