In the relentless summer heat of May, most Muslims of India will neither eat any food nor drink a drop of water. They will remain hungry and thirsty and wait patiently between the pre-dawn meals, suhoor and the iftar – for the sake of God. The month of Ramadan is a great experience of self-control, commitment, and piety. It is a time for developing empathy for those who have nothing to eat because they are destitute. This Ramadan, the Muslims of India, will also exercise their right to vote. For any citizen of a democracy this right to choose their government remains a cherished value.
This year the 17th Lok Sabha elections will be held in seven phases from the 11th of April 2019 to the 19th of May. The Muslims of Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, will be fasting on the polling days. This has led to rising of a few voices that elections should be postponed as rozedar Muslims will not be able to cast their votes.
12 मई का दिन होगा दिल्ली में रमज़ान होगा मुसलमान वोट कम करेगा इसका सीधा फायदा बीजेपी को होगा।
— Amanatullah Khan AAP (@KhanAmanatullah) March 10, 2019
The controversy is unnecessary and uncalled for. This is not the first time elections are being held during Ramadan. More importantly while fasting, Muslims do not stop living their regular lives; they continue to attend schools and colleges, go to work, and their other day to day activities except that that they don’t eat anything from dawn to dusk.
AIMIM Chief, Asaduddin Owaisi said, Muslims will definitely fast in Ramadan, they go out and lead a normal life, they go to office, and even the poorest of the poor will also fast. He added that his analysis is that this month (Ramadan) will lead to more voting percentage because now will be free from all worldly duties.
Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav on the other hand believes “I requested a friend to run statistical check to see if there is greater concentration of Muslim voters in seats that fall during Ramadan (phase 5,6,7). Analysis does not confirm this suspicion. Only 26 per cent of Muslim voters vote during Ramadan. Doesn’t look like a fair accusation.”
I requested a friend to run statistical check to see if there is greater concentration of Muslim voters in seats that fall during Ramzan (phase 5,6,7).
Analysis does not confirm this suspicion. Only 26% Muslim voters vote during Ramzan. Doesn't look like a fair accusation. https://t.co/6xHoIstq2R
— Yogendra Yadav (@_YogendraYadav) March 11, 2019
When I first heard about this controversy, my first reaction was, Are you serious? They think Muslims can’t vote while fasting? Muslim soldiers have even fought battles during Ramadan. But then I thought that this maybe because of lack of understanding of what Ramadan is and what we as Muslims are expected to do during the holy month.
Ramadan: Meaning and Significance
It is the ninth month of the lunar calendar during which Allah revealed the first verses of the Quran to Prophet Mohammed, on a night known as Laylat al-Qadr. During Ramadan, healthy and able bodied Muslims are commanded to fast from dawn to dusk (yes, not even water) and devote ourselves in prayer, charity, and discipline. Mosques and families host iftars for family and friends but especially for the poor and needy. After Iftar, night prayers called Tarwih are held at mosques.
While customs might vary home to home, it is the Islamic tenets, such as generosity, charity, self discipline that inspire most of them. During Ramadan, Muslims through the act of fasting and worship get a chance to get closer to god and become more compassionate. Fasting is seen also as a way to learn patience and break bad habits. Eid-ul-fitr marks the end of ramadan and celebrates successful completion of fasting and worship.
Throughout history, Muslims have gone about their daily routines while fasting. Footballers have fasted while on field, students give their exams during Ramadan, those who work in offices continue to do while on a fast, and even soldiers try to keep as many rozas as possible. Most Muslims do not take leaves or shut themselves up while in the state of fast. Let us look at history; some of the most important battles have been fought during Ramadan.
Battle of Guadalete:
In 711 C.E. Tariq, the governor of the Ummayads reached Spain and defeated the Visigoth King Roderic and thus began the race to take over the whole of Spain and France. With victory in the Battle of Guadalete began the eight hundred year rule over Andalusia and proved to the world that Muslim, Christians, and Jews could live in peace, at least till the Crusades. The origin of enlightenment can also be traced to this battle.
The Defeat of the mighty Mongols:
The Egyptian Sultan Qutuz gathered his forces against the hitherto unconquerable Mongols. Mongols had wrecked destruction in world and massacred millions. In the month of Ramadan at the Springs of Goliath also known as Ain Jalut marked the first time that the Mongols had lost a pitched battle. Years later, the Mongols would be defeated again, in the Battle of Shaqab, again in Ramadan.
The capture of Jerusalem:
In northern Palestine, one of history’s favourite heroes Salauddin Ayyubi, in 1187 CE, came head to head with and defeated the armies of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and their Latin allies at the Battle of Hattin. This battle, in the month of Ramadan paved the way for Salahudin to soon conquer Jerusalem and other cities that had been captured by the crusaders. The Third Crusade was soon launched but the West could never wrest Jerusalem from the Ayyubid dynasty.
The Conquest of Mecca:
This was a turning point in history where men and women who had been harassed, persecuted, and forced to be refugees returned as conquerors. They returned to where it all began and Kaaba was dedicated to the worship of Allah.
Battle of Badr:
In the list of battles between good and evil, Battle of Badr, occupies an important place. Prophet Muhammad, with a mere 300 followers faced the Quraish who had not just numbers, but wealth and weapons on their side. Prophet Muhammad at the start of the fighting had raised his hand to the heavens and said, “If this small band perishes today, then there will be no one left to worship you on the face of this Earth.” They were victorious and to this day we are grateful for their bravery and courage.
My point here is that if soldiers can fight in battles do those trying to rake up a controversy not realize that rozedar Muslims can go out and vote? Certainly Muslims of India do not need such appeasement and senseless sympathy.
Ramadan and the Indian Democracy
As an Indian Muslim, the most significant event was that it was on the 27th of Ramadan, 1947 that freedom came to our country (27th Ramadan is the day of Laylatul Qadr, the night of destiny) and co-incidentally, this year too, the elections to the 19th Lok Sabha will be held during Ramadan. For an Indian Muslim there can be nothing more special that the Quran was revealed in this month and their motherland became free of the clutches of imperial rule. My grandfather used to fondly remember how when the announcement of azaadi came he was fasting that day decided to cancel all his patient’s appointments, and delayed the reading of Quran for the day, so that he could go out and see the flag of independent India being raised.
As the hullabaloo over elections being held in the month of Ramadan settles down, it is time for us to remind ourselves that we should not let politics to be played in our names. I am glad that the election commission did not waste much time over this needless display of fake sympathies by those with vested interests.
Let us remember the true spirit of Ramadan as a time to self reflect, deepen our spiritual growth, appreciate the blessing, and strengthen our bonds within the community and outside it by helping those in need and being a good example of how to lead a life.
Let us also remind ourselves and others of the richness of contribution of Muslims to the religious tapestry of our lives and respect religious practises. The constitution of India guarantees that “all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health.”
Let us unite and work towards understanding each other and building a strong democracy by electing the right leaders while celebrating the month of Ramadan.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.