On April 20th, Algbra asked me to share reflections at the Ramadan Tent Project’s Open Iftar. My mission was to share some thoughts about Ramadan to a mixed crowd at the British Library court yard. Algbra also hoped that I could share a little about their journey and plans. This is a challenging task to speak of the spiritual at time dedicated to it, the waning moments of a say spent fasting, and to promote a business. Here is what I had to say.
Ramadan is a journey. One makes it alone. But, one is always in the company of the community. And, so my theme is, ‘you’ve made it’ this far on the journey. But, have ‘we all made the journey’ as well as we hoped?
Ramadan is the month in which the Qur’an was revealed. The Qur’an 2:185 instructs believers “whoever is present this month, let them fast.” April 20th marked the 19th day of Ramadan, two thirds of the way through the month. The next ten days are of particular devotional importance.
Each one of you should feel blessed that you’ve not only made past the half way mark of Ramadan, but you are ready to enter the last ten days. MashAllah, you’ve made it this far.
Each physical aspect of Ramadan is a challenge, intentionally so. Ramadan is the month of doubly intense heat. It might be the mild English April, but Allah invites us to intensity. You have empathized with the hunger, the deprivation of so many around the world. You’ve made it. Having gotten this far, your body will sprint the remaining days with ease. No matter how these days stretch, you are able to overcome your hunger and thirst. You are there. You’ve made it.
Ramadan, however, is not merely a personal challenge. Ramadan is a communal opportunity. That first element of community is forgiveness. This is the uniquely drifting of the personal into the communal. Ramadan, the month of Mercy, is when forgiveness should come easily, purely, quietly in our hearts, our words and our actions. Can you help us to make it? This could be simple and personal — did someone trip over you as she squeezed into the iftar area? Did you forgive one another? You for your big foot ill placed in the passage as you sat anticipating your dates and water. She for not paying attention as she rushed to find her spot. And, the questions of mercy and forgiveness can go much further.
The Qur’an 2:185 reminds us that “God intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship.” Sometimes, we are the agents of ease. Through our zakat (obligatory alms), we can offer ease to those in difficulty. Zakat as an expression of mercy and Ramadan is the month of mercy. ‘We make it’, when all of us consciously use our hearts, words, and actions to help reduce the hardship of others.
As a member of Algbra’s ethical advisory team, I wish to share how much importance Algbra places on community projects. That is why we support the Ramadan Tent Project as well as many other community projects over the past year, including two which address social needs aligned with zakat:
Algbra created the Chai Mama initiative. This program promotes financial wellbeing to mums, daughters and women from all walks of life. The initiative seeks to spread financial knowledge to assure that women are able to manage their affairs with ease. Thought of in a different way, Chai Mama helps some of our sisters to be able to give zakat, and helps Algbra to identify some who may be in need of zakat.
Algbra supports the Patchwork Foundation, which helps young people from underprivileged backgrounds get involved in civil society. Young people, often from zakatable backgrounds, have progressed through Patchwork’s programs to successful roles in government and industry. No longer zakatable, they can give zakat. Of course, Patchwork is a secular project, but you get the point: from hardship, Patchwork graduates have moved to east.
Chai Mama, Patchwork are when we move forward for the good.
To this last point, a great power of the Ramadan Tent Project is its embrace of diversity. Recall how Allah spoke to us “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may develop God-consciousness.” Qur’an, 2:183. At each of the open iftar’s we share our fast and the thought behind it with other people of faith. Although our fasts are not alike, all faiths ask the believer to fast. This year is one of the few when Easter, Passover and Ramadan overlap. Each shares the theme of mercy, each in a unique way. This gentle, tenuous link is an opportunity for us all to reflect upon, and for us to move forward together.
Just as we share the purifying fasts, we are also companions in search of ethics in finance. Algbra, rooted in Islamic values, is designed to connect our universal values and our finances. Algbra, coming later this summer, offers you a way to be more conscious in your spending. I hope you will take a moment, no matter your faith, and look into Algbra and see if it is right for you (if you are in the United Kingdom).
Whatever you do, in these fleeting last days of Ramadan, turn your success into our triumph.