Ramadan Lessons for All of Humanity

While this verse clearly reminds Muslims of their priorities ahead in the holy month of Ramadan, I believe that these priorities apply to all individuals pursuing peaceful coexistence, social equity, and the protection of human rights.
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Editor's Note: Huffington Post Religion has launched a scripture commentary/reflection series, which will bring together leading voices from different religious traditions to offer their wisdom on selected religious texts. We are pleased to announce a series of reflections for the Holy Month of Ramadan featuring posts by HM Queen Noor, Dalia Mogahed, Eboo Patel, Kabir Helminski, and Rami Nashashibi. They will all be reflecting on a passage from the Qur'an, Sura 2:177, which appears below. Last month we featured Christian reflections on the Gospel by Rev. Jim Wallis, Dr. Serene Jones, Dr. Emilie Townes, Sister Joan Chittister, and Rev. James Martin, S.J. Coming in September we will feature Jewish commentaries for the High Holidays and in October Hindu commentary for Diwali. We hope all readers, Muslim and non-Muslim, will gain wisdom from the insights of our writers on the Holy Qur'an:

True piety does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or the west -- but truly pious is he who believes in God, and the Last Day; and the angels, and revelation, and the prophets; and spends his substance -- however much he himself may cherish -- it -- upon his near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage; and is constant in prayer, and renders the purifying dues; and [truly pious are] they who keep their promises whenever they promise, and are patient in misfortune and hardship and in time of peril: it is they that have proved themselves true, and it is they, they who are conscious of God. (2:177 [Asad])

In a sense this beautiful verse is its own commentary, and for a Muslim these exhortations are among the most familiar commandments in their religious life. It is one of those verses where several strands of the Quran's teachings interlace. Each phrase, taken alone, repeats an idea that is found throughout Islam's sacred text, and taken together they form a kind of summary of the teachings of Islam.

It is from passages such as this one that Muslims find their main articles of faith: belief in the one God, the Day of Judgment and the Hereafter, the existence of the angels, revelation in the form of sacred books, and the messengers and prophets who have borne that revelation to humanity from Adam until the Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon them all.

Ramadan is the holiest month of the Islamic year. We observe it this year against a backdrop of intensifying global human suffering, caused by economic hardship, human rights abuses, military conflict and terrorism, and the rapidly multiplying disastrous consequences of climate change. Muslims have an opportunity to use the days of this month as God intended: to reflect on our own humanity and our collective duty towards our fellow human beings. True religion isn't built of the manifestations of piety through prayer -- turning faces towards the east or west -- but requires good deeds and action that manifest and express the essential values of our faith.

Unwavering faith is the foremost pillar of a Muslim's religion. While Muslims will refrain from drink and food from sunup till sundown for a whole month and will attend prayers at mosques around the world, God's judgment will rely heavily on their ability to share their fortune, look after their relatives, the orphans, the poor, travelers and beggars and ensure freedoms for "human beings in bondage." Philanthropy in the financial sense will not be the only measure, either, but also generosity of spirit in the face of hardship.

This dedication and sensitivity to the welfare of other human beings -- which, as we see from this verse, is required by God of humans as testament to their faith -- inspired the life of my late husband King Hussein of Jordan, who for almost five decades tirelessly pursued human security and social equity not only for Jordanians but all Arabs, Muslims and others around the world. This objective has now become the mission of the King Hussein Foundation, founded in his memory in 1999 to give enduring life to his humanitarian vision and legacy.

Islam is believed by Muslims to be the last of the monotheistic religions with messages not only for its own followers and those of the Abrahamic faiths but also for all humanity. And while this verse clearly reminds Muslims of their priorities ahead in the holy month of Ramadan, I believe that these priorities apply to all individuals pursuing peaceful coexistence, social equity, the protection of human rights and the ethics and values essential to a healthy, cohesive society. My hope is that we all find ways to contribute to the peace and security of our communities and larger world by reaching out to those in need and building bridges of understanding based on our common values.

Ramadan Kareem to you all.

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