The Jakarta Post
Faith thrives in adversity. If anything, the world’s three major faiths were founded on the idea of suffering. Christianity was born out of the suffering of Jesus on the cross and the belief that he died for all our sins. In Judaism, one of the most sacred holidays is Passover, which commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. One of the defining moments in Islam is when Prophet Muhammad ordered his followers to relocate to Medina, to escape persecution from pagans in Mecca. And it was after this event, known as Hijrah, that Islam thrived as a sociopolitical entity.
Islam itself was founded on the idea that the best way to live is modestly, if not in austerity, as exemplified by the life of the Prophet.
In Islam, there is no sin greater than an extravagant display of wealth and power, and just like any revolutionary faith, Islam is eternally concerned with the plight of the poor and the downtrodden. In the early years of Islam, zakat (tithes), sadaqah (alms) and waqf (endowments) played a key role in poverty alleviation.
And there’s nothing better to illustrate the merit of modesty and righteous concern for the poor than Ramadan.
More than the idea that fasting can have health benefits for Muslims, the ritual was in fact an exhortation
to the faithful to show an act of solidarity with the poor who have little to eat. When Ramadan fasting wraps up, Muslims are obligated to pay alms, which will then be distributed to the poor.
As they fast this year, Muslims the world over have the perfect opportunity to experience the true meaning of modesty and austerity. In Indonesia, under the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB), Muslims can spend their days inside their homes, refraining from eating and drinking, while performing other rituals that could augment their sense of piety.
If anything, during a pandemic of biblical (or Quranic) proportions, Muslims can relive the experiences of suffering of the chosen people of the past, who most often came out the other side stronger and more devout.
But it isn’t always that way. Until recently, regular folks appeared to have failed to grasp the true meaning of Ramadan. Ramadan is the time of year when food consumption reaches its peak, with shopping malls and grocers mobbed by families wanting to get the best meals to break the fast. And as Idul Fitri approaches, more fortunes will be spent on new clothes and other worldly possessions.
And even during this pandemic, some Muslims have wanted to continue doing things the old way. Many continue to congregate in large numbers, including for dining and shopping. The effect has been immediate.
This week, we saw the largest daily spike in the number of deaths and number of new COVID-19 cases since the country begun taking records.
So, celebrating Idul Fitri modestly this year not only makes religious sense, but can also help in the fight against COVID-19. Eid Mubarak everyone, stay safe.