Zainab Syed (Pakistan, AC 08-10)
“O you who believe! the fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al Mutaaqun (the pious). (Fasting) for a fixed number of days, but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days. And as for those who can fast with difficulty, (e.g., an old man), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a Miskin (poor person) (for every day). But whoever does good of his own accord, it is better for him. And that you fast is better for you if you only know. The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong) So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first of) the month (of Ramadan, i.e., is present at his home), he must fast that month, and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number (of days which one did not fast must be made up) from other days.” (2:183-185)
The Muslims conform to the lunar calendar for their religious festivities. Ramadan is the 9th month on the lunar calendar. It is this month the Quran (the word of Allah) was revealed through the angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The prophet, born in Mecca, Arabia was 40 years old when the first revelation came to him. He was known widely among his people as Al Amin( trustworthy) and Al Sadiq( truthful). Perturbed by the immorality, injustice and degenerate practices of his time, he would often retreat to the cave of Hira, meditating and reflecting. It was on one such night in the month of Ramdan which was revered even then that the holy angel Gabriel came to him. Muhammad (p.h.u.b) was frightened by the unexpected sight of the angel who urged him to recite the first letter of Quran, ‘Read’! In the Name of the Lord Who Has created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous, Who has taught by the pen. He has taught man that which he knew not.’ (Surah Al-Alaq)
Confused and shaking with awe, he returned and confided in his wife, Khadijah. Khadija’s cousin, Waraqah bin Nofel was a hanif, a seeker of truth, who had converted to Christianity. It is him that khadijah sought at this time to explain the encounter. “Holy! Holy!” he said. “By Him in whose hands is the soul of Waraqah, there hath come unto Muhammad the greatest namus (the Greek namos in the sense of divine law or scripture, here identified with the angel of revelation) even he that would come unto Moses. Verily Muhammad is the Prophet of his people.”
Revelation once started lasted 23 years. The verses were revealed as per need because the Quran seeks to teach by enlightenment. The Haq ( truth) of the Quran seeks to reform by conviction. There is no force in our way of life. Truth when separated from the Untruth convinces with clear distinction. Here in lie the strength of the great leaders of Islam.
In Ramadan, Muslims all over the world after the sighting of the moon begin a month of fasting. The purpose of the fast is to gain Taqwa, the consciousness of the omnipresent Allah. “Taqwa is the most basic prerequisite for being guided by Allah. It entails God- consciousness, as sense of responsibility, accountability, dedication and awe. It is that which prompts and inspires us to fulfill our responsibilities towards the creator. The Muslim abstains from food from sunrise to sunset for the sake of his people. This trains him to control temptation, and drive his intention and deeds for Allah.
While fasting, the most basic physical needs-food, water and sleep-are readily enjoyed and sacrificed. Hunger and thirst are no longer harmful; Allah’s displeasure is harmful. The gifts of Allah are there to be enjoyed but limits by Him must also be strictly observed. Once the sun has set, the fast must be broken and the sooner the better. All that was forbidden during the fasting hours at his command becomes permissible again, at His command. The regime of dawn-to-sunset abstinence from food, drink and sex for the sake of Allah alone, internalize that we must never enter, acquire or touch that which does not belong to us under the law of Allah. A man can no longer remain a slave to his own self indulgence.” ( Khurram Murad). The natural result is heightened taqwa.
The Muslim table is adorned with feasts in this month. And the spirit of sharing and giving is immense. Anyone may knock on the door and will be sure to be fed well. The Muslim obligatory charity, Zakat, is also preferably given out in this month.
While fasting: eyes should refrain from seeing evil, ears from hearing evil, tongues from speaking evil and hearts from reflecting evil. Te prophet also said: five things break a mans fast, lying, backbiting, scandal mongering perjury and a lustful gaze.
According to a saying (hadith) of the prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h) abstinence does not mean only controlling of our physical urges but it has a much deeper significance.
The Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h) said “Fasting is a shield, when anyone of you is observing fast, he should neither indulge in obscene language nor raise his voice and if any reviles him or tries to quarrel with him he should say: I am fasting’.
Children under the age of puberty, the weak and the ill, the traveler and the pregnant woman are exempted from fasting. They must feed another in their stead. Medically, the virtues of fasting are well known. It detoxifies the body, bringing order and pattern to our gastronomic habits. It also gives an empathetic bond with the less privileged.
The night the Quran was revealed was among the last ten odd nights of Ramadan. Muslims all over the world arrange for special prayers on this night. Simple recitation of Quran will give immense comfort while a careful study will give direction to the seeker. It appeals to all intellects because of its simple language but several layers of meaning. The Quran urges the reader to seek the best interpretation.
In this night Quran tell us that the angels descend to the earth and all matters of the coming year are settled. Praying this night is equivalent to the praying of a thousand months. “The Night of Al Qadr ( Decree) is better than a thousand months. Therein descend the angels and the Ruh (angel Gabriel) by Allah’s permission with all the decrees.” (Surah al qadr )
Some people seek seclusion for prayers in the last ten nights in mosques or isolated part of their homes. Many weep at the passing of the blessed month.
At the end of Ramadan, with the sighting of the new moon, the fasting comes to an end. That last evening, amidst a mixture of regret and festivities, is spent in preparation of the next day – driving down to markets with friends and relatives which are set up with stalls, henna painting on hands and feet, lots of bangles to match dresses, eating etc .The next day is Eid ul Fitr. This is the day of rejoicing. Muslims unite in this day. The day begins with prayers performed in the mosque. The community begins with thanking Allah for His blessings on them and congratulates each other for their perseverance. Dressed in their best they call on all. Children are given Idi,( token money) and gifts. Food is widely prepared and eaten. With rejuvenated faiths, people are ready to take on challenges for the coming year.
– United World College Student Magazine-