Written by the editorial board of The Guardian Newspaper
As Nigerians join the rest of humanity to celebrate the Muslim Eid-el-fitri marking the end of this year’s Ramadan fasting, it is assumed that the faithful have utilised the period of self-sacrifice and self-denial to renew their minds as well as attune themselves to the worship of their Creator. It is also assumed that the period has been used by all Nigerians to seek the grace to commit themselves to a life of service to their country and to fellow human beings.
This year’s fasting period may be over but the teachings therefrom should remain constant in the lives of all. Steadfastness, a prayerful life and humility as the Holy Book teaches must be for everyday living, not the fasting period alone.
Indeed, the cardinal message is that although Eid-el-fitri signifies the end of Ramadan, the doctrines of moderation, piety, regular supplication to Allah, and unconditional love go beyond the Ramadan, beyond Islam and must be obeyed by all.
In truth, the belief is that no month is holier than the Ramadan nor is any month more attractive of God’s forgiveness and mercy. Islam also emphasises that Allah is ready to answer prayers at all times, if these are offered in the same circumstances guiding the Ramadan. All Nigerians are therefore enjoined to keep these lessons uppermost in their heart as they celebrate the Eid.
A life of grace, humility, self-sacrifice, philanthropy, especially offering aid to the less privileged in the society and love for one another, are the paths to building a strong, peaceful and prosperous country. These constitute the fundamentals of making a nation achieve its manifest destiny. In the joy of this year’s celebration, the faithful and indeed each Nigerian should spare a thought for the entire country and how to confront its challenges of poverty and underdevelopment. All should remember that although the country is renowned as one of the most endowed on earth, in terms of natural and human resources, it is ironically home to some of the poorest in the world.
A few Nigerians are among the richest in the world while a majority of their compatriots live in abject poverty. While some of the really wealthy may have earned it, many have attained their status at the expense of the people. While Islam holds that each man shall account for his deeds in the hereafter, all, especially those in positions of authority and affluence, must begin the processes of changing their character and activities with a view to becoming more attuned to the teachings of Islam.
It is a lesson of Ramadan and Eid-el-fitri that happiness for the supposedly happy can only be hollow when he is surrounded by a multitude of hungry and unhappy people. Islam teaches that the wealth bestowed on any person is for the purpose not of enjoying life to the fullest by one, but to raise several other persons from their state of hopelessness and helplessness.
This year’s Eid celebration must of necessity be moderate given the fact that the nation’s economy remains in dire straits and living standard for most has fallen with poor income and rising costs. The Muhammadu Buhari government is still striving to fulfill Nigerians’ high expectations even as it grapples, one year after, with the monumental rot it met on the ground. The government needs prayers and help of all.
The Boko Haram insurgency is being gradually defeated by the nation’s patriotic soldiers but hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens remain abducted or dislocated from their families. Indeed, the whole of Nigeria is still nursing the wounds inflicted on the country’s soul by a group whose acts and beliefs are not reconcilable with the nature of Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance.
It bears repeating that Islam abhors taking of human lives or forcing people into captivity as a means of converting them. Clearly, the principles and methods of Boko Haram and their equivalents worldwide are far from being a true reflection of Islam. They stand condemned.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s leaders must find the will to shun greed, corruption, nepotism, and other ills that have stunted the country’s growth as such are completely against the essence of Islam, Ramadan or the Eid-el-fitri. For those who may have been caught in the vortex of these vices, there is no better time than now to repent and seek Almighty Allah’s forgiveness.
Nigeria’s purpose and destiny as a great country can and must be achieved.
All Nigerians should seize the occasion of this year’s Eid-el-fitri to pray for their country and commit themselves whole-heartedly to the work of rebuilding it.