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[The Concourse] RAMADAN AND LENTEN SEASONS: Poles apart

The turn of time and season have brought us to another period of Islamic religious observance — the Ramadan; a time of fasting which elapses on the feast of Eid-el Fitri. Many a Christian in order to dispense their conscience off the guilt of Acts.15:20,29 and 1Cor. 8:1-13 alludes that Ramadan and Eid el fitri are the Muslim equivalent of Lent and Easter. But they are actually not the same. Both the method and purpose of observance are different for the two religions. Anyway, that is not the berthing of this write-up.

This expository essay is set to implicate and disprove the popular notion painted by many, and drilled into our psyche that Islam’s rites of fasting is more severe, strict, consistent and tenacious than Christians’ during Lent. That is a fallacy.

First, the aim of the followers of the two religions in Lent and Ramadan are totally different. Christians observe Lent as corporeal participation in the salvific suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ whose actual experience of same, 2021 years ago brought universal redemption to the world. In it, they mortify their bodies to attain higher virtues and sublime spiritual growth. Through bodily mortification and sensual deprivation, they (christians) are united with their Lord, who brought salvation through the cross in the hope of renewing the fruits of his suffering in their souls.

They see Lent as sacred time for the renewing and purifying of their hearts, that freed from disordered affections, they may so deal with things of this passing world as to hold rather things that eternally endure. “Through bodily fasting, God restrains our faults, raise up our minds and bestow both virtue and its reward through Christ.” says Preface IV to Eucharistic prayers during Lent.

Islams, on the other hand, don’t belive in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour as christians do. So their fasting has nothing to do with Christ’s passion and death.

The second point is that people (mostly redundant christians and non-catholics) claim that Islams are more severe and committed to fasting exercise than christians. They are not. In fact what they (Islams) do during fasting, compared to christians, is cosmetic spirituality. They make show of externalism. They advertise it everywhere about the ‘tediousness’ of their fast.

Jesus Christ gave christians authentic guidelines to the norms of true fasting. He said: “…and when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matt. 6:17-18)

By this he told them to avoid all elements of showing off to attract people’s sympathy or praises during fasting. In fact he warned against any external show of piousness or piety (Matt. 6:1-8).

Our Muslim brothers and sisters don’t observe this. In fact, if you are observant, you will notice that they work half-days through out the holy month of Ramadan. They detest any form of inconvenience derived from fasting, thus they see it as burden.

Ironically, when you come across them during this time, they take joy in telling people how tiresome fasting has been. And expects greetings and exchange of friendly pleasantries throughout the season to start with “yaya az’mi” (how is fasting going)?

They buys food stuffs more during this time than before it. They consume more nutritious diets and lasciviously too, all in the name of cushioning the effect of the fast. This affects market prices of some routine consumables; while productivity rate is low in islamic states because, as noted earlier, they work perfunctorily within this period. Even schools dismiss by 12 noon for the same reason. This runs contrary to christian ideology of fasting.

People believe (erroneously though) that because Lenten exercises don’t alter market prices of essential commodities and staple foods, it is only Muslims who truly observe pious fast. We forgot that a typical christian was wired not to allow his left hand know what the right is even fasting from, but to see fasting as just bodily discipline that when associated with the passion of Christ produces salutary gains. So he don’t see fasting as a burden. He don’t wear pitiable look to elicit human sympathy. He endures it in his heart joyfully to elicit divine compassion.

Thirdly at Ramadan, Islams fast for thirty days. Christians (Catholics) fast for forty days during Lent, which is ten days longer. But because they don’t take it to public hype, the stereotype subsist in favour of Muslims who does.

In 2014, as in many other years past, NYSC orientation camp opened during lent. Christian Corps members mobilized for the exercise that year didn’t complain, neither did their hierarchy in faith. They combined the two exercises simultaneously in the spirit of sacred mortification.
But in May 2017, as in various years past, when camps open during Ramadan, Moslems and their Sultan begrudged it. Though they had the option of applying for re-mobilization in the next batch, which would be suitable for them and their faith practice, they choose to revolt against it. Thus, indirectly validating the notion that they seek convenience during fasting rituals.

Fourth, they don’t forfeit any edible that comes their way within each day’s fasting hours. For instance, in celebrative occasions (ceremonies and public functions) where foods and drinks are shared within their fasting hours, they collect their own shares awaiting twilight when they will break the fast, to take them. For a christian, anything edible that come his way within fasting hours are forfeited as part of abstinence and sacrifice. It is this forfeiture, seen as foregone alternatives, that adds meaning to the holy exercise.

Fifth, Moslems miss only one meal each day during Ramadan. This applies to christains too (except for christians who observe six-to-six fasting that miss two meal times). However, the meal missed matters here. For Islams, they miss only the afternoon meal while they have sumptuous buffet early morning and at sundown. I believe this practice is in line with the teaching of Holy prophet Mohammed. Christians miss the morning meal but have blank afternoon and night meals (in half measures) for forty days.

And human medicine teaches that morning meal is the most important meal of the day. That’s what christians miss. Yet Muslims acclaim to undergo more ‘severe’ fasting sessions.

The necessity of this comparative analogy prompted up when Reno Omokri, (media adviser to former President Jonathan) published on his social media platforms that he sent bags of rice to our Moslem brothers for Ramadan. It portrays the fact that Muslims’ purpose for wearing dejected looks during fasting is actually working. It just elicited public sympathy in that christians like Reno could donate food items to cushion the ‘effect’ of the exercise while he looked the other way during Lent; probably because the church fast to attract divine sympathy and not humans’.

This is not to say there are not christians who violate the tenets of fasting season as much as Islams do, but we are dwelling on the ideals of both religious practices.

May daylight spare us!

Eze Jude O.

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