09/06/2011 05:13 pm ET Updated Nov 06, 2011

Reflections on Ramadan

This past month has seen a sustained intensity of violence and death around the world. For Muslims, the month was meant to be one in which peace was established within ourselves and our societies, as this is the holiest of all the months in Islam. Ramadan is a month that Muslims look forward to, as it is meant to create a stronger connection between humanity and God. How ironic, then, to see the death and destruction perpetrated in Libya, Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Algeria, during a month dedicated to peace and harmony.

Ramadan is not just a month in which Muslims refrain from eating and drinking during the sunlight hours. It is a month in which Muslims make special efforts to improve themselves (which then improve society). According to one teaching, the Prophet said, "He who abstains from food and drink during the period of the fast but does not restrain himself from uttering a falsehood starves himself to no purpose." This beautiful teaching guides us towards the true essence of Ramadan by questioning the act of fasting if it is not accompanied by honesty and integrity.

Muslims are called toward goodness during this month. The first form of goodness is focused internally. Muslims are also called to purify themselves of any vices they may have. Everyone has some vice they can stand to overcome, whether it's smoking, lying, cursing, trouble controlling anger or even watching too much television. Whatever their vice, Muslims are encouraged to spend this special month developing their virtues and purging their vices (not unlike the Catholic Lent period). This, too, is done not only for our own good but for the good of others around us. After all, in order to achieve peace with those around us, we must first achieve peace within ourselves.

The other form of goodness is focused externally. Muslims are called to serve mankind. The hunger and thirst felt during the fast serves to cultivate empathy with those who are living hungry and thirsty everyday, those who are less fortunate than we are. Taking care of the impoverished is a commandment in Islam, and during no other period of the year do Muslims engage in such humanitarian services like they do during Ramadan.

That is why it is encouraging to discover a new effort being organized called "Muslims for Life," in which the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA is trying to collect 10,000 bags of blood in the month of September in order to save 30,000 American lives, in memory of the victims of 9/11 on the 10th anniversary of that tragic day. Together with our fellow Americans, Muslims honor the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with prayer and somber remembrance of the thousands of innocent lives lost not just on that day, but also in the ten years since.

Ten years ago, men of violence shed blood as they took innocent lives. And on this ten year anniversary, we can honor those lost lives by saving lives. One of the best things we can do in life is to play a role in providing relief and peace to people around the world. Clearly, the world is in need of such efforts. If we take only one lesson away from this Ramadan, let it be that we are called upon to relieve the pain and suffering we see around the world. We are called to be peace makers and peace keepers. With all the death and destruction that has engulfed the globe, what better time to get started on this task than now?

Originally published on on August 28, 2011.