Ramadhan: A Time to Reflect, Refine & Restore the Soul


This is a quote from Fethulah Gulen’s article on Ramazan. The seminar will be based on this theme and speakers will focus on how believers can attain and mantain the nearness to God.

Tuesday 25th August, 2009
Rebecca Masterton: Appreciating the Month of Ramadhan: Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim All praise is due to the One who has brought us here to remember Him and who has enabled us to experience one more time the most blessed of months, the Month of Ramadhan, and salutations to His noble Messenger, Prophet Muhammad and his purified progeny who have kept the spirit of this month alive through their light.
Today we are seeking to know how we may appreciate every moment of the Month of Ramadhan, so that its days do not slip by while we have not benefited from them by the end.  The month of Ramadhan is in some ways like a mirror, reflecting our spiritual state, causing us to examine ourselves and where we are in relation to our own souls, to the dīn of Islam and to Allah (swt).  I have to say that usually when the Month of Ramadhan comes, I am hardly in the position to tell someone else how they may experience its treasures.  The Month of Ramadhan, while illuminating our lives, at the same time, brings dissatisfaction with one’s own self, because the heart has not been softened sufficiently to receive the blessings that are there, ready to be received.  Instead, I find a heart that is unable to feel; a mind that is unable truly to comprehend; and I am aware of my inadequacy at knowing how to enter this Sacred Month and how to immerse myself in its blessings.  And perhaps this is because, at other times, I am not sufficiently immersed in the light of Islam.  Without me noticing, my soul has become dried up.  I wonder about whether I am really sincere; I ask myself whether I really desire to see the Face of Allah (swt); I examine myself again, going to the fundamentals: why am I practicing this way of life?  Is it with the right intention?
            And yet, regardless of our inner state, we have all been invited as the guests of Allah (swt), and perhaps as the days progress, we can undergo a process of inner purification and transformation, so that we reach the end of this month in a state that is different from what it was before.  We know that some mystics practice khalwa, a form of withdrawal which also entails intensified spiritual concentration, and this may continue for up to forty days.  Prophet Musa (as) himself was commanded by Allah (swt) to withdraw for thirty days plus ten.  Likewise, following the prophetic pattern, the Month of Ramadhan is our khalwa and if we could only realise what we can become in this period, perhaps we would enter this month filled with wonder, excitement and anticipation.  This khalwa is not a form of retreat from our communities, but a form of retreat from all that is prohibited, including looking at what is haraam or frivolous; listening to what is haraam or frivolous; engaging in haraam or frivolous talk.  Cutting away distracting preoccupations and habits, we become aware of a better person inside of us, and that better person is closer to who we really are. As we know, he who knows himself knows his Lord.  In realising ourselves more deeply and truly in this month, we realise Allah (swt) more deeply and truly.  In reconnecting to ourselves, we strengthen the bond with al-Hayy al-Qayyum, the Living, the Eternal, and in doing so, we realise more fully al-Haqq, the Real.  We realise the reality of our existence and the reality of the Reality from which we come.
Turning to the opening pages of a book called Suluk-e Arifin: The Spiritual Journey of the Mystics, by Hajj Mirza Javad Aqa Maliki Tabrizi, I was stunned to find this narration by Imam Ali (as): "Don’t say Ramadhan because, you don’t know what Ramadhan is. Whoever says so must pay charity and must offer a fast of atonement; instead of saying Ramadhan, say the way Allah has called it the Month of Ramadhan."  This is a reminder that the basis of Islam is good adab; recognising the value and honour of something and treating it with the appropriate respect.  Why does the heart enter the Month of Ramadhan half-asleep?  Because it does not fully recognise or understand its majesty and grandeur, but as Imam Ali (as) has said, there is a correct way to approach this Month, the least of which is to approach it with respect and call it by its proper name.  Included in this is another fundamental Islamic teaching: he says ‘don’t call it Ramadhan, because you don’t know what Ramadhan is’.  This is a reminder of the right attitude of the Muslim: do not speak familiarly about something when you don’t have knowledge, as that amounts both to ignorance and arrogance; and perhaps we could extend that to how we speak about each other, in an age when communication is so fast.
We know that the Month of Ramadhan is also a month of contemplation, and we know what Islam teaches about the rewards of contemplation.  This is an opportunity to learn more about how to become ahl al-muraqabah; this is not just contemplation about our faults, but contemplation about the nature of our soul itself.  The Prophet (s) said that in the Month of Ramadhan there are people who just go hungry and thirsty and do not benefit at all, but that is not to say that the hunger and thirst we experience are irrelevant or worthless.  Hajj Tabrizi notes some narrations, in one of which the Prophet (s) said: ‘Engage yourself in Jihad-e-Nafs through the means of hunger and thirst, whose reward is equivalent to the reward of those who participated in the armed struggle for Allah’s sake. There is nothing more superior before Allah’s sight than tolerating hunger and thirst during fasting.’  Perhaps one of the benefits of fasting is that the tongue becomes weakened and talks less; we have less opportunity for damaging our own soul with our indiscretions.  Tabrizi mentions another narration where Allah (swt) says to the Prophet (s)
‘The outcome of fasting is less eating and less talking.’ ‘The result of silence is wisdom; the result of wisdom is enlightenment; the result of enlightenment is certainty (yaqin); and when a person attains the Exalted spiritual position of certainty, then he does not care how he starts his day, whether with ease or hardship, tragedy or comfort. Such is the state of those who have attained the position of contentment, and whoever attains this position acquires three inseparable characteristics: thanks (shukr) not contaminated with ignorance, invocation (dhikr)[9] not mixed with forgetfulness and love not mixed with the love of others.’
And Allah (swt) says: ‘Whoever loves Me in this manner does not intermingle the love of others with My friendship; I too love him and make others love him; I open the eye of his heart, so that he can witness My Splendour and Majesty; My secrets which I keep hidden from others will be manifested to him.’
The potential reward of fasting therefore that we might at least attain some wisdom, and that perhaps we might even attain the highest spiritual station: that of yaqin, and be loved by Allah (swt).  Through yaqin, we transcend spiritually the laws of cause and effect, and our dependence upon anything other than Allah (swt) vanishes.
It might be argued that none of us are leading ideal Islamic lives, due to the culture in which we live and work, with our heavy worldly responsibilities; but we can make use of each moment if we choose to.  I was once told by a scholar, ‘why don’t we make our intention li qurbatan illallah – for nearness to Allah (swt), for everything we do?’  Thus, we can turn all our actions into ibadah, especially as this is the month where even our sleep is considered ibadah.  Just stepping out of the door of your home in the morning can be made with the intention of seeking nearness to Allah (swt) in this month.  Yesterday I was rushing to work in West London, an area where there are many factories and warehouses; not a holy environment.  So I looked up at the night sky as I was approaching the studio.  All I saw was a sky with clouds that looked a bit orange due to the street lights, and yet seeing that wide expanse stretching out into the universe, and remembering that one day I will leave this universe, was enough to remind me of Allah (swt) and the short life that he has given me.  Thus, just looking at the sky can be a form of ibadah in the Month of Ramadhan.  We also hear how in many households, women have the responsibility of cooking for sehri/suhoor as well as iftar, and often for many guests, leaving them without time to perform many extra raka’at; but a woman can turn the preparation of suhoor and iftar into ibadah too, through the intention of seeking nearness to Allah (swt) while making it; through reciting du’as while making it; or simply by mentioning the name of Allah (swt). Thus, it is said that the Month of Ramadhan is a month of opportunity, and we can try to recognise that literally every second is an opportunity. Nothing need be lost or wasted
Reciting short du’as more often is a way of increasing our ibadah even while we are busy.  Hajj Tabrizi reminds us reciting Surah al-Qadr before sehri/suhoor and iftar is part of the adab of eating in the Month of Ramadhan.  Hajj Tabrizi also reminds us about a du’a which according to Imam al-Sadiq [a] the Holy Prophet [s] recommended to Imam ‘Ali [a].  The Holy Prophet (s) said: ‘Archangel Gabriel came to me and said: "Whoever in the Holy Month of Ramadhan before iftar recites this du’a, Allah answers his prayer, accepts his prayer and fasting, grants his ten requirements, forgives his sins, removes his grief, makes his heart at ease, grants his wishes, makes his deeds to ascend upward with the deeds of prophets and righteous saints, and on the Day of Judgement brings him to His presence with a face illuminated like bright moon." The du’a is "Allahuma rabb al-nur al-‘adheem"
(Allah is the possessor of great illumination).  Again, it is just one sentence, but what is so beautiful about Islam is that great spiritual benefits may be gained through one simple action.
We may remember too, that the Month of Ramadhan is a time for expressing compassion and mercy, a time of seeking forgiveness and also for forgiving others.  Expressing compassion and mercy does not take up much time.  Someone once sent out a challenge about whether we can make three people in one day smile.  In London that is indeed a challenge, but I tried it for a while, before falling back into forgetfulness.  The Month of Ramadhan is a time for increased sadaqah and the Prophet (s) said that a smile is sadaqah, so technically the Month of Ramadhan should be a time for increased smiling, making more effort in brightening another person’s day.  Trying to make someone smile is a good form of jihad.  Sometimes you catch someone’s eye and smile, a fellow Muslim for example, and they give you a scowl back or don’t acknowledge you, but more often than not, exchanging a smile with a fellow Muslim brings a supreme sense of happiness and gladness into the heart.
The Month of Ramadhan as we know is also the month of the Qur’an, and perhaps, again, as well as racing to try to complete it in the month – which I certainly never could do – it may be worth seeking to find out the meaning of a particular word, which will affect our understand of the Holy Book every time it appears.  The Month of Ramadhan is a time, as we know, for contemplating the meaning of the Qur’an.  Perhaps, then, for five or ten minutes in the day, we can check a tafsir.  We can learn about the several interpretations of a particular ayah.  The Prophet (s) used to recommend doing frequent practice that is manageable for us.  Therefore, in seeking to appreciate this Holy Month, we can contemplate the finer details that may get overlooked.  We can think about an aspect of the Month which we did not do so before; we can try to practice a virtue which we have not focused on before; and most of all, we mustn’t forget to ask Allah (swt) to help us with our endeavours, since everything that we do in this month is actually a gift from Him to us.  The Prophet (s) recommended a du’a in which we ask Allah (swt) to put us in the right state of mind in order to thank Him.
I am sitting here saying these things, but I ask Allah (swt) to help me with these endeavours in order that the darkness and pollution of the heart may be annihilated in the hunger and thirst of this Month.  Ya Allah, we are striving to be your servants in a world in which we all will soon leave; we are striving as an umma in a city where we may never see each others’ faces again after this evening; we are striving not only to fulfil your commands but to attain a purified state where we may transcend the distractions of this lower realm and remain always bathed in Your Presence.  Soften our hearts and cleanse them of cynicism and open our perception to Your supreme beauty and the beauty which exists in this way of life and inside ourselves.  We ask for Your help in this month that we may receive the blessings which You have made available to us, and bless your Noble Prophet and Messenger and His purified progeny.  Ameen.
Sayeed Mohammed Al-Musawi, Secretary General of World Ahl Al Bayt Islamic League: All praise due to him, the first and the last whose evidences are everywhere in every time, whose bounties are everywhere, every time. His best servants are Mohammed and his progeny of Ahl Al Bayt.
The subject of the month of Ramadan is a very important subject not only for our individual lives but also for our families, societies and the whole world. The absolute wise Allah does not give an order but with his absolute wisdom. His absolute wisdom ordered us to fast for an aim which he clearly says in Qur’an  that we will be more pious. He also says that fasting is ordained and is obligatory on all those before you. It means that all those who worship Allah had fasting as one of the obligatories. It means that fasting is a process that every human being needs to go through to purify him or herself.
Fasting is meant to make us better human beings and that is the meaning of taqwa. Piousness is to be a better human being, better to yourself, your family and your society and your relationship with Allah. Fasting has got effects on our inner selves through the state of hunger and thirst  This makes us more receptive to the voice of the universe.
The human being always needs to be in harmony with the universe. Allah the creator created all things in one system. Everything in this universe is in harmony. All the skies and earth, the planets and stars, every phenomena in this universe is  in harmony.
The human being is the only being who has the option to be in harmony if he decides or to go against the harmony if he wishes. Otherwise Allah says: Everything in this universe is glorifying Allah and the physical that everything in this universe is running according to the system of Allah, obeying Allah. The galaxy and the atom, the nucleus and the sun, the water and the sky. Every being in this universe is in harmony with the system of Allah except the behaviour, only the behaviour of some human beings.
Though the human being  himself cannot go out of the  harmony as far as his body is concerned. We cannot go against the system of Allah and the way that our hearts are beating. The pulse of our hearts is in harmony, is obeying Allah. The system of our lungs is obeying Allah. The blood circulation is obeying Allah.
So even in our own existence there is a portion which is in harmony with the universe. Going through the system. Only our own decision, what we do what we don’t do, that is left for our own option. We are guided to be in harmony in obedience with Allah and those who are in harmony with the universe, by obeying Allah, means by using this body in the same way that the creator of this body has guided us to do.
Those who achieve that harmony, gain peace of mind. And this the only way that any human being can gain peace of mind. And all those how go against the harmony, they can never get peace of mind. And Allah clearly says in Qur’an that those who believed and whose hearts gain peace of remembering Allah, surely hearts get peace only by remembering Allah. Nothing else.
Fasting is one of the stations that we need to have every year, at least once to have the harmony with the universe. The inner factors from hunger, thirst and tiredness will make our behaviour in harmony with the universe  because those who are hungry and thirsty and tired are usually more humble than those who are eating more than what they need.
Those who are fasting, they feel more sympathetic towards the deprived and poor and destitute and for that you find that one of the blessings of the month  is that the greatest amount of charity is given in this month. According to a study more than a billion pounds is being donated by the Muslims of the UK only in the month of Ramadhan.
No doubt this is not only in the UK. It happens everywhere. The month of Ramadhan gives those who fast a state of sympathy for the poor. The month of Ramadhan also has the link which makes the human being more in touch with Allah through duah and through the Qur’and and through prayers. The month of Ramadhan is not only prayers – it is the recitation of the Qur’an which has  a very important position as the Prophet said: pray to Allah to give you the taufiq to make you successful not only in fasting.
Pray to  Allah  with  sincere hearts to give you the ability to fast during this month, to worship Allah during this month and to recite Qur’an in this month. Recitation of Qur’an in this month has a very great importance because it makes the person who recites in touch with the world of Allah. We have a hadith that he who recites Qur’an is like a Prophet. On him Qur’an is being revealed, but he is not Prophet.
Recitation of the Qur’an  is a process which makes the human being enlightened with the wisdom of the word of Allah and you will find that the month of Ramadan is called in the Hadith the spring of the Qur’an. This is because the heart of people who fast will be more loving to read, to enjoy the word of Allah. So this is also one of the important factors which makes the human being in harmony with the universe.
When you read the world of Allah you will know the wisdom of Allah. The wisdom of Allah is the reality in this life. Then you will look at life as life is. You will not be misleading yourself by thinking about life wrongly and by behaving in this life wrongly. Qur’an will teach you the real value of this life, the reason for this life and what you are supposed to for the future, which is your tomorrow, which is your hereafter.
The month of Ramadhan makes the individual a better person and it can make him a very good person if he thinks more, if he ponders more, if he keeps on worshipping Allah as much as he can.  As the Prophet tells us: yourselves are bound with your sins, so free yourselves  through repentance. And your shoulders are over loaded with your sins so make your shoulders lighter by performing long sujud, prostration. Allah has sworn on his honour not to punish those who perform prayers and do prostration to his greatness.
So the month of Ramadhan makes individual life a life of light with more dedication more ibada and also the individual life which is enlightened by the inner light of hunger, thirst and tiredness and the outer light of Qur’an and duah and prayers and supplications which are the oceans of light.
And there are  other duas which are narrated by Ahl Al  Bayt who are the real carriers of knowledge, the light of Islam. If you read the dua from them you will know that the treasures that they have are not available anywhere else. This enlightened individual will enlighten the circle where he lives. The family with one proper fasting person will definitely have the light of fasting in it.  The family will be blessed with better morals.
He who makes his morals better in this month, it will help him in  passing through the bridge of serat. The day when the foot slips. So you find the effect of fasting on the family and the society. Those who fast will maintain the best relationships with their parents and  relatives. Those who fast try to do good to the poor. Those who fast try to spread a lovely environment. No doubt smiling, as my sister mentioned, is a sign of good eman.
The hadith says good smiling is the sign of every free person, a person who is free evil feelings, satan and evil  whisperings. Good smiling is the sign of a free person. But a fasting person also tries to make the people who are suffering smile. We are living in a world where billions are spent on drugs, alcohol, smoking and billions are spent on weapons. But we have a billion who are hungry. Out of six billion human beings over a billion are hungry. They don’t have good to eat.
So those who fast try to make others at least get food. This is a blessing which is being witnessed. The month of Ramadhan enables billions of people to get food, at least in this month. And the month of Ramadhan in its real sense enables  us to alleviate the sufferings of every Muslim and every human being because if Muslims only paid their dues which is khums and zakat no poor person would remain on this planet.
According to a survey the UK has over seven thousand millionaires who are Muslims. Only in the UK. If they paid their humus and zakat there would not be any suffering in India, or Pakistan or Bangladesh. But we need to fast properly. We are fasting but we are not fasting up to the limit that real fasting is supposed to be. But fasting can change the individual, family life, society and the whole world.
The rulers who are doing injustice in our Muslim countries, are they really fasting? Those who are supporting the oppressors in our so-called Muslim countries. Are they really fasting? Are they obeying Allah, Allah who says don’t rely on the oppressors otherwise the  fire will touch you.
Real fasting will make Muslims boycott all the tyrants, the arrogant and the wrong doers. Then the whole Muslim world will change and the whole world will change if we really fast. But the main problem with the followers of the Prophet, and we are included, is that we take the worship just superfically from outside, not from the spirit of it.
Millions of Muslims fast today as a habit. Not as a spiritual dedication towards Allah. I am fasting not because I am supposed to fast as part of a custom as a Muslim. I fast because I want to purify myself, treat myself as a better human being in all aspects.
The subject needs more time. The time is over. Let us pray to him to look at us with his mercy. Look at ourselves with his forgiveness, cover our shortcomings with his kindness. Make us real servants of Allah, make us able to overcome our shortcomings. To be servants to him and only to him and to be followers of the Prophet and Ahl Al Bayt. And to be sincere servants to our leader Imam Madhi, the leader who will definitely come to establish peace and justice and destroy injustice. Thank you very much.
* Rebecca Masterton graduated with a degree in Japanese language and literature; a Masters in Comparative East Asian and African literature and a PhD in Islamic mystical literature of West Africa from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Having been a presenter for Press TV and lectured at Birkbeck College, University of London, she now teaches Islamic mysticism at the Islamic College for Advanced Studies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *