As Ramadan begins, I would like to wish Muslims everywhere a blessed month of fasting, prayer and self-purification. As I reflected on this yesterday, I marveled at the truly grand scale of this global celebration — with some 1.4 billion people fasting and praying throughout the world taking advantage of this holy month. We must also remember that this is our opportunity to express the true spirit of Islam to our non-Muslim friends as well.
When the drummer hits the bedok to indicate the end of the fast, we cheerfully join with friends, family and co-workers for buka puasa. As a boy I vividly remember the tantalizing smells emanating from the prepared dishes and the excitement of being among the throngs of people they attracted. Every year, my wife and I look forward to accepting invitations to the many buka puasa events that are planned throughout the country. I shall be spending my first day of buka puasa and terawikh with my family but during the month, I intend to be with the various Muslims communities from all walks of life around the country. It is the coming together and the sense of community that we all hold dear but let us all not forget what Ramadhan promises to every Muslim. We ask Allah to guide us to the best deeds and to accept from us our fasting and prayers.
Ramadhan is also the month of generosity. I encourage all who are in a position to do so to give a little more this year. We must honor the responsibilities that come with good fortune by caring for the needy among us. It is the responsibility of all to help those Malaysians who live in poverty. The financial turmoil has caused an unwelcome burden that is affecting many of our friends and neighbors. I often think of the powerful impact charitable acts and caring actions can have on the less fortunate. Think of the benefits if we endeavor to extend such generosity throughout the year. Ramadan can be a time of great spiritual growth and brotherhood, just as Malaysia can be a country free of poverty if we are committed to making it happen.
I relish the warmth and camaraderie shared by all Malaysians during Ramadan. Every year I watch as our Chinese and Indian friends enjoy buka puasa with us. Whether crowded around a food stall, in a home or dining at one of the innumerable buffets, non-Muslims across Malaysia share in the hospitality of their Muslim friends. I am struck by their respectfulness as they wait for the azan and the completion of prayers before the feasting begins. This is a fine example of honoring and cherishing Malaysia’s rich ethnic and religious diversity and of our unity as a people.
To Muslims around the world, “Selamat Menunaikan Ibadah Puasa”.