Choosing Charity Over Conflict
As the Muslim world embarks on another Ramadan, I reflect on the many Iftars breaking the daily fast I had the honour of attending and remember vividly the warmth and hospitality my hosts showed me and others who weren’t Muslim.
The atmosphere of brotherhood, of connectedness, of holiness of friendship was strong on each occasion I have experienced. These experiences are not uncommon in other religions either. Christians have Lent, Baha’is have the 19-day feast, Hindus have Navaratri, Jews have Yom Kippur.
There is a very similar sacred connection or bond with all these fasts. During the fasts, there is the same concept of focusing thoughts, words and deeds on purity, abstinence, purification, meditation and prayerful closeness to God or the supreme being.
In a world where there is so much ‘busyness’, and people caught up in the fast lane, people focused on material things and the material world, the opportunity to participate or witness a fast is very humbling, very inspiring and very necessary for all who want to break free even for a little bit from our crazy, hectic and chaotic world, to engage with God, to engage with holiness and with spirituality.
What gives me hope and what inspires me are stories which counteract what we usually see through the eyes of the media - I am connected to a lot of news feeds and social networking sites where I constantly read stories of the kindness and hospitality Muslims show especially during times of crisis in the world.
Some stories which really are deeply moving include instances where local Muslim communities have set up crowdfunding initiatives or lead campaigns with charities who work with the poor, with the homeless and with the sick. Other stories have included the communities assisting with the rebuilding of churches or synagogues which were destroyed or protecting them from threat.
These stories are nothing new – during World War Two many Muslim communities assisted with the safe escape or the protection of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. In fact, the third pillar of Islam, ‘Zakat’ is charity – meaning to selflessly give to those less fortunate and in need.
The Grenfell Tower block disaster in London last week is a recent example of the Muslim community’s selfless charity and sacrifice - we have seen Muslims during their holiest month, Ramadan, come to the aid of the poor and of other ethnic minorities, literally saving lives, offering them food, shelter, first aid and emotional support.
There is so much to be grateful for - I reflect also, during this month, on how we as a global family are enriched by Islam and by the cultures linked to Islam and derived from the Middle East, North Africa and South-East Asia. The ‘1001 Muslim Inventions that Changed the World’ initiative which is primarily an educational resource through a book and exhibition clearly show us everything, we as an international community, have benefited from and take for granted which came from the Muslim world.
Where did the university come from? Where did Algebra come from? Where did Optics come from? Where did coffee, clocks and surgical instruments come from? They all came from the Muslim world during a period in history of discovery and advancement of knowledge.
It is so important to reflect on all of this not just during Ramadan each year, but also on every other day. This is what I choose to reflect on as a person who is spiritual, who respects all faiths and who believes in the universal concepts of compassion and charity fundamental in each faith and spiritual tradition. I encourage others to take the opportunity this month to also reflect.
Lachlan Mackay's reflection comes to the Parliament of the World's Religions as part of the 2017 Interfaith Ramadan series, empowering interfaith allies, Muslim and those of other spiritual and religious backgrounds from around the world, to share their stories of service, community and gratitude during the month of Ramadan. Please contact the Parliament at [email protected], or tag us at #RamadanPoWR to share your own story.