Be­ing Shaped by Ra­madan

THISDAY - - WORLD OF ISLAM | INTERNATIONAL - Khalid Mah­mood/Is­lamiCity

At this time when we ex­pe­ri­ence oc­ca­sions, of much sor­row and some con­tent­ment, we sense the prom­ise in the ad­vent of Ra­madan, the month of mercy and for­give­ness. In the cli­mate of this month of light, we feel both spring and au­tumn at the same time in our in­ner worlds, sea­sons of lovely ex­pec­ta­tions and long­ing.

With their pro­found, spir­i­tual breezes, ev­ery sound and breath of air in Ra­madan an­nounces in a most ex­alted and ex­hil­a­rat­ing style all the plea­sures we would like to taste in life and the hopes of good we deeply cher­ish.

Com­ing like suc­ces­sive rays of light, the smil­ing days of Ra­madan en­velop us with the ex­pec­ta­tions, hopes and joys they carry from the worlds beyond, and present to us sam­ples from Par­adise.

When Ra­madan be­gins, our in­ner life, its thoughts and feel­ings, is re­newed and strength­ened. Breezes of mercy, com­ing in dif­fer­ent wave­lengths, unite with our hopes and ex­pec­ta­tions, and pen­e­trate our hearts. In the en­chant­ing days and il­lu­mined nights of Ra­madan, we feel as if all the ob­sta­cles block­ing our way to God are re­moved and the hills on that way are lev­eled.

Like rain pour­ing on the earth, Ra­madan comes with streams of mean­ings and emotions that wa­ter dried and thirsty hearts, mak­ing the in­ner worlds of peo­ple pro­pi­tious for new mean­ings and con­cep­tions. By means of the light of the days, hours and min­utes of this blessed month, hearts at­tain such spir­i­tual depth and be­come so pu­ri­fied that they never de­sire to leave its cli­mate of peace.

As Ra­madan ap­proaches, we live the de­light of an­tic­i­pa­tion and prepa­ra­tion for it. The food and drink that come into our kitchens in the days be­fore it comes, put us in mind of it with a thrill of ex­pec­ta­tion. And then it comes at last, laden with mercy and for­give­ness. As soon as it hon­ors us, each of us finds him­self in a spi­ral of light rising to­ward the heav­ens and ad­vances to­ward the Un­known Ex­is­tent One in a new spir­i­tual mood in the night-time and in an­other, dif­fer­ent spir­i­tual mood in day­time. We open our eyes to each of its days with a dif­fer­ent solem­nity and self-possession and reach ev­ery evening in an en­chant­ing, de­light­ful serenity.

The pleas­ant nights of Ra­madan re­ceive warm­est wel­come from all souls. Eyes look more deeply in them and peo­ple feel deeper love for each other. Ev­ery­one de­sires to do good to ev­ery­one and pas­sions and ill-feel­ing are sub­ju­gated to a cer­tain ex­tent. In Ra­madan ev­ery­one feels so much more at­tached to God and is so care­ful in his re­la­tions with oth­ers that it is im­pos­si­ble not to see this.

Be­liev­ing souls taste the con­tent­ment of be­lief more deeply and ex­pe­ri­ence the bless­ing of the good morals pre­scribed by Is­lam and the spir­i­tual ease of do­ing good to oth­ers. More­over, they try to ex­pand, to share, this con­tent­ment, bless­ing and ease with oth­ers. Since these souls at rest are con­vinced that one day will come when this life will end in an eter­nal hap­pi­ness and what­ever they suf­fer and sac­ri­fice here for God’s sake will be re­turned with very great re­ward, they strug­gle against their an­i­mal ap­petites in a mood of do­ing an act of worship. The meals they take at sun­set to break the fast give them the plea­sure of worship and are fol­lowed by early night prayer with the ad­di­tion of the su­pereroga­tory ser­vice of worship par­tic­u­lar to Ra­madan. The meals they take be­fore dawn to start fast­ing are united with su­pereroga­tory night prayer (taha­jjud) and be­come a di­men­sion of their near­ness to God. Streets are filled with the peo­ple go­ing to and re­turn­ing from mosques, in which dec­la­ra­tions of ‘God is the Great­est’ re­sound as in the Masjid al-Haram in Makkah. You would think that the streets are each a mosque and each mosque is Ka’bba. The peo­ple shaped by Ra­madan in this way, though mor­tal in na­ture, gain a sort of eter­nity and each of their acts done in the con­scious­ness of de­lib­er­ate worship be­comes a cer­e­mony per­tain­ing to the Here­after. Nights are ex­pe­ri­enced more deeply and in con­sid­er­a­tion of the after­life, and days are spent as por­tions of time dom­i­nated by res­o­lu­tion and strong will-power. Those fast­ing for God’s sake feel a thrill of joy, and spend ev­ery and each day in the ex­cite­ment of a new re-union. They reach ev­ery morn­ing in an in­de­scrib­able feel­ing as if they were called to a new test­ing. You can dis­cern on their faces a sign of hu­mil­ity mixed with solem­nity, a feel­ing of noth­ing­ness be­fore God to­gether with serenity and se­ri­ous­ness and melan­choly com­bined with a feel­ing of se­cu­rity. Their ev­ery act re­flects spir­i­tual peace and ex­hil­a­ra­tion com­ing from ad­her­ence to God’s will and con­fi­dence in Him, and sin­cer­ity and kind­ness ac­quired by be­ing cleansed in the cas­cades of the Qur’an. As if cre­ated from light and con­sist­ing in only their shad­ows, they are very care­ful to give no one any harm or trou­ble. Re­spect and cour­tesy are so much a part of their na­ture that, even af­ter a day of thirst and hunger and re­sist­ing their car­nal de­sires, they re­main gen­tle and pure-hearted. They dis­play a mood shaped by fear and rev­er­ence, dis­ci­pline and con­tent­ment, solem­nity and po­lite­ness. They are re­spect­ful and rev­er­ent to­ward the Almighty and well-man­nered and sin­cere to­ward one an­other.

Their faces and eyes re­flect dif­fer­ent de­grees and di­men­sions of depth of spir­i­tual realms and are ra­di­ant with the lights of the un­seen world. Though each in­di­vid­ual may have been shaped by a dif­fer­ent cli­mate and dif­fer­ent ideas - all of them, in­clud­ing the in­tel­li­gent and pure-hearted, those used to a dis­ci­plined, care­ful life and those a bit un­tidy and care­less, the ner­vous and the calm, those very sen­si­tive to prob­lems of the age and those a lit­tle un­feel­ing, the rich and the poor, the happy and sor­row­ful, the healthy and the ill, the white and black - share al­most the same feel­ings in Ra­madan. They reach the night and morn­ing to­gether, lis­ten to the call to prayers and per­form the prayers to­gether, take the meals be­fore dawn and break their fasts to­gether. They feel to­gether one of the two in­stances of re­joic­ing promised for those who fast [The Prophet said: There are two in­stances of re­joic­ing for one who fasts: one when he breaks his fast, the other when he will re­ceive the re­ward of fast­ing in the Here­after.]

All Mus­lims, what­ever their na­tion­al­ity or coun­try of ori­gin or tem­per­a­ment or so­cial sta­tus or phys­i­cal state, come to­gether and breathe the same ‘air’ in the cli­mate of Ra­madan. In it, their souls are shaped in a way par­tic­u­lar to that cli­mate, and they share a sort of deeply-felt hap­pi­ness which can be ex­pe­ri­enced only by spirit be­ings. Ra­madan has a fas­ci­nat­ing ef­fect on Mus­lims that leaves its pos­i­tive im­prints on even the souls of the poor­est and most op­pressed peo­ple.

Ra­madan en­velops us with many beau­ties: the plea­sure in the su­pereroga­tory prayers per­formed af­ter the pre­scribed night ser­vice; con­scious­ness of the bless­ings of Ra­madan; the light that pours on us both from the heaven and from the lights that dec­o­rate the mosques; the near­ness of the Cre­ative Power and Its mes­sage of com­pas­sion and for­give­ness whis­pered in our hearts. As if planned and com­manded in or­der to kin­dle such feel­ings and thoughts in us, each el­e­ment of the pub­lic rites in Ra­madan causes the ‘strings’ of our hearts to res­onate: the calls made from minarets and the bless­ings called on the Prophet, upon him be peace and bless­ings, and the pro­nounce­ments of Di­vine Unity, Grandeur and Glory which re­sound in our ears, all pre­pare our souls for worship. They awake us to spir­i­tual and ce­les­tial truths and en­able even the crud­est soul to per­form its du­ties of worship in the way those du­ties are meant to be per­formed.

The voices rising from minarets meet with the voices of the in­hab­i­tants of the heav­ens and re­sound through­out the heav­ens and the earth. They pen­e­trate our souls and take us through a cli­mate of purest mean­ings and po­etry, a realm of sweet imag­i­na­tion. In this pleas­ant at­mos­phere, we feel as if it is Ra­madan which pours from the heav­ens, which is dis­cerned on the faces of peo­ple and scents the air and is writ­ten in the lights of the mosques.

En­chanted by this calm and peace­ful at­mos­phere, we achieve a sort of in­fini­tude and feel as if com­pre­hend­ing the whole of ex­is­tence. Ra­madan cap­ti­vates par­tic­u­larly those open to eter­nity to such an ex­tent that they ex­pe­ri­ence noth­ing else than it.

I re­mem­ber well that dur­ing my child­hood when there was as yet no elec­tric­ity in cities, peo­ple walked to mosques with kerosene lamps in the dark­ness of night. We imag­ined that Ra­madan was walk­ing around in the al­leys in the lights of those lamps. Un­der the in­flu­ence of po­etry, mean­ing and deep spir­i­tu­al­ity which Ra­madan poured into our souls, we de­sired that it should never come to an end. Nev­er­the­less, de­spite our heart­felt de­sire, it flew away and the fes­tive day fol­lowed it with all its pomp.

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