Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, and Humanitarian Education

Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, and Humanitarian Education

Muhbib Abdul Wahab

Lecturer at the Graduate School of UIN Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta

Vice Chairman of the Pesantren Development Institution of Muhammadiyah

For some people, fasting during Ramadan is perceived as burdensome, distressing, and incompatible with human values. Therefore, many Muslims find it difficult to fulfill the obligation of fasting during Ramadan without any justifiable reasons according to Islamic law, such as illness, menstruation, postpartum bleeding, exhausting travel (safar), breastfeeding, and so on.

The establishment of divine laws and the assignment of religious duties such as prayer, fasting, almsgiving, pilgrimage, and others do not exceed the limits of humanity. In the context of fasting during Ramadan, it can be asserted that Allah surely considers the human dimension of humanity (insâniyyatu al-insân), both in terms of implementation, benefits, and impacts. Allah SWT never assigns obligations to His servants beyond their capabilities (QS al-Baqarah/2: 286). In other words, all religious duties are in accordance with the principles of benefit, ease, and human capability.

If there are legitimate reasons based on Islamic law as mentioned above, Islam provides dispensation and flexibility (rukhshah), meaning one can break the fast or not fast, with the condition that they must make up for the missed fasts on other days outside of Ramadan. Islam is indeed a religion of ease, facilitation, not hardship and distress; it brings joy and does not instill fear or make people avoid or dislike it.

Therefore, various scientific studies have shown that fasting during Ramadan is very much in line with the taste and purpose of humanity. Indeed, the Ramadan worship is a multidimensional humanization process that is most effective for character education, personality formation, and habituation of humanitarian values. The humanitarian dimension of fasting and the celebration of Eid al-Fitr constitute an interesting Ramadan education curriculum package that is very important to be actualized in daily life.

The question then arises, "How can the actualization of humanitarian education from fasting during Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr be achieved so that the goal and target of fasting during Ramadan: la’allakum tattaqûn (hopefully to attain piety) can be realized?" "If the Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr education curriculum package is framed within the framework of humanitarianism, what are the ideal humanitarian values that should be concretely realized in the humanitarian social system, especially in societal, national, and state life?"

Orientation towards Goodness

In verse 184 of Surah al-Baqarah, the word "khair" (goodness, better) is mentioned three times. Most scholars argue that besides aiming to achieve piety, fasting during Ramadan also aims for goodness (khairiyyah al-ittijâh). The rituals of fasting during Ramadan and the celebration of Eid al-Fitr produce goodness and blessings. The spirit of goodness and blessings accompanies and frames all acts of worship during Ramadan, not only during fasting in the daytime but also during worship in the nighttime. In this context, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) educated about the importance of integrating fasting during the day and worship during the night, because Ramadan worship is limited only during the daytime. For the believers, the spirit of Ramadan goodness must be believed to be in harmony with the humanization process and linked to humanitarian values. "You fasting is better for you, if only you know" (QS al-Baqarah [2]: 184). It means that the spirit of goodness of Ramadan worship can be actualized if it is based on strong faith and adequate knowledge. To yield humanitarian values, Ramadan worship must indeed be based on faith and knowledge, not just restraining oneself from hunger, thirst, and abstaining from marital relations during the daytime.

Therefore, the agenda of the Ramadan education curriculum is not only about fasting from food (not eating, not drinking, not smoking), fasting from lower desires (restraining lust), but also fasting from the five senses, fasting from speech, fasting from the heart, and fasting from the mind. The ideal Ramadan fast is total fast, fasting of body and soul; as well as holistic integrative fasting, shiyâm (during the day) and qiyâm (during the night), in order to attain true piety (haqqa tuqâtih), both personal and social piety. Personal piety and social piety are authentic piety through which the believers feel happy celebrating victory on the day of Eid al-Fitr, 1 Syawwal.

The next question is, "What humanitarian-oriented goodness can be actualized during and after Ramadan, especially based on the analysis of the fasting verses: verses 183-187 of Surah al-Baqarah and several hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) related to fasting?" To prove the humanitarian orientation of Ramadan education goodness, we can delve into various humanitarian messages and spiritual experiences in Ramadan worship, because humanitarian education cannot produce living values of humanity without ever being an integral part of the Ramadan education process itself.

Universal Humanity

Humanitarian education from fasting during Ramadan begins with a historical affirmation. Fasting is not a duty assigned only to the followers of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Previous communities before the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) were also obligated to fast (QS al-Baqarah [2]: 183). Ibn Kathir explains that since the time of Prophet Noah (AS), previous communities fasted three days each month. The Jews fast on Ashura (10 Muharram) as an expression of gratitude for the liberation of Prophet Moses (AS) and the Children of Israel from Pharaoh's pursuit. In addition, the Jews also fast for 6 days a year. Among the Jewish monks, some fast for 30 days.

Christians also fast for 40 days a year, and they break their fast after fasting for 24 hours. Later, they fast (abstain) from eating live animals. This shows that fasting is a universal worship, across time and generations, with a humanitarian dimension. Fasting is not only a religious obligation but can also be a basic human need because it is considered full of universal humanitarian goodness that is compatible with medical therapy.

In the Quran, it is narrated that Maryam, the mother of Prophet Isa (AS), vowed to fast from speaking (silent, close mouth, and not communicate) (QS Maryam [19]: 26) when she was persecuted by her people who accused her of adultery, because she was pregnant without a husband. It turned out that fasting from speech was the solution to the persecution she faced. Fasting from speech educates the importance of maintaining human safety, which can turn into disaster and catastrophe if someone, especially a leader, cannot control and manage their tongue. Isn't human safety determined by guarding (controlling) one's tongue (salâmat al-insân fi hifzhi al-lisân)?

The universal humanity of Ramadan worship is also reflected in the connection between the implementation of fasting and the phenomena of the universe (universal nature verses) with the determination of the beginning and end of Ramadan, as well as the beginning of Shawwal. Whether based on calculation methods or sighting of the crescent moon (rukyat al-hilâl), the implementation of Ramadan worship essentially educates human beings to have scientific literacy (knowledge of astronomy) and global insights. Although there are often differences of opinion and disagreements in determining the start of Ramadan and Shawwal, linking Ramadan to the process of calculation and sighting of the crescent moon shows that the universal humanity of Ramadan worship must be based on knowledge (religious literacy and scientific literacy). Religion and science must be understood integratively for the sake of humanization, liberation (liberation of humans from ignorance, poverty, regression), and transcendence (scientific belief, faith-based knowledge, and righteous deeds based on faith and knowledge).

Laboratory of Humanitarian Education

Ramadan is a laboratory of humanitarian education designed to develop spiritual maturity, intellectual excellence, spiritual depth, emotional maturity, and moral integrity of the believers. If viewed from Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory (pyramid), the humanity of Ramadan worship is reflected in the fulfillment of basic needs, psychological needs, and self-actualization needs at the same time: to become physically and spiritually healthy individuals, with positive characters, good personalities, and productive individuals.

It is acknowledged that eating, drinking, resting, exercising, and sleeping are physiological needs. However, Maslow did not argue that fasting is also a physiological need that is very beneficial for maintaining health. By fasting an average of 12-14 hours/day for 29-30 days, the human digestive organs have the right to rest and digest food and drink intake, thus rejuvenating (renewing) cells and internal organs. Medically, fasting can lower blood pressure, levels of bad cholesterol, blood sugar levels, uric acid, as well as serve as detoxification for toxins, poisons, and undigested or unabsorbed food remnants containing harmful substances, such as preservatives, colorings, artificial flavors, and so on.

Not only does fasting fulfill basic needs, but it also fulfills psychological needs such as the joyous atmosphere of breaking the fast together with family, happiness in gathering, socializing, and congregating in mosques, and feeling happy to share blessings with less fortunate brethren. Fasting trains patience; having mental and emotional resilience, not easily angered, able to control emotions and heart impulses driven by desires and Satan's temptations.

Fasting is also designed by Allah SWT with a socio-psychological dimension that greatly soothes the soul and reconciles the heart through self-purification by paying Zakat al-Fitr and/or Zakat al-Mal. "Take from their wealth a charity by which you purify them and cause them increase, and invoke [ Allah 's blessings] upon them. Indeed, your invocations are reassurance for them. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing." (QS At-Tawbah/9:103). The spirit of sharing, empathy, and caring for others through zakat, charity, donations, and sharing iftar meals are expressions of personal happiness that is "completed" with the resolution of one's desires and selfishness.

Believers who fulfill their zakat not only cleanse their wealth from the rights of the needy (which should not be possessed, held, or enjoyed by oneself), but also purify their hearts from the disease of stinginess and greed. Those who are free from these diseases are guaranteed a peaceful and peaceful life, especially those who pay zakat have the right to be blessed by the zakat collector, so that the peace of the giver's heart makes them even more confident and confident that sustenance is a gift from Allah that cannot be owned absolutely; because some of it has rights for the poor and needy (QS Adh-Dhariyat/51:19)

Ramadan worship is also believed to fulfill self-fulfillment needs, through various utilization of Ramadan moments to create and self-actualize. Great scholars, such as Imam al-Bukhari, al-Ghazali, Ibn Sina, Muslim, al-Khalil ibn Ahmad, Imam Shafi'i, and others, besides habitually completing the recitation of the Qur'an, also initiate Ramadan as a month of productive work, at least they start their monumental works in Ramadan. In other words, Ramadan is a month of self-actualization by renewing determination and strong will (irâdah qawiyyah) to be productive in producing beneficial intellectual legacies.

Moreover, humanitarian education in Ramadan fasting is reflected in the dispensation (rukhshah) of the permissibility to not fast for the sick, or during exhausting travels, physically weak individuals (elderly or sickly), breastfeeding mothers, women in postpartum bleeding, and so on (QS al-Baqarah/2:184-185). The interesting psychological humanitarian dimension of the Quran's affirmation is that during Ramadan nights, married couples are allowed to have sexual relations (QS al-Baqarah/2:187). This dispensation is certainly very humane and is evidence that Ramadan fasting is not about making oneself suffer. Ramadan fasting provides comfort and happiness both physically and spiritually for married couples.

An anecdote goes that one night during Ramadan, 'Umar ibn al-Khattab was with the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and returned home quite late. Upon arriving home, he found his wife already asleep. At that moment, 'Umar wanted to be intimate with his wife. However, he was rejected by his wife, saying, "I'm already asleep!" He said, "You're already asleep?" Nevertheless, that night he could still fulfill his sexual desires by being intimate with his wife.

In the morning, 'Umar went back to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and told him about what happened the night before. Then, Allah revealed the verse: "It has been made permissible for you the night preceding fasting to go to your wives [for sexual relations]. They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them. Allah knows that you used to deceive yourselves, so He accepted your repentance and forgave you. So now, have relations with them and seek that which Allah has decreed for you. And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread [of night]. Then complete the fast until the sunset..." (QS al-Baqarah [2]:187). The revelation of this verse further emphasizes the humanitarian taste in interpreting and enjoying the Ramadan worship.

Medically, Ramadan fasting also becomes a laboratory of humanitarianism in terms of health. Fasting is proven to strengthen the body's immunity against various diseases. Immunity strengthens with the process of detoxification of "food remnants", toxins, poisons, bad cholesterol, and waste in the body that are "sucked and utilized" by the body when hungry and seeking food intake. Fasting is also considered to overcome obesity and the risk of its related diseases. Research proves that the best diet is a regular fasting like Ramadan fasting, besides relaxing the heart's work, so that the heart's workload becomes lighter and reduces the risk of heart organ swelling.

Above all, Ramadan worship is also believed to cultivate spiritual awareness to draw closer to Allah, discipline oneself in worship, intensify Quranic recitation, remembrance of Allah, seeking forgiveness, and engaging in i'tikaf. Because faith and knowledge function optimally as the driving energy and spiritual enlightenment to focus on worship to attain Allah's forgiveness. "Whoever fasts out of faith and hoping for reward (pleasure) from Allah, then his past sins will be forgiven." (HR. Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Humanitarian Moral Education from Ramadan Fasting is Reflected in the Moralization of Shaimin and Shaimat by Learning to Become Honest, Trustworthy, Patient, Disciplined, Sincere, Humble, Compassionate, Generous, and so forth. Shaimin and Shaimat can restrain themselves from consuming food and halal drinks during the day, let alone consuming what is haram, engaging in sinful acts, and disobedience to Allah SWT. Shaimin and Shaimat surely feel ashamed to commit sins and have despicable manners. Ramadan humanitarian education enables Shaimin and Shaimat to have a kind of "antivirus of sinfulness" strong enough to resist and defeat the temptations of desires and Satan.

Because the essence of fasting is to learn to restrain and manage oneself by controlling desires, thirst, hunger, and thirst, Shaimin and Shaimat are then trained to "be able to feel and experience the suffering" of the poor. The implication is that Ramadan worship educates the importance of cultivating empathy and concern for others, by giving alms, sharing, donating, giving zakat, and endowment. Humanitarian education with the spirit of bringing happiness (idhkhâl as-surur wa as-sa’âdah) to others is an ideal goal that is expected to foster solidarity and social harmony.

The spirit of congregational worship in mosques and prayer halls for Tarawih prayers, qiyâm al-lail, tadarus, iktikaf, breaking the fast together, maintaining family ties, providing iftar meals, and assisting those less fortunate is a social humanitarian education that can shape attitudes and traits of generosity, strong evidence of the social humanitarian dimension of Ramadan. Moreover, Ramadan ends with Eid al-Fitr, forgiving one another, and sharing happiness.

Eid al-Fitr and Humanitarian Transformation There is no celebration as grand and joyful as the "graduation of Eid al-Fitr" for the victory and graduation of Shaimin and Shaimat in undergoing Ramadan education for a full month. There is no spiritual and social atmosphere of humanity that surpasses the momentum of Eid al-Fitr. The unity, happiness, and closeness of the Eid al-Fitr atmosphere are indeed the peak of the actualization of humanitarian education.

However, the substance of the Eid al-Fitr celebration does not lie in the festive and harmonious atmosphere, but in the transformation of humanity, mental, spiritual, moral, and social changes in daily life. The success of Ramadan education must yield a humanitarian transformation in the form of implementing humanitarian values, such as: getting used to waking up early, time discipline, productive time utilization, learning to step out of the comfort zone with habituation and adapting to new situations.

The humanitarian transformation in Shaimin and Shaimat needs to be evidenced by the actualization of values such as honesty, patience, generosity, discipline, caring, self-confidence, brotherhood, and so forth in social practice. Eid al-Fitr is a form of social practice that combines personal and social piety. Takbir, tahmid, tahlil, and tasbih that color the night of Eid al-Fitr and before Eid prayers are transformations of humanity. After being trained to restrain oneself, control desires, and resist Satan's temptations during Ramadan fasting, Shaimin and Shaimat express victory by uttering takbir, tahmid, tasbih, and tahlil. In other words, humanitarian transformation after winning the struggle (mujahadah) against "oneself" by affirming theological foundations (tauhid).

Eid al-Fitr celebrated by performing Eid prayers in an open field is also a moment of humanitarian transformation: the importance of maintaining unity, unity, and fraternity among the people. The humanitarian message of Eid al-Fitr is that the problems of community (social, economic, cultural, political, legal, and so forth) can, God willing, be resolved based on integrative tauhid: tauhid al-ibadah and tauhid al-ummah. Before Eid prayers are performed, capable Muslims are required to pay zakat fitrah to fulfill the basic needs and qualify the lives of the poor. Through zakat fitrah and zakat mal (wealth), humanitarian transformation in the socio-economic field can be realized; the basic needs of the poor are met and made happy.

The humanitarian transformation of Eid al-Fitr brings peace and social happiness, reflected in the actualization of the teachings of maintaining family ties and forgiving each other. Eid al-Fitr is indeed a moment to resolve relational and social interaction problems. By being in open fields or in mosques, "old wounds" can be erased and resolved through maintaining family ties and forgiving each other. By forgiving, Shaimin and Shaimat free themselves from "psychological burdens" such as harboring anger, resentment, heartache, and so forth.

In conclusion, Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr worship are filled with universal humanitarian education that can uphold humanitarian values, after being torn apart by desires, selfishness, heart diseases, excessive worldly-material orientations, and so forth. By fasting in Ramadan, Shaimin and Shaimat are educated to become winners and achievers of noble achievements, not servants of desires and obedient to Satan's provocations. Thus, humanitarian education from Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr worship truly humanizes humans (humanization), liberating servants from the colonization of desires, Satan's temptations, selfishness, and heart diseases (liberation); while also affirming the spirit of murâqabah and taqarrub (approach to Allah SWT), because a devout person surely has spiritual closeness to Him and social closeness to others. Humanitarian education will become more meaningful and yield optimal results in the form of authentic piety in Shaimin and Shaimat, if accompanied and continuously guided by integrative readings of Quranic verses and natural verses!

(This article was published in the Opinion Column of Tabligh Magazine April 2024 Edition)