The fifteenth night of Sha’baan has passed. Eager to atone for the past years sins, to unburden weights on their shoulders, shackles on their minds, seekers flocked to the mosques and graveyards. In what can only be described as a calendar homecoming, we once again focus attention to our spiritual core. While fasting remains an intimately personal form of worship, Ramadan belongs to the community.
We are taught that Jannah is prepared and embellished the entire year for the month of Ramadan. We are taught that on the first night of the Ramadan, we, below the heavenly skies feel a breeze called “Mutheera”. This is because the leaves on the trees of Paradise and the handles on the doors of Paradise shake strongly this night, such a delightful sound, ears have never heard a more beautiful sound. We are taught that it is impossible to escape mercy, love and forgiveness filtering to earth this month. We are taught even the wretched will be touched by some of its grace. We are asked to compete in acts of goodness, kindness and compassion. We are asked to increase acts of charity and goodwill, to be kinder to the weak and those in our employ.
Women, once faced with the dilemma of being ‘naaqis’ or incomplete in their fast due to menses or childbirth, have actualised the relationship between Al Rahmaan (the Merciful) and their rahim (womb). What this now means is they see the days they have to make-up fasts as an accelerated form of Mercy. Not as it’s often painted condescendingly as - a ‘break’ - but as a mental, physical and emotional jihad to rebuild an acceptable level of spirituality from ground up. Allah, in all His Kindness nestles and kindles such determination.
As to be expected, many fall into a pedantic trap of numbers this month. This is expressed by questions of (how many Quraan’s; how many rakaah; how to calculate zakaah; how much charity to give). Quite transiently we latch on to glimmers of realisation that the quality of the fast is as important as physically refraining from food or drink. These glimmers of realisation need to become bright flames – fasting benefits man as an individual, Ramadan is related to communal benefit; hence individual salvation is dependent on communal growth and well being. The Prophet (pbuh) taught us that mere backbiting or slandering another could negate the affects of a personal fast, so not only should we refrain from harming others, but also we are encouraged to prepare meals and share iftaar. This is to gain spiritually -- the fast of the less fortunate person who holds less competitive rancour in his/her heart, lends to the deficiencies in ours.
Ironic then that in Saudi Arabia, with a few days left to Ramadan, food prices have increased by 15 %. Traders, seeking to exploit the wave of price rises have specifically raised profit margins in Ramadan, leading to a Ministry of Commerce edict not to raise prices without official permission from the ministry. A stern warning was issued by Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti, Abdul Aziz Al- Sheikh on Friday, asking traders to refrain from raising prices during the holy month of Ramadan. In Pakistan, Oxfam noted prices of essential food items increased by 17% during the month of Ramadan.
The question of how Ramadan can strengthen our communities remains. We have an internal greed. We perpetuate a society of have and have-nots rather than what was recognised in Madinah as the norm – every person works to share and benefit the rest. Each hones their personal talents, skills and education meticulously -for a wider benefit. Not only was food shared, but also the currency of knowledge used to mutual benefit. The desire to develop leaders who stand up for a pervasive truth amidst the challenges of their time was a communal effort, not a fight. When they gave of themselves, it was for the communal brand of Islam, not a personal brand. What this teaches us in the context of fasting and Ramadan, is that by uplifting our communal identity, we elevate our personal identity and self worth.
The following is an excerpt from Imam Ghazali’s “Alchemy of Happiness” -- “Jesus (pbuh) had world revealed to him in the form of an ugly old hag. He asked her how many husbands she had possessed, and she replied that they were countless. He asked whether they had died or been divorced, and she said she had slain them all. "I marvel," he said, "at the fools who see what you have done to others, and still desire you."
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) mentioned that on Judgment Day the world would appear in the form of a hideous witch with green eyes and projecting teeth. Men, beholding her will say, "Mercy on us! Who is this?" The angels will answer, "This is the world for whose sake you quarreled and fought and embittered one another's lives." Then she will be cast into hell, whence she will cry out, "O Lord! Where are those, my former lovers? Allah will then command that they be cast after her.”
During this month as we prepare to celebrate spirituality, brotherhood and strengthen our connection with Allah, we cannot allow for a deliberate disconnect between our core beliefs and some of the practices in our homes, our local mosques, educational establishments and community organisations. We cannot fast, yet remain selfish, self-contained and impervious to sharing talent and skills with love. When we give; when we remove rancour from our hearts; when we live for an afterlife, not just this one we truly entertain a Madani spirit. We espouse what our Nabi (pbuh) and his devoted companions (may Allah be pleased with them) taught us.
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