I’m happy that the Holy Month of Ramadan fell in July this year, at the same time when the Bangsamoro Basic Law bill is being finalized so that it can be submitted to Congress for passage. It is auspicious that both events will simultaneously happen as both have significance in peace building—in hearts and minds and at legal and institutional levels.
On a personal note, my twin Nesreen and I celebrate our birthday in July. Growing up, birthdays have been a cause for reflection and motivation to continue doing good in our lives, with sincerity in our purpose: to make peace with God, with ourselves, and people around us or all that He has created.
In making peace with God, it entails obedience to His commands and guidance for living in this world. Muslims believe this is through Islam as a religion of peace and a complete way of life. The annual observance of obligatory fasts in Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam.
What is Ramadan?
Why fast? In other parlance, “Why starve yourselves?” What is Ramadan? How is this practice related to peace? These are valid questions that remind us Muslims to be mindful of the purpose as well as history of our religious practices. By understanding our faith, we are equipped with more confidence to participate in bridging interfaith-dialogue and religious tolerance.
I began to join fasting with my family and relatives when I was in elementary school. The warmth, solidarity and togetherness in practicing it instilled that sense of excitement for Ramadan, knowing that it’s observed by millions of Muslims worldwide.
We welcome Ramadan, a Holy Month wherein the Holy Qur’an was revealed, with much gratitude to God. There is a sense of sadness whenever it bids goodbye, yet it leaves us with inspiration and a sense of renewal. Eid Al-Fitr is the feast that Muslims celebrate for the completion of fasting in Ramadan.
Fasting is not strange. Notably, it is practiced by our forebears, though in different context and limitations. It is a meaningful practice to fortify steadfastness. Ramadan, wherein more prayers are offered, rejuvenates “taqwa” or piety to Him. Indeed, fasting also gives meaning to a Qur’anic verse that “Verily, with hardship there is relief.”
How can fasting promote peace? A fasting person makes it a distinct choice to abstain from eating to strengthen the value of self-restraint and discipline. By fasting, we aim to be in our best and most peaceful demeanour with people around us (or virtually in social media), as it is a time to strengthen self-purification.
Ramadan abounds in spiritual importance, and I believe that the moral and spiritual upliftment of people contributes to peace and nation-building.
It promotes empathy to the plight of the poor; acts of charity; and doing service to community. These values, awakened in our hearts in the course of fasting, should continue to inspire our deeds even if Ramadan ends. Keeping peace is a continuing process.
Peace and Bangsamoro
From Ramadan and peace, I speak of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which I believe is a significant bill for all Filipinos, anchored on a vision for peace. Its passage in Congress this year will be a defining moment in our generation and in this administration, after the decades-long journey of internal armed conflict and peace negotiations.
The passage of the basic law by Congress is part of the roadmap towards the establishment of a Bangsamoro region by 2016, according to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Though it is signed between two Parties, the success of this roadmap is a shared undertaking for peace by all Filipinos—amid our diversity in religious background and socio-political identities. The aspiration for peace cuts-across religion.
The Bangsamoro region, that shall exercise genuine autonomy within the Philippines, is not for the sake only of Muslims or exclusive to the MILF group, they say. The Bangsamoro government shall be non-sectarian and the rights of all peoples will be respected in the BBL.
What is BBL for? Why is it beneficial to me or to my family? Why should I support it? Is it constitutional? Is this a key for peace in Mindanao? I believe that every Filipino, young or old, should make an informed choice about the Bangsamoro. It is a national discourse that everyone is welcome to study, debate, or scrutinize.
Peaceful opposition or criticism of the CAB or the BBL indeed should not be detested, after all this is a democratic country. The bottom-line is respect to the consent of the governed.
We mus all play a constructive role to build peace for our shared future. In Shaa Allah– Rappler.com
Tasneem C. AbdulRauf graduated cum laude with a BA Political Science from the University of the Philippines – Cebu. She is a member of the Khadija Center for Muslim Women Studies, and is currently working at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Communications Unit.