Religion in general by those who practice it or those who do not practice consider it being a matter of relationship between man/woman and his/her God.
The concept of faith and religious practice is generally understood to be a private matter between a person and his/her diety, or God for instance and neither a public matter nor interaction with the environment.
We really need to question ourselves as people of all faiths as to all these religious rituals of chanting God’s name, singing His praise, dancing to please Him, reciting holy scriptures and prayers benefit God in any way?
In Islam these religious practices are known as Ibadah, five times prayers, fasting in Ramadan, Zikr (reciting His names), pilgrimage and so on forming the pillars of Islam.
But again the question is, do all these rituals we perform in devotion to Allah, benefit Him in any way? Are we doing a big favour to Him by performing these acts of worship or Ibadah.
Certainly not. As a matter of fact these acts of worship or Ibadah do not have any value in themselves, but these are for our own benefit in order to improve ourselves as better human beings in our dealings with our surroundings or the environment.
Thus our stronger relationship with our Creator through these acts of worship should prepare us to develop stronger and better relationship with Allah’s creation, other human beings and all.
Islam separates neither the world from the hereafter nor the spiritual from the the material. There is no compartmentalisation of life between private and public affairs.
This is very well illustrated in the Quran in many places.
For instance in Surah Al-Maoon, Allah condemns, a believer in the hereafter, who repulses the orphan child and ignores the poor and again condemns those who offer prayers but do not assist others.
Thus the acts of worship to God must lead to good actions for benefiting the society otherwise these Ibadah have no value in themselves and those who practice it in such way stand condemned.
Again in Surah An-Kaboot, Allah says that Salat (regular prayers) should restrain you from shameful and unjust acts. This if it does not, this praying basically is meaningless.
It is important that during this Ramadan we should reflect on the real purpose of Ibadah, salat, saum etc and not confine Islam to just these ritual practices, but integrate and extrapolate them into our daily life to do good acts benefiting the society, thus improving ourselves as human beings.
Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman reflected this, during an Iftar on Friday 23 April, organised by IPDC in front of interfaith guests and politicians, saying our practice of fasting during Ramadan, in addition to being an act of worship to our Creator should also translate into reaching out to His creation, developing understanding in our community.
Again Rev Dr Patrick McInerney during his welcome speech at Interfaith Iftar on Monday 26 April gave a brilliant analogy comparing us as a tree that we should have our roots into our respective religious traditions and like the trunk our strength should be in our scriptures and laws while our branches should reach up to heavens towards our Creator and at the same time reach out to each other to know one other and develop mutual understanding among us.
Towards the end of this Ramadan, let us reflect on the purpose behind our acts of worship and on the day of Eid, let us pledge to become better human beings by serving humanity.
Ramadan Kareem & Eid Mubarak.