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Saturday 18th of November 2017

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Ramadan - Golden Hours on Angel Wings

By Khurram Murad

The blessed month of Ramadhan is like ‘golden hours on angel wings’ it will descend upon us it’s blessed moments. It will summon Muslims, as individuals and as a corporate body, to an intense and sustained month of fasting and prayer, of worship and obedience, of devotion and discipline – all centred on the Qur’an which was sent down in these very moments in the custody of ‘noble and trustworthy’ angels.  Call will go forth to every believer to take to prolonged companionship with the Book of Allah, to a life of redoubled endeavour to become what Allah desires Muslims to be.  Joyfully and dutifully the Muslim will respond.  Every day will be spent in fasting from dawn to sunset, not a morsel of food, nor a drop of water, indeed nothing shall pass down the throat; nor will intimate relations be indulged in.  Each night, hours will be devoted to standing in Prayers before Allah, reciting and reading His words sent down in the Qur’an.

Ramadhan is no trivial event.  It is the month in which was sent down the Qur’an; the guidance for mankind, the Criterion (by which to judge the right from wrong) (2:185)  Its sole purpose is to prepare us for the Dive guidance, for living the Qur’an, for witnessing the Truth and Justice that it perfects, for striving to make the word of Allah supreme.  Fasting generates Taqwa (God conscious) which becomes directed to the supreme goal of entering the world of the Qur’an and of living therein. It is the key which unlocks all the doors leading to the blessings which the Qur’an has to offer: honour, prosperity and freedom from fear and anxiety in this world; success, Paradise and Allah’s good pleasure in the life to come.  No time for Fasting other than Ramadhan could have made Taqwa such a potent force.

Let us look at Taqwa. What it is? Literally saving ourselves from harm.  In moral life, therefore, Taqwa must primarily mean, firstly, accepting that some actions and beliefs are harmful, that is to say, right and wrong do exist, and secondly, having the resolve and will to avoid the wrong and do right.  Thirdly as a consequence, conduct should reflect this consciousness and resolve, if we are not a hypocrite.

To have Qur’anic Taqwa, which will entitle us to its guidance, we must know that these are realities and values beyond matter, beyond what we are incapable of perceiving by our physical senses, beyond this world, that man needs to be guided to what is right and away from what is wrong.  We should also be prepared to submit, willingly all that we possess – mind, body, and wealth – to the truth that we know and believe.

Every moment in Ramadhan engraves these lessons on our hearts, integrates them in our practice.  The most elementary physical needs – food, water and sleep – are readily and joyfully sacrificed.  Hunger and thirst are no more harmful; Allah’s displeasure is.  Physical pleasures no more hold any lure; Allah’s rewards do.  The scale of values is turned upside down.  The measures of comfort and pain, success and failure are radically changed.  Without this change, none is entitled to take up Allah’s cause.  To the uninitiated, or an outsider, the regimental devotion of Ramadhan may appear harsh and austere, but, in fact, it is eagerly awaited by believers. 

The sight of the new moon, the crescent that signals the beginning of Ramadhan is met with celebration and jubilation.  Even children who are not required to fast look forward to their first experience of Ramadhan fasting.  The sick to, remain restless for having been deprived of this blessing.  Such jubilation and eagerness, to sacrifice time, wealth, and life in submitting to what ever God asks of us, and regret and sorrow if prevented from doing so for reasons beyond our own control, is highly desirable in the way of Allah.  Whatever the physical discomfort, the mortification of flesh is certainly not a desired object in Islam.  The gifts of Allah are there to be enjoyed, but limits by Him must also be strictly observed.

As the sun sets, the fast must be broken, and sooner the better.  All that became forbidden at His command becomes permissible again at His command.  Similarly eating before dawn is strongly urged, even though the hour can be, depending on the time of year, unearthly, for it provides the necessary strength for the rigours of the day ahead.  Fasting and praying are obvious acts of worship, but eating, and sleeping too, constitute forms of worship.  The month long regime of dawn to sunset abstinence from food, drink and intimate relations with ones spouse, for the sake of Allah alone, internalises the lesson that one must never touch, acquire or enter that which does not belong to one under the law of Allah.  A man can no more remain a slave to his own self-indulgence as he prepares for the arduous journey on the road to His Lord.  For many it is difficult to see the value of long hours of hunger, thirst and sleeplessness.  Productivity losses are difficult to accept in an age that has tried to make gods of gross national product and economic growth.  According to Islam, however, man is created to live a life of total submission to the One and Only God, and this purpose must be paramount in all scales of values.  Ramadhan fasting is crucial to this understanding.  It shows that its purpose, like Allah’s guidance through His prophets and Books and all other rituals of worship, is to train the believer in how he must live totally and unreservedly, at all costs, in submission to Allah.

Obedience is not limited to mere outward conformity with the letter of the law.  The law must be observed, but evil, in all its forms must be eschewed. Ibn Maja, the great Hadith scholar, reports that the Prophet (pbuh) said: ‘When the month of Ramadhan arrives, the gates of paradise are flung open while those of Hell are closed.  All the satans are put in chains and a herald cries out, O you who seek good come here and those who desire evil desist’.

Imam Bukhari, the most renowned Hadith scholar narrated: Eyes should refrain from seeing evil, ears from hearing evil, heart from reflecting evil, and tongue from speaking evil.  The prophet (pbuh) said ‘For One who does not give up speaking false words and acting by them it is not required by Allah that he give up only his food and drink’.

On another occasion the prophet (pbuh) said ‘Many are the observers of fast who gain nothing from their fast but thirst and hunger’.

As a collective experience Ramadhan suffuses the entire life of communities with the spirit of Taqwa; even the air, it seems, is changed with a new fervour.  In Ramadhan, we can see a beautiful example of how Islam unites the individual and the society under One Lord alone.  Therefore, the demands of Allah take precedence over all other demands; no part of personality; no aspect of our life remains out-side His writ, even aspects as mundane as timings for eating and going to bed.  Thus, will is strengthened, determination is reinforced, spirit of sacrifice is intensified, self-control is heightened. 

That is why the Fasting is placed in Ramadhan.  In this technological age, when the clock has become the only measure of time and every concept of sacredness of time has been erased from human memory, some may find it difficult to visualise how every moment of Ramadhan encompasses centuries within it, how it allows us to draw nearer to Allah at a much faster pace.  Acts of virtue during the month are especially rewarded: an obligatory acts increases seventy times; a voluntary one is rewarded like the obligatory.  Each of its moments offers immense possibility of great spiritual journeys.

The end of  Ramadhan brings Eid-al fitr, the feast of breaking the fast, which celebrates the revelation of the Qur’an.  The Qur’an makes it clear: ‘that you complete the number, and proclaim the greatness of Allah for His having guided you, and that you render your thanks. (2:185). Man’s response to the Divine initiative of guidance must be gratitude and ex-tolling Him as the Greatest. That is why constantly on the lips is the tasbih: Allahu Akbar…Walillahil hamd - God is great and only He is to be Praised!