I’m sure most of you can relate when I say that Ramadan is a time where you feel an inexplicable amount of joy and happiness. When it comes around each year, you can’t wait for it and the feeling it brings with it. It’s the month of mercy, peace, and most importantly, it’s the month that the holy Quran was revealed to our beloved Prophet. Approximately one and a half billion Muslims around the world fast every year. Now that the month is coming to an end, I can’t help but reflect on what we’ve achieved as an Ummah this year. It’s the one month where the Shayateen are locked up for 30 days, so you can discover which negative traits and attributes are from within you and which actions prompted by the Shaytaan you succumb to.
This Ramadan, we saw Muslims from all walks of life coming together to help those in need. Muslims were at the forefront of providing support and solace for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire and the victims from the London Terror attack which took place this month. However, I can’t help but wonder why this sense of solidarity, unity and love for one another in the community is only largely apparent in places where Muslims are a minority. I’m not saying that it is not apparent in places where we are a majority, it is, nevertheless, one look at the Gulf countries in the Middle East tells us otherwise.
Living in Sri Lanka, where Muslims make around 10% of the population, the mutual feeling of harmony amongst the community is evident despite the differences. During the Ramadan of 2014, the Muslims in Sri Lanka faced persecution at the hands of hard-line Buddhist monk insurgents – Bodu Bala Sena (BBS). As my family and I were having Iftar one evening, my parents started receiving numerous phone calls, from our relatives and friends breaking the news to us that my parent’s hometown, a small town at the southern coast of Sri Lanka, was set on fire by BBS.
This place is so dear to me, not just because I spent most weekends there as a child, but more because my grandparents and some of my close relatives live there. Reminiscing over what happened three years ago feels as if it were a distant memory, but at the time the wound was so fresh amongst the Muslims in Sri Lanka, the damage had been done, some lost their livelihoods, and some their lives.
What frightened me the most was that my country had just emerged out of a brutal 30-year civil war in 2009 and these acts of terrorism against the Muslims of Sri Lanka made us feel vulnerable being a minority. Nevertheless, this did not stop the Muslims from mobilising efforts across the country to help those who were affected by the attacks that took place in 2014. The Aluthgama Development Fund was established shortly after the incident and Muslims from across the country provided the best for those who were affected.
There was no separation between the different religions and races within the community, we couldn’t afford for that to happen, we all knew we had to stick together. These attacks against the Muslims have not stopped in Sri Lanka to this date, the BBS continue to persecute Muslims across the country unjustly. However, this hasn’t stopped us from rising above them as human beings, our community fight hard to be better people and work hard to build back what they destroy, we refuse to be pushed to a corner, afraid.
A practicing Muslim works hard to transform themselves during Ramadan to be better human beings for the rest of the year – leaving behind the bad and taking forward the good. Yet in the month of Ramadan, we see states where Muslims are a majority, and states which project their faith explicitly, having conflict with each other. The conflict in Qatar is testimony to this. In the Holiest of months, the Saudi authorities denied Qatari nationals access to the Holy Mosque, no Muslim has been denied access to Masjid Al Haram since the time of the Quraysh – if this isn’t cowardice and hypocrisy, what is? Isn’t the government of Saudi Arabia meant to personify Islam? I don’t mean this just in the outwardly sense, but internally as well.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is home to the Holy land of the Muslims where millions of pilgrims gather every year, where they stand shoulder to shoulder, of all races, stripped of all kinds of worldly barriers. Thus, their government ought to allow all pilgrims, no matter what their race, access to Masjid Al Haram because it’s their moral obligation to do so.
Countries and figures which are the face of Islam are betraying the Ummah, they are doing everything in their means to gain more power and wealth than helping those who are really in need. The Saudi, UAE, Egyptian and Bahraini governments have exerted so much effort to maintain this rift in the Gulf in the name of terrorism. If all this energy was channelled to focus on the core of the problem, the ISIS themselves, so much could be done. In fact, it makes no sense for Saudi Arabia to accuse other countries of funding for terrorism when the country’s momentous deal with the United States has definite links to Israeli manufacturing of weapons and drones, thus benefiting the Israeli economy.
In addition, it is very clear that these states have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar due to their own self-interests, with hopes that Qatar will step in line with Saudi’s foreign policy. This move was a clear opportunity for these countries to exude power by isolating Qatar. What many people do not know is that, for every one Qatari who is funding terrorism, there are dozens of Saudis who continue to do so. Whatever the numbers, the funding of terror needs to come to an end, and countries need to work together to achieve this.
In an ideal world, Saudi Arabia along with other Muslim nations would be rushing to the aid of victims of oppression and abuse, but this is in an ideal world, a world in which our foreign policy does not dictate our sense of humanity. Their lack of affection and support for those who are suffering in the Ummah screams hypocrisy. What has truly been done about the constant air strikes and the destruction of Syria by many of the Gulf states? Or the famine in Yemen? Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was reported to have said: “The believers, in their mutual love, mercy and compassion, are like one body: if one organ complained, the rest of the body develops a fever”. In this time and age, those who have the power and the resources to help the Ummah should be rushing, running, sprinting to the needs of innocent civilians instead of signing 100 billion dollar arms deals to boost their power in the region. Is this the Ummah our beloved Prophet envisioned us to be?
Abu Huraira (RA) reported that he heard Allah’s Apostle saying: “Allah will hold the whole earth, and roll all the heavens up in His Right Hand, and then He will say, ‘I am the King; where are the ‘kings’ of the earth?”‘ There will come a day in which the oppressed will sit on thrones and the oppressors will be brought to their knees, and we shall patiently endure until this day comes, one day…
Ashfath Ifham is an undergraduate student at Cardiff University studying Economics and Politics and regularly participates in grassroots charity work and fundraising.