By Hassan Gimba
Ramadan is a month synonymous with fasting in the Muslim world. In Islam, fasting is the practice of abstaining from food, drink, smoking, and sexual activity between dawn and nightfall. At present, the world over, adult Muslims of sound mental and physical health are observing it, being the fourth of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims observe it in the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar. The name of the month has supplanted sawm, or azumi, meaning fasting in Arabic or Hausa, respectively.
Medically, fasting promotes blood sugar control by reducing insulin resistance, better health through fighting inflammation and may enhance heart health by improving blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol levels. It is said that it also boosts brain function and prevents neurodegenerative disorders.
Sometimes, it aids in weight loss by limiting calorie intake and boosting metabolism as well as increases growth hormone secretion, which is vital for growth, metabolism, weight loss and muscle strength. It is also said that it could delay ageing and extend longevity and may aid in cancer prevention and increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
When God tells us to do things, it is not for Him to tell us its health benefits. In most cases, we find out ourselves. He, however, tells us it is for our good. When you believe, you also find out that spiritually and physically you are the better for heeding His exhortations.
All major religions, therefore, encourage fasting and, in doing so, tell us it is what God wants. It is for the adherent to believe and act.
And so fasting is a spiritual discipline taught by the Bible. Jesus (may God be pleased with him) expected his followers to fast, and he said that God rewards fasting. Fasting, according to the Bible, means to voluntarily reduce or eliminate the intake of food for a specific time and purpose. “When you give up eating, don’t put on a sad face like hypocrites.”
In Islam, fasting develops the quality of righteousness by abstaining from sinful deeds and training ourselves to control our desires for Allah said in Qur’an 2:183, “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you that you may become righteous.”
There are two joys associated with breaking the fast. Muhammad (SAW), the prophet of Islam, said, “He who fasts has two joys: a joy when he breaks his fast and a joy when he meets his Lord. The change in breath in the mouth of the one who fasts is sweeter to Allah than the smell of musk”. Musk is a kind of Arabian perfume.
At the break of fast, there is a lesson for those who think deeply: after difficulty is ease; no matter how tough lack is, it does not last. It is only temporary. It is also likewise with plenty, typified by the eating at dawn, which is highly recommended. It is for a time, after which you cannot touch the food no matter how hungry you may be. One becomes not only compassionate towards the have-nots but understands mercy, a Godlike attribute.
This increases one’s fear, love and loyalty for the Creator, another lesson in love and loyalty essential to leadership and followership. Were we, leaders and followers, to be blessed with the lessons that fasting teaches its practitioners, Nigeria would have been an Eldorado.
Unfortunately, man forgets all these lessons the moment he fills his stomach. Nisiyan in Arabic, the language of the Qur’an means to forget. Insan, from Nisiyan, means man. And so man is forgetful.
You Be Thief, I No Be Thief
In his 1980 hit song, “Authority Stealing”, Fela Anikulapo Kuti sings “You be thief” while the chorus chanted “I no be thief”, “You be rogue”, “I no be rogue”, etc, and the second stanza goes with “Argument, argument, argue”, “Them argue”, “Everybody dem argue”… I recall this song because of the ongoing brick-throwing and arguments regarding the printing of 60 billion naira shared to states last month.
It is an unfortunate development that goes further to underscore a reason people don’t trust their leaders and take government statements with a pinch of salt. An official comes out with a statement denying something only for another to come out the next minute justifying it.
It all started when the Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki, who spoke at a programme in Benin, raised the alarm that such amount was printed to augment the allocation shared to states in March by the Federal Account Allocation Committee (FAAC). While lamenting that by the end of this year the country’s total borrowing would exceed 15 to 16 trillion naira, he said that the printing resulted from the continued shrinking of oil revenue.
However, Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, minister of finance, came out firing on all cylinders, telling the nation on behalf of the federal government that Governor Obaseki was far from the truth. “The claim by the Edo State governor that we printed money to distribute at FAAC is very sad because it is not a fact”, she said, claiming that what “we distribute at FAAC is revenue that is generated by NNPC, FIRS, Customs, etc.”
But responding to journalists in Tunga, Awe Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, confirmed it. He opined that printing money is a key mandate of the central bank and that the bank must always act in ways to support the government during financial difficulties.
Claiming it was a loan to states, he said “in 2015/2016, we were in a similar (fiscal) situation, but it is far worse today.” He then said, “we are going to insist on the states paying the loan back since they are effectively accusing us of giving them loans.”
But apart from this, it is a vogue for states to collect loans and use them on non-profitable, non-essential projects. Sometimes projects like renovating or building government houses, building palaces, buying cars for traditional rulers, etc. The question to ask is, why should states continue taking loans and ploughing them into projects that cannot pay back the loans?
Of Pantami And The Allegations
Again, Dr (Sheikh) Isa Pantami, the Nigerian minister of communications and digital economy, is in the storm’s eye. On about two occasions last year, he occupied public discourse. The first was when he had a spat with Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, director-general of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NDC) over office space. The second was at the launch of the National Communications Commission’s new building complex in Abuja. He turned himself into a master of ceremony solely to stop Professor Umar Garba Danbatta of the National Communications Commission from telling the president his achievements.
Now he is on the burner for allegedly supporting the Taliban, Al-Qaida and their leaders. These extreme Wahhabi Salafist groups drink from the same ideological fountain with Boko Haram. However, doing the rounds are many audio and video clips in which he extolled their leaders’ virtues. In sometimes even acceding that they were better Muslims than him. Yet in some, crying and asking for revenge over their killing or questioning the “extrajudicial” killing of Boko Haram members.
While it would be difficult to wave them away as lies or fabrications, Dr Pantami’s views were the general views of most Salafs at the time he made them. And since “deradicalisation” cannot change the belief of a Boko Haram member, it would be difficult for the average Salafist to turn away from such beliefs.
Sheikh Pantami may as well just own what he said and stand by it. But if he now harbours a different view, then he should also say so. He might reveal a change of thinking because of some factors. The best jihad, according to the prophet of Islam, Muhammad (SAW), is Jihad an-Nafs, ie, the struggle to have a clean heart. Accepting the truth, not living by lie and not being hypocritical, is Jihad an-Nafs.
Gimba, a renowned columnist sent in the piece from Abuja.