Ilorin is the capital city of Kwara state in south western Nigeria. The city is relatively calm and exceptionally peaceful. It has not been associated with any communal, religious or tribal clashes that seem to characterize the Nigerian nation. While many see this feat as the handiwork of the government, some attribute the success to the serene weather while I see the citizens as the brains behind the Ilorin story. My reason is simple, they are Muslims.
Fasting, without doubt, is not an easy task. It is characterized with self denials, sacrifices, and self-sacrifices. It is a period in which one is saddled with a lot of responsibilities that are energy-sapping, because of the Quranic injunctions that one must obey. From the young to the old, obedience is universal during this period. The holy prophet Mohammed’s instruction of fasting is highly upheld during this period and this teaches us a good lesson. There is need for all to obey set rules. Regardless of personal views and choices, instructions and directives are set to ensure the general well being of us all. Muslims fast because they know that the Holy Prophet Mohammed (SAW), the leader of the Muslim world, is righteous and has good intentions.
The Ramadan month also fosters unity. This is evident in the usual practice of members of Ilorin Muslim community as they gather during daily Salaat prayers and public lectures to get instructions to guide their daily lives. There is a lesson, in this practice for us all. We should all cultivate the habit of uniting in all that we do. Individual Muslims have access to the Quran but still come out for public lectures to learn and rub minds together in order to become better Muslims. In other words, we need others to attain perfection and reach our destinations. We can’t do it all alone.
Another unique feature of the Ramadan season is the ageless act of forsaking ungodly practices. Take Biodun and Fuad for instance. Biodun and Fuad are two close mutual Muslim friends of mine. We talk a lot and at times, we make statements that are not in line with the Islamic doctrines. During Ramadan period however, my friends usually dissociate and sometimes isolate themselves from anything that can make their fasting unacceptable. They stir clear of ladies, wrong influences and me! The lesson for us all here is that there is the need for us all to prioritize, know what we want, and become resilient in the pursuits, even if it entails forsaking long time friends.
There is one last lesson that I’ve come to learn from Ilorin Muslims and the Ramadan fasting period, and that is the power in our individual and collective strengths when we set our minds, hearts and bodies to doing something. During the period, children as young as 5 years go about boasting to their friends that they are also fasting. While it might be seen by some as an attempt by parents not to put food on the table, I see it differently. No action is unattainable and no one should be barred from achieving his or her goals if such an individual is ready to sacrifice. There are many individuals out there who want to go to school, some want a higher degree while others have dreams that they want to see materialize. The issue is not the non availability of tools and routes to take them to their desired destinations, but that of will. Such individuals should learn from the children of Ilorin. They should step out boldly, and achieve whatever they want to achieve, not minding the sacrifices.
Ramadan, like other seasons and pillars of Islam, is full of lessons that when properly harnessed, can help individuals, groups, communities, and humanity be the best. As we incorporate these lessons, it is not out of place to extend our greetings to the Muslims, not just in Ilorin, but in all parts of the world. To those that dutifully completed the fast, I say Ramadan Kareem.