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Ramadan: A Social Equalizer

The world is full of miseries and pains. One of the greatest pains is the feeling of hunger. There are millions on the global level who suffer starvation and who do not have access to required quantity of food to lead a normal and healthy life. According to World Food Programme (WFP), there are 795 million undernourished people in the world today. That means one in nine people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life. Hunger and malnutrition are in fact the number one risk to health worldwide — greater than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five, 3.1 million children each year. One out of six children–roughly 100 million–in developing countries are underweight. [1]

Constant hunger, undernourishment, and malnutrition leads to poor prospects in life:

“Nutrition has profound effects on health throughout the human life course and is inextricably linked with cognitive and social development, especially in early childhood. In settings with insufficient material and social resources, children are not able to achieve their full growth and developmental potential. Consequences range broadly from raised rates of death from infectious diseases and decreased learning capacity in childhood to increased non-communicable diseases in adulthood….Stunted, underweight, and wasted children have an increased risk of death from diarrhea, pneumonia, measles, and other infectious diseases.” [2]

The blessed month of Ramadan has endless blessings in it. One of the blessings of this holy month is compassion towards the other fellow humans. Our emotions and feelings of sympathy are directly related to our actual experiences. We cannot feel the gnawing, agony and suffering of a sick person until we ourselves have undergone the same ailment. When we ourselves suffer a pain of sickness, we better understand and feel empathy of the other suffering ones. The rich or well fed cannot know what hunger is because they usually do not have to face it. Thus, poor people suffer with their poverty and compulsions of life but the others who are better off cannot even understand the physical and psychological pangs of the poor. The great month of Ramadan bridges these gaps which divide haves and have nots and makes the rich experience the pains of hunger. In one way, Ramadan works as equalizer and makes the rich have empathy with the poor.

A hadith narrated from Imam Sadiq (a) throws light on the role of the month of Ramadan in creating social equality:

“Allah has enjoined fasting in order to settle equivalence between the rich and the poor, and this is for the sake that the rich feel the taste of hunger and, consequently, be merciful toward the poor (by giving them their rights). And, since the things are usually available for the rich, then Allah, the Exalted, is pleased when equivalence is erected between His servants. So, He, thereby, has ordained that the rich feel the taste of hunger and pain so that they feel sympathy for the weak and be merciful toward the hungry.” [3]

A man wrote a letter to Imam Askari (a) asking him: “For what reason did Allah make fasting compulsory?”
The Imam (a) wrote in reply: “God has made fasting compulsory so that the rich shall find the pain of hunger so they have a mercy upon the poor.” [4]

Amongst many others, Ramadan is a month of charity. It is the month of sharing our blessings with other human beings. In this month we supplicate to Allah (swt) to bestow His mercy upon us, so let’s not forget to show mercy to those servants of Allah (swt) who do not have sufficient resources to meet essential needs of their life. When we want to evoke the divine blessings and mercy in our lives, then we should also spend on the poor and needy ones. The holy Prophet (s) asks believers to give alms to the poor and indigent in this blessed month:

“Let your hunger and thirst during it remind you of the hunger and the thirst of the Day of Judgement. Give alms to the poor and indigent among you, respect your elderly and be kind to your youngsters, and strengthen blood-kinship of yours.” [5]

We can conclude with Imam Sajjad’s (a) supplication to Allah for the month of Ramadan: “Give us success in this month to tighten our bonds of kin with devotion and gifts, attend to our neighbors with bestowal and giving, rid our possessions from claims, purify them through paying the alm …” [6]

1. World Food Programme, https://www.wfp.org
2. “Maternal and child undernutrition and overweight in low-income and middle-income countries” The Lancet.
3. Wasa’il-ush-Shi’ah, Volume 7, fasting section. As quoted in “An Enlightening Commentary into the Light of the Holy Qur’an,” Volume 2, commentary on verses 183-185
4. Bihar  al-Anwar Volume 96, as quoted in “Fasting and the Holy month of  Ramadhan” by Sheikh Mansour Leghaei
5. As quoted in “An Enlightening Commentary into the Light of the Holy Qur’an,” Volume 2, commentary on verses 183-185
6.  As-Sahifatus Sajjadia, Supplication 44, His Supplication for the Coming of  the Month of Ramadan

 

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