Ramadan is a month-long opportunity for over one-fifth of the world’s population to engage in spiritual reflection. To observe Ramadan, Muslims are expected to fast from dawn to dusk, offer alums, pray, study the Quran, and abstain from sinful behavior, which includes fighting. Sadly, many faithful Muslims live in regions ravished by poverty, terrorism, war, and abusive governance at the hands of their fellow Muslims. Although these conditions can make it nearly impossible for faithful Muslims to fully honor their obligations to Islam, especially when it comes to violence, Muslims can still reflect upon the spiritual implications of their struggles.
There is a great sense of injustice that drives the civil unrest seen throughout the Middle East. In the decades preceding the Arab Spring Revolutions, negligent, abusive governments, with the aid of International powers and extremists, helped create many of the issues and grievances that fuel conflicts across the Muslim world today. Between European colonialism and American interventionism, Western governments and businesses have committed many wrongs against Muslims. Self-serving, unresponsive Muslim-led governments and violent Islamist extremist are just as responsible while they and jihadi terrorists continue to exasperate the wrongs already done.
In condemning the wrongs of others, however, one must first recognize one’s own wrongs against others. Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology has recommended making it legal for a man to “lightly beat” his wife for refusing to have sex, which is considered rape elsewhere, or obey his command, among other things. This boldly demonstrates how acceptable the abuse of women can be in the Muslim world. Women are supposed to be honored and respected above all within Islam, yet the mistreatment of one’s wife, as an object that is supposed to cater to his every desire and impulse, reduces her standing to that of a dog.
With that in mind, it is necessary to recognize that one cannot condemn the wrongs of others when one does those same wrongs to others. A man, who hits his wife, his children, or even his animals, has no right to be outraged when government security forces or foreign troops attack him. A businessman, who impoverishes his workers, has no right to condemn those who steal from his business. Religious leaders and government heads, such as Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Turkey’s Recep Erdogan, cannot legitimately their hold grievances against others when they impoverish, silence, beat, jail, and bomb the Peoples under their rule.
As Islam shares roots with Christianity and Judaism, the Golden Rule serves as a useful summation of this essential peace-building principle: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Middle East sees ongoing violence and social strife, because there are too many people who seek restitution for wrongs done against them by committing the same wrongs against others. Reconciliation across the Muslim world is necessary, but respected religious leaders, heads of governments, and jihadists must first reflect upon their own wrongs, instead of spreading devastation and violating Islam by seeking restitution for their own grievances.
Islam is a way of life that demands strict adherence to traditions and practices that keep the bonds of Muslim communities strong. These bonds are built on the need to show respect and honor to all. In abusing others, violent jihadists and tyrannical heads of governments, communities, and families are severing the bonds that hold Islam together. As the Holy Month of Ramadan proceeds in an era of ongoing violence, Muslims must reflect upon how their mistreatment at the hands of others and their mistreatment of others prevent them from fulfilling their spiritual obligations to Islam while feeding the struggles they face.
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