Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and serves as a spiritual boot camp for Muslims. In this month, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk everyday; abstaining from food, water, sex and anything unpleasant and immoral. One is not allowed to get angry, speak rudely or even think of bad things. The purpose of the month is to take a break from deep entanglements in mundane affairs and make a systematic and concerted effort to reconnect with the divine and work on improving one’s personal moral character.
For me, Ramadan is about returning to the fountain of truth and drinking from it as deeply as possible. It is not the parched throat but rather the parched soul that is my concern, so I study the Quran and contemplate on it. Other Muslims adhere more closely to rituals. I believe that while rituals discipline, knowledge is more transformative. But too each his own. The goal in Ramadan is really is to find a way, ritual, spiritual or intellectual, to get closer to God.
But unfortunately, for some Muslims, murder and mayhem rather than prayer and fasting have become the way to celebrate Ramadan.
On September 6th, in the first week of Ramadan, two suicide bombers killed over 50 people in Peshawar, Pakistan. On September 13th, five bombs killed over 30 in New Delhi, India. On September 15th, a female suicide bomber blew herself up at a Ramadan fast breaking ceremony killing 22 people in Diyala, Iraq. On September 17th, a truck bomb and some militants attacked the US embassy in San’a, Yemen killing 16 people and on September 20th a massive truck bomb killed over 60 people in Islamabad, Pakistan.
All of these attacks have been conducted by people who call themselves “Jihadis”, this they claim is their struggle in the path of God. One cannot imagine to what extent the minds and the hearts of these people have become poisoned that in the month of Ramadan when even frowning is undesirable, they chose to murder and maim indiscriminately. The most incomprehensible aspect of these atrocities is that a vast majority of their victims are the very people on whose behalf these wars are waged!
If they want to fight and die for God, they are welcome. There are over 200,000 American soldiers, in Iraq and Afghanistan, who are there specifically to oblige them. Why not go and fight them?
These cowards, who call themselves Jihadis, run and hide from soldiers seeking to fight them and instead target helpless and unarmed civilians. They repeatedly confirm that they have no regard for social order, for law, for human life and even for the sacred injunctions from the God whose pleasure they seek through violence.
If they really wish to wage a Jihad (struggle) in this holy month of Ramadan, then their first target should be their own cowardice and the profound Jahiliyyah (ignorance) that disables them from seeing what is right and what is wrong.
There are three kinds of Muslim responses to these never ending atrocities. Some Muslims condemn, oppose and actively reject the Jihadis and their agenda of global anarchy. I wish they would be better organized and more effective.
Another minority, unfortunately, appreciates and supports the Jihadis. I pray that this Ramadan may open their eyes to the true reality of the Jihadi phenomenon. It preys on the weak and the helpless, has achieved absolutely nothing of value for Muslims, and has pushed a large number of people in the world to despise Islam and hate Muslims.
And then there is a significant Muslim population that lives in denial. They also are intellectually dishonest. They first deny that there is such a thing as jihadi terrorism, resorting to conspiracy theories blaming every act of Jihadi violence either on Israel, the US or India. Then they argue that unjust wars by these three nations (in Palestine, Iraq and Kashmir) is the primary cause for Jihadi violence; a phenomenon whose very existence they have already denied.
Unless Muslims wakeup to the culture of terrorism in their world and act to eradicate it, they may find themselves isolated and shunned from the rest of the world, while also being the biggest victims of the very phenomenon they do not fight.
Muqtedar Khan is Director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware and a Fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.