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Ramadan: Feeding vs. Tafseer controversy

Unlike elsewhere, Ramadan season in Nigeria has unfortunately been turned into a season of unnecessary controversy. Starting from the recurrent controversy over the advent of…

Unlike elsewhere, Ramadan season in Nigeria has unfortunately been turned into a season of unnecessary controversy.

Starting from the recurrent controversy over the advent of the Ramadan crescent that ushers in the month and the exit of its moon that marks its end, the Ramadan period equally witnesses controversy over ideological, jurisprudential or political stances expressed by some Ulama in the course of their Qur’anic tafseer sessions.

Yet, over the past couple of years, there has been unnecessary controversy over which charitable deed between sponsoring the broadcast of Qur’anic tafseer and charitable mass feeding for the needy is more worthwhile in Ramadan.

As in other Muslim societies, Ramadan usually inspires a phenomenal rise in individual and societal spirituality in Nigeria where many wealthy individuals sponsor live or recorded broadcasts of Qur’anic tafseer by various Ulama. Many others also spend more on charitable mass feeding for the poor. However, while almost, if not all, who sponsor the broadcast of tafseer do also spend on charitable feeding, not all who spend on charitable feeding sponsor the broadcast of tafseer.

During Ramadan in a typical northern Nigerian city, television and radio stations make a killing with the sale of airtime for tafseer and other religious lectures sponsored by individuals, firms and groups. From the sheer number of sponsored broadcasts of tafseer and other religious lectures on the more than 10 radio stations in Kano, for instance, one may wonder whether they do other programmes in Ramadan.

Now, while sponsoring tafseer broadcast is absolutely worthwhile, especially during Ramadan, the amount of resources spent in this regard might be disproportionate considering the desperate need for food that the largely hunger-stricken audiences are languishing in. After all, given the choice, they would certainly choose food handouts over such sponsored broadcasts as public tafseer sessions are everywhere during Ramadan for one to choose which to attend.

Besides, looking at the underlying dynamics and politics of sponsoring Ramadan tafseer broadcast, one cannot rule out Riyaa, sectarian and even political interests as some of the motives behind sponsoring the broadcast of some tafseer and other religious lectures.

Interestingly, while some sponsors compete in sponsoring the broadcast of tafseer by some prominent Ulama, some Ulama sponsor the broadcast of their own tafseer in the absence of a willing sponsor; others even beg for sponsors to sponsor theirs. Also, as the contents of some tafseer and other religious lectures feature some serious flaws, sponsoring their broadcast is a gross misplacement of priority. Equally interesting, others sponsor the broadcast of Adhan (Kiran Sallah) in a city like Kano where, thanks to the sheer proliferation of mosques, regular Adhan reaches every nook and cranny.

Anyway, while Ikhlas is always the most fundamental yardstick that determines the worthwhileness or otherwise of both charitable feeding and the sponsoring of Ramadan tafseer broadcast, striking an appropriate balance between the two guarantees the perfect outcome. Because as much as Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an when Muslims are expected to be particularly committed to it in terms of reading, learning its meanings and living accordingly, it’s equally the month of generous charity when Muslims, particularly the wealthy, are expected to do much more in terms of charitable works especially mass feeding.

However, while that’s simply the bottom line, which also explains why the controversy is absolutely unnecessary, the so-called liberal Muslims have blown it out of proportion. Capitalizing on public frustration amid the unbearable hunger ravaging the largest segment of the society, they question the worthwhileness and relevance of sponsoring the broadcast of Ramadan tafseer under the prevailing circumstances. Also, feigning empathy and concern, they address the two charitable works as though mutually exclusive and thus people should choose between them.

Unsurprisingly, and under the pressure of the hard conditions, many people, including many otherwise discerning folks, fell for that propaganda not realising its context, which is the raging face-off between the so-called liberal Muslims, on the one hand, who are hell-bent on undermining Islamic and moral values in the society, and the wholehearted Muslims, on the other, especially the Ulama among them who are committed to encouraging people to never neglect their religious commitments in pursuit of their legitimate worldly pursuits.

Also, contrary to their claim, such so-called liberal Muslims aren’t actually disturbed by the plight of the vulnerable, which explains why they never urge those spending huge resources on other things, no matter how absolutely worthless, to divert the resources to charitable courses.

Likewise, they never urge that the massive amounts of resources their elite role models spend on maintaining their extravagant lifestyles should be diverted to the feeding of the poor or sheltering them. Instead, their “conscience” comes alive only when the resources are meant for, say, Hajj, Umrah, Da’awah etc.

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