Greetings to fellow Sierra Leonean Muslims and Bravo! for the courage to observe the holy month of Ramadan despite the harsh economic situation we are living in. I was born and raised as a Muslim and I do believe that Islam will take me to heaven on the day of judgment, hence I shall ever remain a Muslim.
Meanwhile, due to popular requests, I would like to republish again one of my past publications about fasting, marriage and alcohol in Ramadan which sparked endless debates in the cyber space. One might think some of us have been westernized simply because we live in Europe. But my objective and liberal philosophies have nothing to do with my life in Europe. Those who lived with me prior to my departure for Europe can testify that I was objective and liberal before leaving Sierra Leone. This piece will therefore place me and my fellow Sierra Leonean Muslims under a magnifying glass with special emphasis on alcohol, marriage and fasting in Ramadan.
What is fasting?
The Islamic method of fasting is the act of abstaining oneself during the days of Ramadan month from some of the usual things that makes life enjoyable including eating, drinking, intercourse etc. In other words, we may call it a spiritual starvation. While some schools of taught say the abstinence from lying, stealing, rebuking vindictives etc., during Ramadan is a spiritual training for the Muslims on how they should behave in normal time, others say abstinence from food and water is a way of compelling the rich ones to compare their lives with the poor thus taste the bitterness of poverty. In fact, they are forced to offer some percentage of their riches to the poor at the end of the months. But the question is who are the poor in this sense? Every reader will agree with me that in today’s world, the poor are those who lack clean water, sufficient food, affordable medical facility, habitable shelter, electricity etc. which is why in fact, Sierra Leone is perpetually categorized as one of the poorest states in the world.
With the above in mind, I don’t aim at instigating the average Sierra Leonean Muslims to disregard Ramadan in any form or shape. But what I think is logical, is that if I’m to compare the living standard of the Arabian, the Europeans and even the corrupt politicians in Freetown with that of the average Sierra Leonean Muslims who are struggling to survive without safe drinking water, food, shelter, habitable home, medical facility etc., I think 80% of them are fasting constantly throughout the year. Furthermore, if one of the aims of Ramadan is to compel the rich man to taste the bitterness of poverty and to compare his life with the poor, then with whose living standard are the average Sierra Leonean Muslims, who are fasting, going to be compared? The dead ones?
Why the haste-marriage (show-face) because of Ramadan?
Few weeks before Ramadan, two relatives of mine disclosed to me their intentions to “show-face” to the families of their fiancés purposely because Ramadan was gradually emerging and they were afraid that it might be Islamically unlawful for them to eat foods prepared by the fiancés during Ramadan. Well, if we are to keenly look into the Islamic dogma, there are no ways fiancés can automatically legalize themselves, hence everyone know that fornication is a crime whether in Ramadan or other months, and the criminals should be punished by law. But the major point I would like to discuss here is whether the “show-face” could legalize fornicators and make their Ramadan genuine.
“Show-face” has almost become a common tradition in the Sierra Leonean society especially among the Muslims. The logic behind this act is very hard to come by. Similarly, the Islamic principle of “marriage before sex” is also hard to comply with since marriage is an everlasting bond which no one would like to tie with a strange person. One might interpret this principle as a protection for the women since only few men nowadays are approaching women with genuine intentions; but it’s also dangerous for a woman to marry a strange man. What if the man is impotent? So the “marriage before sex policy” can be only effective if everybody living in a particular society can share the same culture, tradition, religion, ethics, behavioral patterns etc. Or it can be more secured if there would be a matrimonial training school for intended couples. Otherwise the only effective way of enforcing such policy is to constantly suppress the basic social rights of community members as its being done in the Sharia states. I therefore believe that the Sierra Leonean Muslims who are disregarding the “marriage before sex” principle have a strong case in front of God.
What is absolutely unrealistic however, is the haste-marriage (show-face) because of Ramadan’s emergence. The holy Quran: (24 :2-3): “The man and the woman guilty of fornication; flog each of them with a hundred stripes and let not compassion move you in their case in the enforcement of the law of God, if you truly believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of the believers witness their punishment. This man guilty of fornication may only marry a woman similarly guilty or an idolatress and this woman guilty of fornication may only marry such a man or an idolater. The believers are forbidden such marriages”.
This verse automatically prohibits sex before marriage including “Show-face”. According to some Islamic schools of taught however, fornicators may be allowed to marry later after a long period of separation. So the Imam/Sheikh who is conducting “show-face” for two fornicators who just slept with each other last-night also has a question to answer as to whether the couple was allowed to marry in the first place. The truth is that there is no “show-face” in Islam. This practice is tantamount to the Western culture of “engagement” before marriage. The danger about it in most communities is that it grants the couple the right to share everything together excluding the right to inheritance. According to the Islamic dogma, there are only two acceptable types of marriage: permanent and temporal. A permanent marriage is said to be accepted in Islam when the followings are present: parents of the couple, two witnesses, the dowry, spiritual leader. The responsibility of the spiritual leader is to exchange oath between the couple after he prove them eligible to marry. Temporal marriage which is only practiced by the Shia-ait Muslims, could be conducted without the above conditions but the woman should be a divorcee, widow or in menopause ages.
Presumably, my Muslim brothers are using “Show-face” as a method of avoiding legal marriage. Hello, one has to be honest to God and your partner as well. Self-deception is sinful!
Is Ramadan a bleaching cream?
I don’t intend to condemn or appraise any fellow human being in this passage since I’m just a mortal like anyone else but my aim is to draw the attention of thinkers to thinkable points. Because one of the less-attractive things about the average Sierra Leonean Muslims is their inability to analyze their religion logically. Perhaps this has to do with the high level of illiteracy in the society as a whole and the Islamic religion in particular.
It has become a normal habit of most Sierra Leonean alcoholics who are practicing Islam to avoid alcohol during the month of Ramadan. Likewise the clandestine fornicators who have no future intentions, they are in the habit of starving each other sexually during the holy month. Of course, it’s good to respect the holy month by avoiding unholy acts but the question is: does that change anything spiritually? Let’s take the alcohol for example, according to the holy Quran: (5:90) “O you who believe, intoxicants, and gambling, and the altars of idols, and the games of chance are abominations of the devil; you shall avoid them, that you may succeed”.
And the holy prophet is quoted to have said: “onetime consumption of alcohol destroys prayers for several days”.
It must be noted that no fasting is completed without the five daily prayers. So the man who drank excessively in the last few days prior to Ramadan with the hope of satisfying himself in advance shouldn’t only be worried about the fate of his five daily prayers but his fast as a whole. Because it’s logical that if the prayers are rejected then the fast will be also rejected since prayer is the strongest foundation of Islam. Also, if I’m to perform a simple multiplication of the number of times this man had drank alcohol in the months prior to Ramadan by the “several days” mentioned by the prophets (perhaps 5, 10, 20); this man might not be eligible to fast or pray for several months if not a year.
Similarly, there are certain compatriots in the Diaspora who earns their daily breads through drug-business. Those amongst them who have the infinitesimal belief in the existence of heaven usually suspended the business because of Ramadan and they only resume it afterwards. While those who are now addicted to the dangerous business will run it parallel to fasting. Some even sends the money to support their families at home throughout Ramadan with the hope of doing away with their sins just like that. Some used it to send their parents to perform Haj. Theologically, no one is in the position to judge as to what shall be the fate of such people in the hereafter but a very famous saying of the holy prophet of Islam does: “Tsawab Amal bil-niyat”, meaning “activities are rewarded according to the motives behind them”. So to avoid alcohol, fornication, cocaine or marijuana business because of Ramadan, with a strong intention to resume it immediately Ramadan ends, doesn’t actually make any sense. Because one of the things that make Ramadan very special is the opportunity it gives to sinners to repent. According to the holy Quran and traditions of the prophet, God shall forgive the past sins of those who genuinely observe the holy month of Ramadan but with few conditions: the sinner shouldn’t repeat the same sin anymore; the sinner should have sense of remorse; and he/she should be sincere and honest about it.
Thus the above tells us that Ramadan is not a “bleaching cream” that can just wash away sins with impunity. One has to repent for real! Repentance means never return to the old act; says the holy Quran.
I rest my case…