By: Masood Malikyar
AsSalaamu ‘Eleikum wa Rahmatullah.
We are thrilled once again that the holy month of Ramadan is approaching. We cannot wait to delve once more into a spiritual state unmatched by any other experience as we suppress the most essential of our carnal needs in complete submission to our Maker’s Order and Will:
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيۡڪُمُ ٱلصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبۡلِڪُمۡ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَتَّقُون
"O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that ye may become Muttaqoon (or attain God-consciousness or righteousness.)" [2:183]
We eagerly look forward to the holy month of Ramadan to cleanse our bodies and souls of the rust of the preceding 11 months. We long to revive our energy and commitment in service of Allah (SWT) and in observance of our duty as his Khalifa or representative on earth. We eagerly wait to elevate our souls to ascending degrees of adoration of, and complete surrender to, the One Who Created us from the dirt of His earth, Who Sustains us from the bounties of His Mercy and Grace, and Who Knows of our inner-most secrets by the reach of His Knowledge and the extent of His Might. We long for self-induced moments of hunger and thirst as overt manifestations of our continued inner quest for departure from the bonds of our terrestrial plights and for attainment of all that is ethereal and right. We long to reach the perfect nearness to His Station, ‘Ezza wa Jal, as in moments of prostration and Sujjud and submission – throughout this holy month – at every moment , at breaks of dawn or in silences of the night. We eagerly wait to surmount the hurdles of the worldly, even as we waver and falter, in hopes of His Mercy and Forgiveness – rewards that are promised to those who are sincere in intention, earnest in action, but repentant and contrite.
These are still objectives of ours as they were a thousand and four hundred years back of the pioneering Muslims of the Prophet’s generation – may Allah’s Blessing and Peace be upon him, his progeny and companions – and all sincere Muslims who came to this world of the ephemeral ever since. But, what is this noble end – Taqwaa – that we seek and that our Maker Ordains us to attain by fasting in 2:183? Why is the noblest of us in Allah’s Sight those of us who are best at Taqwaa or who are the most Muttaqi according to Quran:
يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلنَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقۡنَـٰكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ۬ وَأُنثَىٰ وَجَعَلۡنَـٰكُمۡ شُعُوبً۬ا وَقَبَآٮِٕلَ لِتَعَارَفُوٓاْۚ إِنَّ أَڪۡرَمَكُمۡ عِندَ ٱللَّهِ أَتۡقَٮٰكُمۡۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ۬
"O mankind! Lo! We have created you from male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the most God-conscious (or righteous) of you. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware." [49:13]
Allah SWT Gives us the answer in Quran 5 verses earlier:
لَّيۡسَ ٱلۡبِرَّ أَن تُوَلُّواْ وُجُوهَكُمۡ قِبَلَ ٱلۡمَشۡرِقِ وَٱلۡمَغۡرِبِ وَلَـٰكِنَّ ٱلۡبِرَّ مَنۡ ءَامَنَ بِٱللَّهِ وَٱلۡيَوۡمِ ٱلۡأَخِرِ وَٱلۡمَلَـٰٓٮِٕڪَةِ وَٱلۡكِتَـٰبِ وَٱلنَّبِيِّـۧنَ وَءَاتَى ٱلۡمَالَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِۦ ذَوِى ٱلۡقُرۡبَىٰ وَٱلۡيَتَـٰمَىٰ وَٱلۡمَسَـٰكِينَ وَٱبۡنَ ٱلسَّبِيلِ وَٱلسَّآٮِٕلِينَ وَفِى ٱلرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَءَاتَى ٱلزَّڪَوٰةَ وَٱلۡمُوفُونَ بِعَهۡدِهِمۡ إِذَا عَـٰهَدُواْۖ وَٱلصَّـٰبِرِينَ فِى ٱلۡبَأۡسَآءِ وَٱلضَّرَّآءِ وَحِينَ ٱلۡبَأۡسِۗ أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ ٱلَّذِينَ صَدَقُواْۖ وَأُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلۡمُتَّقُونَ
"True piety does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or the west – but truly pious is he who believes in God, and the last day; and the angels, and the revelation, and the prophets; and giveth wealth – for love of Him, - to kinsfolk, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer***1, and the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage***2; and is constant in prayer, and renders the purifying dues (or poor-due, Zakat) ; and [truly pious are] they who keep their promises whenever they promise, and are patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress: Such are they who are sincere. Such are the God-conscious." [2 : 177]
Verse 2:177, as you see does not list fasting as one of several mentioned attributes of Muttaqoon or the God-conscious. However, verse 2:183 does so specifically. In other words, according to 2:183, one can achieve this ideal state of Taqwaa simply by fasting during the holy month of Ramadan since fasting does indeed lead one to become conscientious of the needs of the needy, the destitute, and the indigent, hones one’s patience and forbearance, fortifies one in commitments, worship and prayers, and strengthens one’s belief in God, His angles, His messengers and Message.
So, let us pray as the month of fasting approaches that we attain Taqwaa. Let us pray specifically during these particularly tough global economic conditions that we give the poor the share which is due from the sustenance Granted us by God. Let us seek out those who have a need. Let us strive to first free ourselves from the bondage of slavery to the world of material and then to free others from the chains and burdens of bondage – the kind that is old and the kind that is modern. Let us pray that Allah, SWT, will Guide us in our efforts to ultimately attain His Satisfaction by becoming Mattaqoon. Let us pray, most significantly, that we choose Him as our only Master. You see, absolute freedom is only possible in absolute slavery. If we choose him as our only Master, then we free ourselves from the shackles bonding us to the traps and contraptions of the material world. Denying our bodies of nourishments as we fast gives us precisely the type of control we need to deny our souls of evil thoughts, intentions, and actions.
***1 The myopic understanding of the word Wayfarer or Traveler is a person who is simply traveling and may need assistance during the course of normal travels. We must understand that the broader definition of Ibn Sabil or Traveler includes all the migrants and refugees of the world who have abandoned their homes due to wars, calamities, or search for better opportunities; and, who are in need of assistance. With this understanding, we as Muslims must help the thousands of refugees in our towns and the millions outside. This is an often neglected category of the needy that are sometimes unintentionally excluded as eligible recipients of Zakat or Sadaga funds.
***2 While slaves fall within the traditional definition and perception of those in bondage, many individuals and even residents of entire countries are held captive in the modern manifestations of slavery. Indentured servants, for instance, are modern slaves. This is a worldwide phenomenon where people are lured away in hopes of work and decent income only to find themselves trapped in hard labor or prostitution unable to ever quit. How many of us Muslims actively seek to liberate the modern slaves?