THE Muslims call Ramadan king of all months for a reason. For it is in this ninth month of the Muslim calendar the Quran was revealed. It is during this month that 1.8 billion Muslims around the world fast from dawn to dusk to fulfil the fifth pillar of Islam.
But Ramadan isn’t just about fasting. It is about using the 30 days of the month to be better human beings, though the other 11 months are for that too. One way to visualise it is to see this holy month as a 30-day bootcamp, as Muslim Village editor Ahmed Kilani put it to Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s ABC Radio Sydney.
One takeaway from the “spiritual bootcamp” is compassion for fellow beings. A good way to start is to share iftar food with our neighbours. Interestingly, there is a Muslim tradition that says one’s neighbourhood is 40 houses in either direction of your house.
Such sharing was not uncommon in kampung in the past. In villages, too. Because there were no gates to keep us apart.
Our neighbours were as far as our eyes could see. Not only in Ramadan, but during other months, too. Now kampung are slowly disappearing as the urban sprawl strangulates them out of existence.
Gone, too, is the practice of giving. Ramadan is a good month to revive such largesse. As our reader Rohiman Haroon says, the tradition of sending food to one’s neighbours is spiritually important. We agree.
Mosques around the country do invite members of other faiths to their iftar events. The good news is many do take up the invitation.
Some say that this is a sign of a new Malaysia. To be fair, it happened in old Malaysia, too, but perhaps on a different scale. Such intermingling is good for a multi-faith country like Malaysia.
Perhaps by viewing the Muslims at close proximity to their places of worship, non-Muslim Malaysians will better understand their neighbours. Likewise, Muslims can better understand their non-Muslim neighbours.
Mosques are sometimes seen as just places of worship. But history had other roles, too, for them. They were also institutions of learning and community centres where people got to know their neighbours better.
In a world where there is so little understanding about Islam, there is good sense in utilising the mosques as community development centres. Here is where both Muslims and non-Muslims can come together to know one another better.
There are 6,311 mosques registered with the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia. So are that many opportunities to generate social cohesion between Muslims and non-Muslims.
This coming together is important for Malaysia, which is a mix of many things. We cannot in one nation flow as different streams to the sea, and hope by chance to meet and mingle there.
The distance is too far, and the time uncertain. It is best if we flow as tributaries of one great Malaysian river.
Because in this way, there will be many points of mixing and merging. Only then can we, as a nation, say: we live with, not alongside, one another.