Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ramadan and Restraint

A yearly life cycle – at least and particularly in Islamic terms – has passed. After 12 months of routine activities, Muslims will have to exercise a variety of restraint starting today, Monday.

While the beginning of the fasting month of Ramadan may be different for one group or another, such technical matters should not be an obstacle for Indonesian Muslims in pursuing their ultimate goal of achieving “perfection” of their religiousness.
Indonesia, as a country with a majority Muslim population, welcomes the peace, the goodwill, the reprieve and the break from the routine that the fasting month always entails. Beyond refraining from food and drink, and sex between dawn and dusk, Ramadan also requires Muslims to show restraint, especially not to let their emotions get the better of them.

Personal endurance to contain hunger and thirst during the daytime supposedly helps people to exercise restraint and to control their emotions. In addition, extra worship performed throughout the month – reciting the Koran and distributing alms to the poor – should also contribute to the peace and harmony and shared prosperity we have all come to associate with Ramadan. Being a multicultural nation, Indonesia has had its fair share of violence, conflict and tension over the past year. It is therefore a relief to have Ramadan, as we can all put our differences and problems aside and concentrate on our religious obligations for one full month in the year.
To fast may be self-serving, but the impact will benefit society as a whole.

Traditionally, we have seen more peace during Ramadan, while the non-Muslim minority, an inseparable part of the nation, also benefits from this period. Some even join Muslims in their fasting, while others participate in celebrations at the end of the month. Many others show tolerance and respect for Muslims in performing their rituals. Ramadan offers the perfect picture of what Indonesia should be like. Indonesia is a nation that regards religion and its rituals as a very important part of life, but individuals are encouraged to show great restraint, help one another and show mutual respect in terms of interfaith relations.

However, there will always be a gap between the ideal and reality. There are those who pay lip service to the rituals of Ramadan and cannot wait to get back to their routine of thieving and scheming as soon as the month is over. Again, going by the Indonesian experience, we can be fairly sure nothing will really change once the fasting month is over. Everything will go back to normal.

Still, one month of peace and harmony is better than nothing. At least, some of us may learn something and will change our ways for the better by upholding the values Ramadan imparts all through the year. It is also beneficial to learn during Ramadan of what this nation can achieve when we put our minds to it.

To all Indonesian Muslims, we wish you a happy and successful endeavor during Ramadan. Jakarta Post Editorial

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