Taking Jesus to heart in Ramadan
by Salim Mansur
In preparing to fast during the month of Ramadan, the ninth and sacred month in Islam's lunar calendar, I wondered as I often do what the woeful condition of Muslims indicates to others about their Islam.
Fasting and daily prayers are two of the five pillars of traditional Islam.
The obligatory practice of both is for Muslims as individuals to remain oriented in thought and action toward the transcendent divine authority that is the eternal source of all of creation.
Man is endowed with the capacity to think and reason; he remains, nevertheless, a fretful creature.
At one instance his nobility may strike an angel with envy or, as Shakespeare's Hamlet opines, he is "the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals."
And yet, at another instance, he could well be a monster turned loose upon the world.
In all faith-traditions, religious practices are meant for man to acquire discipline so he may not harm others, nor himself.
God's blessing for a Muslim comes with the audit he takes of himself, the repentance for his failures and the renewal of his commitment to do good.
In reality, however, the connection between a Muslim's religious practice and the world he has built with his fellow-believers in Islam is one unbroken nightmare of misery.
His faith is proven to be that of an automaton devoid of any reflection, and his conduct displays incapacity to learn from his scripture or the world around him.
The reason is not mysterious. Right from the earliest years of Islamic history, Muslims have been forcefully deprived of the right to reason by those who rule from palaces on the one side, and those who instruct in the mosques on the other — and the rare exceptions only confirm this dismal fact.
The Qur'an states there is no intercessor between God and man. A Muslim, therefore, is first among Protestants in affirming direct communion with his creator.
But depraved rulers in palaces and power-hungry men in mosques turned Muslims into their servile followers.
When Muslims protested, they were confronted by men with swords and condemned for rebellion, heresy or apostasy.
In ordering his soldiers to shoot at unarmed men on the eve of Ramadan, the Syrian despot, Bashar al-Assad, was acting from the script of men in palaces in Islamic history.
The conduct of men in mosques holding power, for instance as in Iran, is the same as those residing in palaces.
For Muslims, their long, tormented history and their woeful condition in today's world illustrate how little their Islam bears any relation with the essential purpose of religion in helping people turn into moral, responsible and thinking individuals. They do not heed Jesus, son of Mary, of whom the Qur'an speaks as one blessed of holy spirit.
They should, for Jesus' admonition — to take the log out of one's eye before looking for speck in the brother's eye — is the necessary reflection required of Muslims at all times, and most surely during Ramadan.
As it is of Christians and without exception everyone else.