Marhabaan bika Yaa Ramadan, welcome oh Ramadan, Yaa ayyu aladhiina aamanu, kutiba alaykum siyaawmu ( O you who believe, we have made fasting incumbent on you).
These statements ought to be suffusing our airwaves already even before the sighting of the moon crescent to herald the breaking of Ramadan, the ninth month of hijrah calendar during which abled bodied muslims are enjoined fast as a compulsory worship.
So, here comes the season of fasting, the glorious month of Ramadan, the month in which the gates of Jahannam, hellfire, are shut and that of Al-Jannah, paradise, are opened, the month in which the Quran, Huddan linnaas wa bayyinnah, was revealed to Mankind as a guide and the distinguisher or criterion, of right from wrong.
Muslims are therefore expected to take as much as possible of the benefits of Ramadan, a season of release of bounteous blessing, of vast rewards and sincere reconnection, of total rehabilitation and renewal, of true regeneration, of sincere repentance and return to Allah, a month of rebirth, restoration and revitalization, recharging and regaining in full measure.
It’s a month of strong resolution and revolution, a month of rededication to Allah but also of relaxation and retreat to Allah from all worldly concerns and a month of reckoning our deeds, income and expenditure so we could pay our zakat or Sadaqat in due or right measure.
In this month, Allah specifically prescribed fasting for believers so that we might learn or attain piety or righteousness.
Not only did He prescribe to believers that whoever witnesses Ramadan must fast, for the specified number of days 29 or 30 and in His rahma, he also allows exemption for some categories for unavoidable conditions that can threaten one’s life or lead to health complications.
He also gave windows of restitution if one is unable to fast or misses some fast. He allowed that fasting is not a 24-hour deal, just from Fajr, dawn to dusk, Maghrib and allows every lawful thing including mating from dusk till fajr. All these, Allah says he wants ease for us and not difficulties.
So sawmun Ramadan is never a burden but blessing whose rewards, tawaab, are immeasurable. Ramadan, the Season of bounteous rewards comes with many rites and ibaadats, devotion in nawaafil of religious obligations.
That’s when our tilawaatul quran, reading in measured and regular pace and we are afforded the grace and choice of Tafsiirul quran, the exegesis, explanation of the book of Allah on a daily basis whether in our major masjids or on air with vibrant scholars offering deep insights on various aspects of life.
With Ramadan, we take seriously to taraweeh prayers popularly called Aashamu in Southwestern Nigeria, a superogatory prayer with witr, all totalling 13 rakats.
Though not obligatory but it is very meritorious a practice that Muslims must cultivate as daily tahajjud because Allah encourages rising in the night, Qiyaamu-layl to offer nawaafil, commonly called Tahajjud as the night is the time that impression is most keen, prayers easily accepted.
In Ramadan, we end each day fast with iftaar, breaking of fast at dusk with fruits water, milk and meals with family and friends. In our clime, the culture of iftaar is deeply taking roots, becoming as popular as cocktails and banquets in corporate settings on a daily basis.
In my life, I’ve also taken Iftaar in government houses, one in old Gongola State, now Adamawa and Taraba States as National Concord Correspondent and one in Lagos house, dining with governors and senior government officials.
After Iftar with big men in high places, you’re so filled and fulfilled that you mutter, it’s good to wine and dine in class and glamour. It’s not a sin. Get good education and be diligent to merit invitation from the top.
Aah, Sahuur! Saari. It’s always something to look forward to at childhood. To encourage us to fast in the 70s when we were growing up, our ration and the accompanying meat or fish is like that of our parents.
We were encouraged to fast agbadaila or agbadalaasari. Agbadaila and agbadalaasari are training fasts for children till noon or afternoon…
We were in the habit of counting in numbers the fasts we made or completed. It’s like a competition among children. The more you make till dusk, the more gifts of good and sumptuous meal you earn from mummy
. As Ramadan enters its third leg, that is 20th, it’s time for Itikaaf, the retreat of Muslims to the masjids in the last ten days of Ramadan, for intense or concentration in ibaadat.
In those days when we were growing up, Itikaaf was not a common practice but restricted to the aalim and sheikhs.
Now itikaaf is a popular phenomenon because of its tremendous merits. Some of us indeed take casual leave or plan our annual leave to coincide with the last lap of Ramadan.
For many who are wealthy, these last days are spent on Umrah in Mecca. At home here, depending on the facilities or the calibre of Muslims, Itiqaaf comes with various packages.
There are classy itikaaf where the cost can go as high as N50,000 for those ten days and there are some Itikaaf for commoners whose expenses are borne by fiisebililla.
Nonetheless, any itikaaf should be what it is for: retreat, seclusion, concentrated ibaadat. There should be no distraction or engagement in mundane activities during the period to maximize its benefits and value.
We cannot talk about Ramadan without a mention of Jaka. What we know as Jaka in those days as been correctly refined to be Sadaqatul Fitr, it’s obligatory to be done on each member of a household. Jaka we are told ensure the completeness and acceptance of your fast.
It’s for the needy to have the joy of celebration like those of the eaves. It’s the responsibility of the breadwinner to ensure it’s done before going for Eid to have benefit and meaning.
Baami would buy gaari or agbado of enough quantity to go round his entire family.
He Measures his own first, bringing his two palms to make a cup and dipping them in baafu of gaari, cupping out four measures into another bowl, a basia or abari ojukwu.
Altogether, we were 11 that jaka will be measured for. Baami, his two wives, seven children and my niece but in our culture, there is nothing like cousin, nephew, niece, uncle or aunt.
It’s Maami, Baami, Boda mi or Anti mi no matter how distant you are in the extended family circle. Any of the family members measures on behalf of those in the boarding school.
And for most of my adolescent secondary school days , I was an itinerant, not so much at home with Baami, as after Abadina in Ibadan, Asero Abeokuta where Egba high School is located was my abode as a boarding student and then Adeke Iwo, Baptist high School was my home as doing my A levels.
Ramadan at UNILAG is another experience for the three years I schooled at Akoka.
It was a tradition that baami buys two cockerels at the beginning of Ramadan and two at the end to celebrate eidel fitri.
Maami also had the habit of cooking beans to distribute to neighbours on first of shawwal, the day of eidel fitri. In our Oke Foko neighbourhood of Agbole Laatosa, down to Adesokan and Adesope compounds Maami beans is the first course on eid days.
Times have changed, nobody eats saaraa anyhow these days. God bless the souls of Baami and Maami who made Eid el fitri special for us in childhood.
I still remember Baami who shops for the eid wears of my junior brother and I at Kingsway.
Kingsway, like the Palms or Shoprite of today, was the shopping mall of class for the elites and the nouveau riche of our childhood years. In Ibadan, where I had my childhood, our Yidi was always at Ansarudeen Praying Ground opposite the iconic Liberty Stadium.
The drive from Oke Foko through Oke Ado to Liberty was always fun filled. While going we were taught to be doing adhkar, God’s remembrance. On the return leg of our journey, with dripping ice cream, aawe tan oju ti ajosan is part of our songs of euphoria.
This year’s Ramadan will of course lack the colour and glamour we are used to because of the COVID 19 Lockdown.
This Corona Virus Pandemic will deny us the beauty and benefits of Taraweeh, of joint Iftaar, of Tafseer, even may be of Eid.
Notwithstanding the pandemic, we are still grateful to Allah that we are alive and can still optimize in our private, individual capacities the gifts and grace Ramadan still guarantees.
As we start this year’s Ramadhan in high spirit, we pray to end it in full joy O Allah.
Abdulwarees, an assistant director of Strategic Planning and Corporate Development at Voice of Nigeria is the Director, Media and Strategic Communication, Muslim Public Affairs s Centre, MPAC Nigeria.