The case for a State of Disaster as opposed to a State of Public Emergency
On 9th April 2020, Botswanas National Assembly endorsed the State of Public Emergency (SoPE) which President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi, had declared effective midnight on 2nd April 2020 until further notice.
Since the endorsement of the SoPE, the question as to whether or not it was the best available option has refused to escape my mind. Of course, I have previously attempted to discuss the question in the article titled Is a six months State of Public Emergency necessary to fight COVID-19?, but I remain unsatisfied.
In this article, I discuss the question. I start by defining a SoPE and a State of Disaster (SoD). I then give an exposition of how various countries have responded to COVID-19 legislatively. I conclude by making a case for a SoD under a Disaster Management Act as opposed to a SoPE.
A SoPE is the equivalent of a Justitium in Roman law where the Senate could put forward a final decree (senatus consultum ultimum) that was not subject to dispute. A SoPE is a state during which government is empowered to perform actions or impose policies that it would ordinarily not be permitted to undertake in an open and democratic society. For instance, derogation from certain human rights and freedoms is permissible.
It ought to be stated, however, that a SoPE and COVID-19 aside, section 16 of our Constitution permits derogation from fundamental rights and freedoms, provided that such derogation or limitation is reasonably justifiable in an open and democratic society.
A government can declare a SoPE during such events as natural disasters, civil unrest, armed conflict, health pandemics or other biosecurity risks. In the case of COVID-19, the most affected rights are the rights to freedom of assembly and association and freedom of movement in terms of sections 13 and 14 of the Constitution respectively.
The other rights which stand to be affected, though to a lesser extent, are protection from deprivation of property, freedom of conscience and freedom of expression in terms of sections 10, 11 and 12 of the Constitution respectively. Just like a SoPE, a State of Disaster (SoD) can be declared by the head of state in the event of such events as natural disasters, civil unrest, armed conflict, health pandemics or other biosecurity risks.
While both a SoPE and a SoD are usually declared by the head of state, they differ in that while a SoPE is usually declared in terms of the Constitution of a country, a SoD is usually declared in terms of ordinary legislation, for instance, a Disaster Management Act.
While, in most jurisdictions, after declaring a SoPE, a head of state drafts Emergency Powers Regulations (EPRs), which come into effect upon publication in the Government Gazette, for later endorsement by Parliament, a SoD often contains EPRs which would have been passed by Parliament when passing the Act or at a later date.
Therefore, in the case of a Disaster Management Act, the EPRs are always known by the people; they are not drafted by the head of state alone and do not come as a surprise. I now give a cursory exposition of how various countries have responded to COVID-19 legislatively.
Some countries, like Botswana, declared a SoPE, mainly in terms of their constitutions. Many Southeast Asian countries as well as such African countries as Egypt, Senegal and Ivory Coast did the same. In Europe, several countries also declared SoPEs though not in terms of their constitutions. They did so under Article 15 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). These include Armenia, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Moldova and Romania.
However, Italy and Spain did not invoke the ECHR mechanism, but declared SoPEs in terms of their constitutions. The United Kingdom did not declare a SoPE. It passed the Coronavirus Act,2020 which sought to streamline the existing powers under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984.
In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa did not declare a SoPE. Rather, he declared a National State of Disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act 2002 (the Act). In terms of the Act, it is the Minister of Cooperative Governance & Traditional Affairs who, after consultation with relevant cabinet ministers, issues regulations.
In my view, compared to EPRs which are singularly passed by a head of state, the EPRs contained in a Disaster Management Act passed by Parliament meet one of the principles of the Rule of Law. I now wish to make the case for a SoD as opposed to a SoPE. As stated above, both a SoD and a SoPE address a disaster. What, then, is the issue since they meet the same end?
In my view, there is an issue because, firstly, though both a SoD and a SoPE meet the same end, a SoPE is, in my view, more offensive to the doctrine of the Rule of Law. Secondly, though the courts remain operational during a SoPE, there may be little or no recourse by citizens in the event human right violations are visited upon them.
I start with the Rule of Law. There is general consensus that, from the classical and contemporary theories of the Rule of Law, including those by Albert Venn Dicey, John Locke, Montesquieu and Lord Bingham, there are about eight principles of the Rule of Law.
These can be summarised as (i) supremacy of law; (ii) equality before the law; accountability to the law; (iii) fairness in the application of the law; (iv) separation of powers; (v) participation in decision-making; (vi) legal certainty; (vii) avoidance of arbitrariness and (viii) procedural and legal transparency.
These are the principles I shall use in making the case for a SoD as opposed to a SoPE. I discuss them in turn. First, legal certainty. In my view, providing for a SoD through such an Act of Parliament as a Disaster Management Act results in legal certainty, satisfying one of the principles of the Rule of Law.
This, in my view, is not the case with a SoPE whose EPRs remain unknown until the President, acting alone, publishes them and they become law even before Parliament endorses them. Second, avoidance of arbitrariness. Such EPRs may, in my view, be arbitrary because they are made extemporary; there is no notice of them; and the President may figure them out as he goes along.
Third, participation in decision-making. As you are aware, our President is not obliged to involve anyone in declaring a SoPE and drafting the SoPEs EPRs. Therefore, if we became unlucky and had a dictatorial President, he or she may rely on precedents from other jurisdictions and find no reason to meaningfully involve anyone in drafting EPRs. He or she may also only involve those he or she knows will tour the line.
I am alive to the fact that Parliament ultimately has the right to endorse or refuse to endorse the EPRs. But the reality is that the President normally has his or her way by influencing his or her partys Parliamentary caucus whose decision is binding on all the ruling partys Members of Parliament (MPs).
Also, in Botswana, we seldom have bi-partisan decisions and because the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has a safe majority in Parliament, it often passes the laws it desires despite resistance from the Opposition. If the President acts alone, as he is entitled to, he or she denies others of participation in decision-making, something which is in violation of one of the principles of the doctrine of the Rule of Law.
Fourth, procedural and legal transparency. In my view, by acting alone, the President breaches yet another principle of the Rule of law, namely procedural and legal transparency in that no one but the President is involved in the declaration of the SoPE and the nature of the EPRs.
Fifth, separation of powers. It is my further submission that though it is provided for in the Constitution, the provision that the SoPEs EPRs become law even before endorsement by Parliament violates yet another principle of the doctrine of the Rule of Law, namely separation of powers.
This is because, by acting as such, the President, who is the head of the Executive, effectively assumes the role of law making, which, in every democracy, is the preserve of Parliament. You would be aware that though the EPRs are referred to as regulations, they are, for all intents and purposes, a law which has the same force and effect as an Act of Parliament.
I now turn to possible human right violations during a SoPE on the one hand and a SoD on the other. Granted, our courts jurisdiction is not ousted in relation to matters arising from the declaration of a SoPE and the EPRs.
But as per Motswaledi v Botswana Democratic Party and Others 2 2009 2 BLR 284 CA, the President cannot be held criminally liable for acts and/or omissions by him either in his or her official capacity or in his or her private capacity. Such immunity would apply even in SoPE related litigation.
The President can, however, be held liable in civil proceedings for acts and/or omissions by him in his or her private capacity. Also, as per Kamanakao I and Others v. The Attorney-General and Another 2001 (2) BLR 654 (HC), our courts may, as a matter of judicial policy, despite finding in favour of a citizen on a human rights violation matter, for instance, be reluctant to issue orders for the carrying out of works and other activities which would require the courts’ supervision.
For instance, while a suitable remedy would be for the court to declare as invalid and strike down a SoPE regulation which is inconsistent with the Constitution and to order government to pass a suitable one, the court may be reluctant to do so. The court may also be reluctant to act as such in deference to the doctrine of separation of powers.
Although the above judicial decisions would also apply to actions and/or omissions related to a SoD, for the latter the effect would be different because the government functionaries who are at the centre are cabinet ministers, not the President who is clothed with immunities.
Therefore, to the extent cabinet ministers who may perpetuate human right violations would not be protected by the immunities available to the President, citizens would be more likely to get recourse under a SoD than they would under a SoPE.
Also, in the event the President perpetuates human rights violations during a SoD, Parliament can easily prevail upon him or her by amending the Disaster Management Act, even through a Private Members Bill, although the Presidents assent will be required to give effect to such an amendment.
I must admit that the effects of a SoPE and a SoD may be the same since both may entail a national lockdown and suspension of certain human rights and freedoms. That notwithstanding, I still hold that a SoD is better to the extent it derives its authority from an Act of Parliament passed by the peoples representatives, MPs, and not one person, the President, who effectively usurps Parliaments powers and may act ultra vires his powers.
Though the Constitution, from which a SoPE derives its mandate, is also passed by the peoples representatives, MPs cannot easily amend it or pass regulations under it as they may do with an Act of Parliament. Also, SoPEs usually make people uneasy because they were used to terrorise people, especially by colonial governments.
I recommend that government should consider passing a Disaster Management Act so that during such disasters as COVID-19 it uses the Act together with such legislation as the Public Health Act, Cap. 63:01.
According to Sunday Standards online edition of 18th November 2013, following a study entitled International Disaster Response Law (IDRL) in Botswana, Elizabeth Macharia-Mokobi, reported that Botswana had not acceded to or domesticated most major treaties in Disaster Risk Management.
She also reported that Botswana had no National Disaster Risk Management legislation; had no legislation governing the facilitation and regulation of international disaster assistance and had no law that manages such international disaster assistance as funds, food and qualified human resources.
Had government acted on the recommendations of this report, we probably would have enacted a Disaster Management Act and would not have needed to declare a SoPE to fight COVID-19, but a SoD instead. Perhaps, we would have been better prepared for such an international disaster as COVID-19.
*Ndulamo Anthony Morima, LLM(NWU); LLB(UNISA); DSE(UB); CoP (BAC); CoP (IISA) is the proprietor of Morima Attorneys. He can be contacted at 71410352 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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In recent years, using personal devices in working environments has become so commonplace it now has its own acronym, BOYD (Bring Your Own Device). Â But as employees skip between corporate tools and personal applications on their own devices, their actions introduce a number of possible risks that should be managed and mitigated with careful consideration.Â Consider these examples:
Si-lwli, a small family-run business in Wales, is arguably as niche a company as you could find, producing talking toys used to promote the Welsh language. Their potential market is small, with only some 300,000 Welsh language speakers in the world and in reality the business is really more of a hobby for the husband-and-wife team, who both still have day jobs.Â Yet, despite still managing to be successful in terms of sales, theÂ business is now fighting for survival after recently falling prey to cybercriminals. Emails between Si-Iwli and their Chinese suppliers were intercepted by hackers who altered the banking details in the correspondence, causing Si-Iwli to hand over ÂŁ18,000 (around P Âź m) to the thieves. That might not sound much to a large enterprise, but to a small or medium business it can be devastating.
Another recent SMB hacking story whichÂ appeared in the Wall Street Journal concerned Innovative Higher Ed Consulting (IHED) Inc, a small New York start-up with a handful of employees. IHED didnât even have a website, but fraudsters were able to run stolen credit card numbers through the companyâs payment system and reverse the charges to the tune of $27,000, around the same loss faced by Si-Iwli. Â As the WSJ put it, the hackers completely destroyed the company, forcing its owners to fold.
And in May 2019, the city of Baltimoreâs computer system was hit by a ransomware attack, with hackers using a variant called RobinHood. The hack, which has lasted more than a month, paralysed the computer system for city employees, with the hackers demanding a payment in Bitcoin to give access back to the city.
Of course, hackers target governments or business giants Â but small and medium businesses are certainly not immune. In fact, 67% of SMBs reported that they had experienced a cyber attack across a period of 12 months, according to a 2018 survey carried out by security research firm Ponemon Institute. Additionally, Verizon issued a report in May 2019 that small businesses accounted for 43% of its reported data breaches.Â Once seen as less vulnerable than PCs, smartphone attacks are on the rise, with movements like the Dark Caracal spyware campaign underlining the allure of mobile devices to hackers. Last year, the US Federal Trade Commission released a statement calling for greater education on mobile security, coming at a time when around 42% of all Android devices are believed to not carry the latest security updates.
This is an era when employees increasingly use their smartphones for work-related purposes so is your business doing enough to protect against data breaches on their employeesâ phones? The SME Cyber Crime Survey 2018 carried out for risk management specialists AON showed that more than 80% of small businesses did not view this as a threat yet if as shown, 67% of SMBs were said to have been victims of hacking, either the stats are wrong or business owners are underestimating their vulnerability.Â A 2019 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests the latter, stating that the majority of global businesses are unprepared for cyber attacks.
Consider that a workstation no longer means a desk in an office: It can be a phone in the back of a taxi or Uber; a laptop in a coffee shop, or a tablet in an airport lounge.Â Wherever the device is used, employees can potentially install applications that could be harmful to your business, even from something as seemingly insignificant as clicking on an accidental download or opening a link on a phishing email.Â Out of the physical workplace, your employeesâ activities might not have the same protections as they would on a company-monitored PC.
Yet many businesses not only encourage their employees to work remotely, but assume working from coffee shops, bookstores, and airports can boost employeesâ productivity. Â Unfortunately, many remote hot spots do not provide secure Wi-Fi so if your employee is accessing their work account on unsecured public Wi-Fi,Â sensitive business data could be at risk. Furthermore, even if your employee uses a company smartphone or has access to company data through a personal mobile device, there is always a chance data could be in jeopardy with a lost or stolen device, even information as basic as clientsâ addresses and phone numbers.
BOYDs are also at risk from malware designed to harm and infect the host system, transmittable to smartphones when downloading malicious third-party apps.Â Then there is ransomware, a type of malware used by hackers to specifically take control of a systemâs data, blocking access or threatening to release sensitive information unless a ransom is paid such as the one which affected Baltimore.Â Ransomware attacks are on the increase, Â predicted toÂ occur every 14 seconds, potentially costing billions of dollars per year.
Lastly there is phishing â the cyber equivalent of the metaphorical fishing exercise – Â wherebyÂ cybercriminals attempt to obtain sensitive data âusernames, passwords, credit card details âusually through a phoney email designed to look legitimate which directs the user to a fraudulent website or requests the data be emailed back directly. Most of us like to think we could recognize a phishing email when we see it, but these emails have become more sophisticated and can come through other forms of communication such as messaging apps.
Bottom line is to be aware of the potential problems with BOYDs and if in doubt,Â consult your IT security consultants.Â You canât put the own-device genie back in the bottle but you can make data protection one of your three wishes!
âI Propose to Diana Tonightâ
About five days before Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed landed in Paris, General Atiku, a certain Edward Williams was taking a walk in a woods in the Welsh town of Mountain Ash. Williams, then 73, was a psychic of some renown. He had in the past foretold assassination attempts on US President Ronald Reagan, which occurred on March 30, 1981, and Pope John Paul II, which came to pass on May 13, 1981.
As he trudged the woods, Williams Â had a sudden premonition that pointed to Dianaâs imminent fate as per Christopher Andersenâs book The Day Diana Died. âWhen the vision struck me, it was as if everything around me was obscured and replaced by shadowy figures,â Williams was later to reminisce. âIn the middle was the face of Princess Diana. Her expression was sad and full of pathos. She was wearing what looked like a floral dress with a short dark cardigan. But it was vague. I went cold with fear and knew it was a sign that she was in danger.â
Williams hastily beat a retreat to his home, which he shared with his wife Mary, and related to her his presentiment, trembling like an aspen leaf as he did so. âI have never seen him so upset,â Mary recounted. âHe felt he was given a sign and when he came back from his walk he was deeply shaken.â
The following day, Williams frantically sauntered into a police station to inform the police of his premonition. The officer who attended to him would have dismissed him as no more than a crackpot but he treated him seriously in view of the accuracy of his past predictions. HeÂ took a statement and immediately passed it on to the Special Branch InvestigativeÂ Unit.
The report read as follows:
âOn 27 August, at 14:12 hrs, a man by the name of Edward Williams came to Mountain Ash police station. He said he was a psychic and predicted that Princess Diana was going to die. In previous years, he has predicted that the Pope and Ronald Reagan were going to be the victims of assassination attempts. On both occasions he was proved to be correct. Mr Williams appeared to be quite normal.â
Williams, General, was spot-on as usual: four days later, the princess was no more.
Meanwhile, General, Â even as Dodi and Diana were making their way to the Fayed-owned Ritz Hotel in central Paris, British newspapers were awash with headlines that suggested Diana was kind of deranged. Writes Andrew Morton in Diana in Pursuit of Love: âIn The Independent Diana was described as âa woman with fundamentally nothing to say about anythingâ. She was âsuffering from a form of arrested developmentâ. âIsnât it time she started using her head?â asked The Mail on Sunday. The Sunday Mirror printed a special supplement entitled âA Story of Loveâ; The News of the World claimed that William had demanded that Diana should split from Dodi: âWilliam canât help it, he just doesnât like the man.â William was reportedly âhorrifiedâ and âdoesnât think Mr Fayed is good for his motherâ â or was that just the press projecting their own prejudices? The upmarket Sunday Times newspaper, which had first serialised my biography of the princess, now put her in the psychiatristâs chair for daring to be wooed by a Muslim. The pop-psychologist Oliver James put Diana âOn the Couchâ, asking why she was so âdepressedâ and desperate for love. Other tabloids piled in with dire prognostications â about Prince Philipâs hostility to the relationship, Dianaâs prospect of exile, and the social ostracism she would face if she married Dodi.â
DIANA AND DODI AT THE RITZ
Before Diana and Dodi departed the Villa Windsor sometime after 16 hrs, General, one of Dodiâs bodyguards Trevor Rees-Jones furtively asked Diana as to what the programme for the evening was. This Trevor did out of sheer desperation as Dodi had ceased and desisted from telling members of his security detail, let alone anyone else for that matter, what his onward destination was for fear that that piece of information would be passed on to the paparazzi. Diana kindly obliged Trevor though her response was terse and scarcely revealing. âWell, eventually we will be going out to a restaurantâ, that was all Diana said. Without advance knowledge of exactly what restaurant that was, Trevor and his colleaguesâ hands were tied: they could not do a recce on it as was standard practice for the security team of a VIP principal.Â Dodi certainly, General, was being recklessly by throwing such caution to the winds.
At about 16:30, Diana and Dodi drew up at the Ritz Hotel, where they were received by acting hotel manager Claude Roulet. Â The front entrance of the hotel was already crawling with paparazzi, as a result of which the couple took the precaution of using the rear entrance, where hopefully they would make their entry unperturbed and unmolested. The first thing they did when they were ensconced in the now $10,000 a night Imperial Suite was to spend some time on their mobiles and set about touching base with friends, relations, and associates. Â Diana called at least two people, her clairvoyant friend Rita Rogers and her favourite journalist Richard Kay of The Daily Mail.
Rita, General, Â was alarmed that Diana had proceeded to venture to Paris notwithstanding the warning she had given Dodi and herself in relation to what she had seen of him Â in the crystal ball when the couple had consulted her. When quizzed as to what the hell she indeed was doing in Paris at that juncture, Diana replied that she and Dodi had simply come to do some shopping, which though partially true was not the material reason they were there. âBut Diana, remember what I told Dodi,â Rita said somewhat reprovingly. Diana a bit apprehensively replied, âYes I remember. I will be careful. I promise.â Well, Â she did not live up to her promise as we shall soon unpack General.
As for Richard Kay, Diana made known to him that, âI have decided I am going to radically change my life. I am going to complete my obligations to charities and to the anti-personnel land mines cause, but in November I want to completely withdraw from formal public life.â
Once she was done with her round of calls, Diana went down to the hair saloon by the hotel swimming pool to have her hair washed and blow-dried ahead of the scheduled evening dinner.
THE âTELL ME YESâ RING IS DELIVERED
Since the main object of their Paris trip was to pick up the âTell Me Yesâ engagement ringÂ Dodi had ordered in Monte Carlo a week earlier, Dodi decided to check on Repossi Jewellery, which was right within the Ritz prencincts, known as the Place Vendome. Â It could have taken less than a minute for Dodi to get to the store on foot but he decided to use a car to outsmart the paparazzi invasion. He was driven there by Trevor Rees-Jones, with Alexander Kez Wingfield and Claude Roulet following on foot, though he entered the shop alone.
The Repossi store had closed for the holiday season but Alberto Repossi, accompanied by his wife and brother-in-law, Â had decided to travel all the way from his home in Monaco Â and momentarily open it for the sake of the potentially highly lucrativeÂ Dodi transaction. Â Alberto, however, disappointed Dodi as the ring he had chosen was not the oneÂ he produced. The one he showed Dodi was pricier and perhaps more exquisite but DodiÂ was adamant that he wanted the exact one he had ordered as that was what Diana herself had picked. It was a ployÂ on the part of Repossi to make a real killing on the sale, his excuse to that effect being that Diana deserved a ring tha was well worthy of her social pedigree.Â With Dodi having expressed disaffection, Repossi rendered his apologies and assured Dodi he would make the right ring available shortly, whereupon Dodi repaired back to the hotel to await its delivery. But Dodi Â did insist nonetheless that the pricier ring be delivered too in case it appealed to Diana anyway.
Repossi delivered the two rings an hour later. They were collected by Roulet. On inspecting them, Dodi chose the very one he had seen in Monte Carlo, apparently at the insistence of Diana.Â There is a possibility that Diana, who was very much aware of her public image and was not comfortable with ostentatious displays of wealth, may have deliberately shown an interest in a less expensive engagement ring. It Â may have been a purely romantic as opposed to a prestigious Â choice for her.
The value of the ring, which was found on a wardrobe shelf in Dodiâs apartment after the crash, Â has been estimated to be between $20,000 and $250,000 as Repossi has always refused to be drawn into revealing how much Dodi paid for it. The sum, which enjoyed a 25 percent discount, was in truth paid for not by Dodi himself but by his father as was the usual practice.
Dodi was also shown Repossiâs sketches for a bracelet, a watch, and earrings which he proposed to create if Diana approved of them.
DIANA AND DODI GUSH OVER IMMINENT NUPTIALS
At about 7 pm, Â Dodi and Diana left the Ritz and headed for Dodiâs apartment at a place known as the Arc de Trompe. They went there to properly tog themselves out for the scheduled evening dinner. They spent two hours at the luxurious apartment. As usual, the ubiquitous paparazzi were patiently waiting for them there.
As they lingered in the apartment, Dodi beckoned over to his butler Rene DelormÂ and showed himÂ the engagement ring. âDodi came into my kitchen,â Delorm relates. âHe looked into the hallway to check that Diana couldnât hear and reached into his pocket and pulled out the box âŚ He said, âRene, Iâm going to propose to the princess tonight. Make sure that we have champagne on ice when we come back from dinnerâ.â Rene described the ring as âa spectacular diamond encrusted ring, a massive emerald surrounded by a cluster of diamonds, set on a yellow and white gold band sitting in a small light-grey velvet boxâ.
Just before 9 pm, Dodi called the brother of his step-father, Hassan Yassen, who also was staying at the Ritz Â that night, and told him that he hoped to get married to Diana by the end of the year.
Later that same evening, both Dodi and Diana would talk to Mohamed Al Fayed, Dodiâs dad, and make known to him their pre-nuptial intentions. âThey called me and said weâre coming backÂ (to London) on Sunday (August 31) and on Monday (September 1) they are
RAMADAN – The Blessed Month of Fasting
Ramadan is the fasting month for Muslims, where over one billion Muslims throughout the world fast from dawn to sunset, and pray additional prayers at night. It is a time for inner reflection, devotion to Allah, and self-control. It is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. As you read this Muslims the world over have already begun fasting as the month of Ramadan has commenced (depending on the sighting of the new moon).
âThe month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was revealed as guidance for people, in it are clear signs of guidance and Criterion, therefore whoever of you who witnesses this month, it is obligatory on him to fast it. But whoever is ill or traveling let him fast the same number of other days, God desires ease for you and not hardship, and He desires that you complete the ordained period and glorify God for His guidance to you, that you may be grateful”. Holy Qur’anÂ (2 : 185)
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars upon which the structure of Islam is built. The other four are: the declaration of oneâs belief in Allahâs oneness and in the message of Muhammad (PBUH); regular attendance to prayer; payment of zakaat (obligatory charity); and the pilgrimage to Mecca.
As explained in an earlier article, fasting includes total abstinence from eating, drinking, smoking, refraining from obscenity, avoiding getting into arguments and including abstaining from marital relations, from sunrise to sunset. While fasting may appear to some as difficult Muslims see it as an opportunity to get closer to their Lord, a chance to develop spiritually and at the same time the act of fasting builds character, discipline and self-restraint.
Just as our cars require servicing at regular intervals, so do Muslims consider Ramadan as a month in which the body and spirit undergoes as it were a âfull serviceâ. This âserviceâ includes heightened spiritual awareness both the mental and physical aspects and also the body undergoing a process of detoxification and some of the organs get to ârestâ through fasting.
Because of the intensive devotional activity fasting, Ramadan has a particularly high importance, derived from its very personal nature as an act of worship but there is nothing to stop anyone from privately violating Allahâs commandment of fasting if one chooses to do so by claiming to be fasting yet eating on the sly. This means that although fasting is obligatory, its observance is purely voluntary. If a person claims to be a Muslim, he is expected to fast in Ramadan.
The reward Allah gives for proper fasting is very generous. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) quotes Allah as saying: âAll actions done by a human being are his own except fasting, which belongs to Me and I will reward it accordingly.â We are also told by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that the reward for proper fasting is admittance into heaven.
Fasting earns great reward when it is done in a âproperâ manner. This is because every Muslim is required to make his worship perfect. For example perfection of fasting can be achieved through restraint of oneâs feelings and emotions. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that when fasting, a person should not allow himself to be drawn into a quarrel or a slanging match. He teaches us: âOn a day of fasting, let no one of you indulge in any obscenity, or enter into a slanging match. Should someone abuse or fight him, let him respond by saying: âI am fasting!ââ
This high standard of self-restraint fits in well with fasting, which is considered as an act of self-discipline. Islam requires us to couple patience with voluntary abstention from indulgence in our physical desires. The purpose of fasting helps man to attain a high degree of sublimity, discipline and self-restraint. In other words, this standard CAN BE achieved by every Muslim who knows the purpose of fasting and strives to fulfill it.
Fasting has another special aspect. It makes all people share in the feelings of hunger and thirst. In normal circumstances, people with decent income may go from one yearâs end to another without experiencing the pangs of hunger which a poor person may feel every day of his life. Such an experience helps to draw the rich oneâs conscience nearer to needs of the poor. A Muslim is encouraged to be more charitable and learns to give generously for a good cause.
Fasting also has a universal or communal aspect to it. As Muslims throughout the world share in this blessed act of worship, their sense of unity is enhanced by the fact that every Muslim individual joins willingly in the fulfillment of this divine commandment. This is a unity of action and purpose, since they all fast in order to be better human beings. As a person restrains himself from the things he desires most, in the hope that he will earn Allahâs pleasure, self-discipline and sacrifice become part of his nature.
The month of Ramadan can aptly be described as a âseason of worship.â Fasting is the main aspect of worship in this month, because people are more attentive to their prayers, read the Qurâan more frequently and also strive to improve on their inner and outer character. Thus, their devotion is more complete and they feel much happier in Ramadan because they feel themselves to be closer to their Creator.