Apart from its spiritual aspects, the holy month of Ramadan was also meant to instil discipline in worldly affairs and keep mankind from crossing the line of moderation into the realms of excess. The lessons of restraint implicit in this exercise of self-denial make urgent practical sense to inculcate thrift in all economic spheres on a planet direly imperilled by indiscriminate exploitation of resources, natural as well as man-made.
That huge expanses of earth are swept by hunger, disease and deprivation is not a geographical imperative but a direct fallout of the encroachment and plunder by the strong of the gifts that belong equally to the weak, and the unconscionable ravaging of nature’s bounties to foster and sustain prohibitive lifestyles. The model of development being pursued by the rest of the world mimics the extravagant and untenable patterns set by the so-called advanced nations in defining prosperity and progress. And in the process, strife and conflict, natural in a world order characterized by global greed, have now been outstripped by the threat of annihilation as posed by global warming.
In its infinite wisdom, the Divine Word has gauged well the insatiable human urge for acquisition, ownership and dominance, which, when unregulated, create strife in the world, as seen in the colonial period and the resulting two world wars, and a stark imbalance in access to the very gifts of nature. Ramadan was not meant to be a source of mortifying the flesh with thirst and hunger, but to temper the grasping nature of human-beings for a more equitable distribution of economic assets, and fashioning life on sustainable lines.
The over-riding emphasis on the religious and spiritual aspects of Ramzan has sorely detracted from its more urgent relevance in the material world, for it is primarily in this sphere that most of the globe’s problems are born. The sentiment of giving and sharing embodied in the holy month was meant to be extrapolated into sustained national and international efforts in, for example, combating hunger and disease. It was meant to fashion economic models to ensure a more balanced distribution of wealth to eliminate poverty. Being the universal and comprehensive message that it is, Islam could not have meant Ramzan to be an insular, reclusive exercise with little or no relevance to worldly affairs, but a core philosophy marked by restraint and temperance in conducting national and international affairs.