By: Maitha Ali
Although Ramadan is only mentioned once in the Qur’an, its’ profundity is significant and heavy. As the fourth pillar of Islam, Ramadan is commonly described and referred to as the month of fasting, and while that may rest true to some extent, Ramadan is the month in which the Holy Qur’an was revealed, and in it fasting was prescribed. The blessings in the Holy month of Ramadan are innumerable and divinely abundant and it is our obligation to take full advantage of this period.
“Not even water?”
Beyond abstaining from food – and yes, water too, fasting within the Holy month of Ramadan includes transforming our individual selves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. During this month, we fast to dissipate bad habits such as smoking, gossiping, use of vulgar speech, etc. We fast to obliterate any negative emotions of envy, anger, or hatred. The most significant objective of Ramadan, however, is to build or heighten our Taqwa.
In addition to Taqwa, we can gain several other concepts from this month.
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous…”
Qur’an 2: 183
The word Taqwa, can be translated in a variety of ways. Some of its’ connotations include piety, righteousness, or God-fearing. Taking the Arabic word back to its’ root, it directly translates to waqaya, or protection. So to obtain Taqwa not only means that we seek protection for ourselves, by refraining from behaviors that may lead to sin, but ultimately we protect ourselves from the Hellfire in the Hereafter. To have Taqwa is to behave in such a way where it is as if Allah (s.w.t.) is in our presence. In fact, possessing this God-consciousness trait is what sets a believer apart from a non-believer. Without Taqwa, our acts of worship are merely empty.
To strengthen our Taqwa is to strengthen our moral compass. We fill our hearts with the love of Allah (s.w.t.), rather than material, worldly pleasures. Detachment from this temporary dunya, invokes one of the many meanings of Islam, and ultimately leads us to surrender ourselves to Allah’s (s.w.t.) Will. And only through Taqwa, will a Muslim be able to positively reform their behaviors in accordance with the teachings of Islam.
“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided…”
Qur’an 3: 103
Each of us has a role in uniting our community, our Ummah. And aside from our individual backgrounds, Ramadan helps us to gain this sense of unity without conscious realization. During this month, we collectively fast, break our fast, in addition to performing Salah.
At the masjid, Muslims from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds stand with one another during Salah. This simple observation of diversity, exemplifies unity. Through unity, our synchronized efforts make attaining and reaching our objectives easier and more blessed with rewards.
However, after Salah, every individual seems to gather with their own ethnic group. Of course, there is nothing wrong with being comforted by the presence of brothers and sisters from a similar background. However, we should stress the effort to meet, communicate, and join other ethnic groups that we are not familiar with. These relationships benefit our community as we connect with another individual and come to an understanding.
To be unified is not a choice, but it is an obligation. In the Qur’an, Allah (s.w.t.) reveals to us, “O mankind, Indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.”
So it is essential for us to know one another and understand our differences, as this will become a strength. And SubhanAllah, by mixing colors you will only create beautiful colors.
Under the guidance of Islam and under the guidance of the Qur’an, our unity becomes a strength by complimenting one another.
“Shield yourselves from the Hellfire even by giving half a date in charity.”
Saheeh Hadeeth, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
One of the many hallmarks of Ramadan is that of showing compassion by providing services to aid those who are less fortunate.
Serving the community is an act of worship – this alone should encourage us to give charity to the best of our abilities. And through acts of worship, our hearts fill with mercy, further cultivating and encouraging us to serve our society. A highly contagious giving-attitude acquaints this complementary cycle of service and worship. Many people volunteer and excessively serve their communities during this month. Alhamdulillah, this lively spirit further encourages the assimilation of more helping hands.
At the Islamic Center of the Triad Masjid, located in Greensboro, North Carolina, an exceptional youth member consistently makes a notable effort to offer as much help as possible. Musa Yang, a Muslim Chinese-native student, executes all his voluntary tasks (including, serving food, cleaning the masjid, and guiding other youth members), with a smile, MashAllah. His diligence in carrying out tasks within the Masjid, and Masjid-related activities is incredible and highly praised. Musa Yang’s consistency in hard work, demonstrates what our younger children should strive for.
Establishment of Good Habits
It is well-known within Western culture that the ability to establish a habit on average takes 21-66 days. In Islam, 29 days is adequate. In other words, the powerful and Holy month of Ramadan, alone, is sufficient. Allah (s.w.t.) not only blessed us with this month, but he made it easier for us by chaining down the Shayateen, to further cultivate our spiritual connection and to renew our souls, in aims of becoming closer to Allah (s.w.t.).
Through seeking refuge from Allah (s.w.t.) in this sacred month, we are able to instill discipline into our lives and control our desires – physical, mental, and emotional. We learn to easily let go and forgive, allowing our souls and hearts to transcend from destructive, negative energy. We become aware of the innumerable blessings we were given in this life, and become grateful for the single sip of water. We learn to better humble ourselves and to appreciate and grasp the beauty in motivating ourselves to reach the full potential of Islam.
To conclude, the rewards of this month are endless. Not only do we gain the sense of unity, cultivation of good habits, and Taqwa, but we also promote a genuinely thorough understanding to individuals who are imprisoned by poverty or other injustices. In the end, the fast we should strive for should not be to feed our stomachs, rather the fast we should strive for, is the one in which we feed our mind, heart, and soul. And I ask Allah (s.w.t.) that all our duaa’s be accepted in this month, and for all of us to be forgiven and InshaAllah we all have gained from this month both in rewards and values.
This month was meant to strengthen our guidance towards the right path. The gains discussed above, represent the blessings from this month that Allah (s.w.t.) will continue to reward us for, here in this dunya and in the Hereafter. And just as it is our duty to establish these good habits and values during the month of Ramadan, it is our duty to continue to implement them in our daily lives outside the month of Ramadan.