By Dawud Walid
The blessed month of Ramadan entails many spiritual and social lessons for those who are regardful. Among the aspects of this month which acts as a university for souls is the component of commiserating with the less fortunate and those who are unable to protect or defend themselves.
The early companions of the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him) were primarily the most vulnerable persons in Hijazi society. Many of them lacked strong tribal protection to stave off marginalization and physical attacks upon their reversion to Islam. Some of them, in fact, were not Arabs and formerly enslaved like Salman (may Allah be pleased with him) and Bilal (may Allah be pleased with him). When the Roman emperor Hiraql summoned Abu Sufyan before his submission to Islam, he asked him if the followers of the Prophet were the aristocrats or the weak in which the response was the weak were those who follow the Prophet.
As the companions migrated to al-Madinah, some of them had no material means and were homeless. This group of companions who temporarily slept in al-Masjid an-Nabawi are known as Ahl as-Suffah (People of the Veranda). The Prophet kept company with them on a daily basis and commiserated with them. His grandson al-Hasan bin Ali (may Allah’s blessings be upon them both) even stayed with them at night in the masjid.
The Prophetic model of socialization is to keep company and commiserate with the poor, not to be aloof from those who are less off in one’s locality and thinking that giving them some food or clothing suffices. This should hold true even more during Ramadan.
Ramadan provides us the opportunity to not only invite persons to our homes who are not of our same ethnic or socio-economic levels but gives us the opportunity to have iftar at the locations of the less fortunate and to worship with others who are not as well off. The responsibility of this intentionality in commiserating resides more upon those who have means than those who are less fortunate that may not even have transportation.
At CAIR-MI, we handle cases for many Muslims who are not be able to afford legal representation for their civil rights or asylum cases. This especially holds true for the incarcerated, many who reverted to Islam while in state or federal custody. Supporting community organizations that defend the vulnerable in our society is also another form of commiseration when confidentiality is required or general public access to them is not available.
Ramadan is indeed the month of spiritual reinvigoration which includes deepening our connections with those who are weak in our society, especially fellow Muslim brothers and sisters. Please be generous not only with your wealth this Ramadan but also your time in keeping company with the poor and treating them with the same dignity that the Prophet treated Salman and Bilal.