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Can We Please Concentrate on Developing Our Own Spirituality Instead of Imposing It on Others?

If we can’t forgive, why should we be forgiven?

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Before I dare to write this article, maybe I need to invoke the gods. Father, forgive me, for I know not what I am doing. And brothers and sisters, mothers and daughters, but especially those who like to argue with a weapon on their hands.

As I was growing up, I was fortunate in that I had a family and others who imbued me with key principles of living. Two of them were:

So when you give to the needy, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by men. Truly I tell you, they already have their full reward. But when you give to the need, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your giving may be in secret. If you fast, you should not let others know you are fasting. (Gospel of St Matthew).

Now, that’s not just any old principle. It’s a biblical injunction from Jesus which is why I am always amazed at how few Christians are prepared to follow it. Certainly, they have received their reward here and now. Maybe they, or we, don’t believe in the rewards after death. Why leave till tomorrow what we can enjoy today?

Such injunctions did not only apply to giving but also to fasting. Don’t show off: “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” (Gospel of St Matthew again).

READ MORE: Are Tanzanians Becoming More Intolerant?

There we have it again. What you do is between you and your God, not showing off to others. And I have the greatest respect for those Christians who do really fast –not the watered-down version that is allowed to us, especially by the Catholics– for it truly is difficult to know that many of them are fasting. They take their fasting seriously.

So this is what has guided my thinking all my life –and I have to admit I am not a hard and fast faster!

Shocking reports

But when it came to our recent controversy of attacks on and even the arrest of non-fasters in Zanzibar, I was shocked. But also, as always, interested to know exactly what the teachings are in relation to the Holy Month of Ramadan. This is because, unlike Christianity, fasting is an institutional requirement, one of the five pillars of Islam, rather than an injunction to individuals.

So in my investigations, I found the following:

During the fast, abstain from all false talks and deeds. Do not quarrel, have disputes, indulge in arguments, use bad words, or do anything that is forbidden. You should try to discipline yourself morally and ethically, besides gaining physical training and discipline. You should also not make a show of your fasting by talking too much about it, or by showing dry lips and a hungry stomach, or by showing a bad temper. The fasting person must be a pleasant person with good spirits and good cheer.

READ MORE: As Tanzanians, We Use ‘Kubali Yaishe’ And ‘Ndiyo Mzee’ As Covert Acts of Resistance

Wow! First of all, one can see the same injunction as the one given by Jesus, whom Muslims consider to be a prophet, that fasters should not broadcast their fasting. The power of fasting lies in continuing a normal life even if you are fasting. 

And here, once again, I have the greatest respect for the large majority of my fellow citizens who fast unobtrusively. No beating their breast or beating the drum, just a quiet and dignified observance of what is a key pillar of their faith.

However, the second sentence also interested me: “Do not quarrel, have disputes, indulge in arguments, use bad words …” Surely beating or imprisoning people who are seen not to be fasting goes against the principle laid down here. 

Doesn’t the spiritual benefit of fasting not get lost here? Violent imposition of a religious rule on others, to me, violates the very spirit of that religious rule.


At the same time, personally, I would not knowingly eat in front of people who are fasting. Why should I put them to the test? Do I know what they are feeling? Do I need to know? Sometimes this can be difficult. 

For example, I have been in workshops during the Holy Month of Ramadan, and, as most workshoppists know, the principal marupurupu centres around food, sometimes in large quantities. So, however hard you try to be discreet about the matter, inevitably, the sights and sounds of consuming this or that are very evident. 

READ MORE: Motorcades And Bodabodas: The Green Saviour Complex?

Yet my fellow citizens continue with the workshop with the same quiet dignity as everywhere else. So a big kudos to one and all, of whatever faith who continue to fast, without interfering with anyone else and without making a big deal of it. 

I realise sometimes it cannot be easy. As a final thought, I have always been fascinated by the Lord’s Prayer in the gospels. “Lead us not into temptation.” We do not ask God to help us overcome temptation, no. It seems that when Jesus gave us that prayer, he was all too aware of our weakness. 

So rather than being given a good test of our faith and helping us overcome temptation, we ask not to be tested because, dear oh dear, we will probably fail. And then it goes on to ask, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” 

Another fascinating injunction to me is that forgiveness is conditional on our ability to forgive. If we can’t forgive, why should we be forgiven? Now I am not sure whether that also applies to other religions, but for me, that would seem to be the perfect injunction to enable us to concentrate on developing our own spirituality instead of imposing it on others.

Richard Mabala is an educator, poet, and author. He is available at or on X (Twitter) as @MabalaMakengeza. These are the writer’s own opinions, and they do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of The Chanzo. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at for further inquiries.

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