On the evening of 8th July, all across the world, hundreds of millions of Muslims began Ramadan – the holiest month in the Muslim calendar. For Muslims, this period is a time of great spiritual self reflection, prayer, empathy, and charity; the point in short is to try to become a better human being and it is not uncommon for Muslims to recite the Holy Qur’an during this time. It is also iconic for the fact that Muslims of sufficient physical and mental health fast from sunrise till sunset for the entire month in order to cleanse their souls from harmful worldly desires and to focus on self discipline and self control.
Ramadan is also a time for peace. It is not unusual for family, political and military disputes to be suspended during this month. As it is observed that, historically, fighting in large parts of the Muslim world tend to stop during this period, Ramadan is considered by peacemakers to be the perfect opportunity for negotiations between belligerent groups, hoping to cease hostilities in the long run.
As a Muslim living abroad in the UK, it is easy to see how Ramadan might seem strange and even archaic to some, however it is a religious necessity for Muslims and even has practical results on the ground level, not least because of its ability to bring peace in many troubled areas of the Islamic community.
It’s hard to recall or even imagine the Muslim world being in a state of peace regardless of the time of year. Just to name a few, war and civil unrest has been stretching from cities of Syria to the deserts of Mali, and the mountains of Afghanistan. In 2011, whilst the war in Libya was still raging, diplomatic hopes for peaceful resolution to the conflict there disappeared quickly during Ramadan. During the same month in 1963 in Iraq, the Baathist Party, which Saddam Hussein was a prominent member of, violently overthrew the government, resulting in the death of thousands of Iraqis. So can Ramadan bring peace to these troubled regions of the world? Probably not.
Nonetheless, it would be unwise to discard the possible effects of Ramadan. Political regimes in the past may have been composed of leaders who may have followed Islam on paper but in reality they cared more for the continuation of their own political power than the health and well-being of their fellow man let alone fellow Muslims. Today a new generation of leaders have taken control in the Muslim world whilst Ramadan won’t solve any problems in and of itself, it may provide the breathing space and room for the beginning peaceful negotiations in many troubled areas of the Muslim world.