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Ramadan; Spiritual Renewal and Reaching Out Ramadan Kareem

Agustus 7, 2011

Once again, the blessed month of Ramadan is upon us. It is truly amazing how time goes by so quickly. Another year has gone by in our short life span on Earth, as we are transported ever forward to our ultimate destination. To some, that destination is the end of life. To others, it is on to another life. Regardless of what we believe, we can all agree that the grave is the common denominator that we all are conscious of.

So, once a year Muslims are encouraged to put aside one month to reflect on their life and ultimate meeting with God. This is something that we do very day, but it is during Ramadan that it has special contemplation and meaning. Like an automobile needs a tune up, like the body in need of rest, like the thirst that is in need of quenching, our souls need a time to rejuvenate and reform our sense of the direction, meaning and purpose of our lives in relation to our personal spiritual position in the universe. Daily prayer tunes us to the rhythm of the day, while the Jumah time on a Friday sums up the week. Ramadan is the yearly event that demonstrates to ourselves, and to our God, our devotion to the great bestower of blessings, teachings and scriptures to humanity. That is why Ramadan is known as ‘kareem’: Ramadan therefore can be said to be an extension of one of the attributes of God, Al Kareem, the Generous.

It is said that blessings fall like rain in this month, and the devils are chained. Each act of devotion is rewarded manifold times, and any negative thought or act is only viewed as being committed once. In other words God’s mercy, greater than his wrath, is made manifest during this blessed time, and he repays good deeds many times over. Even his punishment on those who commit any wrongdoing is kept to the minimum. God is merciful and beneficent, and we are encouraged to seek his grace and blessings.

Most Muslims do fast during the month, abstaining from food, drink, vain talk, smoking and sex from sunrise to sunset , and extending the good deeds and charity into the night. There are Muslims who may not fast, but give much in charity, feeding the hungry and tending to the sick and the orphans, and praising God day and night. However one observes Ramadan, the encouragement is to do good and pursue the positive and refrain ourselves and others from engaging in the negative. In this way, we are recharged and renewed, each according to our capacity and our means. We learn restraint and discipline, in the hope to be better human beings in our community, and in our relationships to others.

This is certainly a time when Muslims living with people of different faiths, whether living in the East or in the West, can reach out and share our faith with others in a spirit of ecumenical sharing and unity. According to Islamic tradition, Ramadan is the month when Muhammad, sitting and meditating in a dark cave, received a revelation from God delivered to him by the angel Gabriel. He was commanded to “read” (Iqraa!) though he was supposedly illiterate. “Read in the name of thy Lord, who created man from a clot of blood congealed”. This overwhelming experience, this revelation or epiphany, if you will, was shared by all the prophets before Muhammad as well, and this is clearly explained in the Quran. Abraham, Moses, Jesus, all were messengers and all experienced the overwhelming of their selves by the power of the moment revelation. So it is, that during Ramadan there are nights designated as the special nights when Jesus received the Gospel, David the Psalms and Moses the Torah. It is during one of the last ten nights, on an odd numbered night, that Muhammad was visited by Gabriel and the Quran was revealed to mankind. It is this month in which the night of power ‘Leilat ul Qadr’, better than “one thousand months”, containing within it God’s infinite revelation for all humanity for all time to come happens. So, the indication is that it is not just for Muslims about Muslims and Islam, it is about all revelations that came before and for all time. It is, indeed, all about the phenomenon known as revelation.

There is one Islamic tradition that states that if one prays the five daily prayers and all the special tarawih prayers of Ramadan, that believer would be rewarded as if he read the whole Quran, the Torah, the Psalms and the Gospel. Since these books are mentioned as relevant, their existence and revelation have a part in our Islamic Ramadan. The Quranic verse “Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was for those before you” clearly links Muslims with the followers of other faiths who also have methods and times of fasting, prayer and reflection. Religious scholars have related that God has three thousand names, or attributes. Along with 1,000 known by the angels and 1,000 known by the prophets, the number includes 300 in the Torah, 300 in the Psalms, and 300 in the New Testament, and 99 in the Quran. Two thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine names. One is known only to Allah, totalling 3,000 names. Now, if these names are to be found in these previous books, then there is relevance for Muslims in the names, the books, and the teachings of these faiths. It was one Christian priest, known as Warraq, who is said to have had a great influence on Muhammad’s quest for God and truth. Sitting in a cave was probably taught to Nabi u ‘Llah by this very priest and his fellow monks, for whom Muhammad had the greatest respect, they who dedicated their lives to devotion and prayer to the God of Abraham.

Many use the phrase “if it was good for Muhammad, it is good for me”. Well, it is. Like the Prophet, we too should consider the revelations that came before the final one. In all of these teachings there are truths and lessons, and their revelation a fact of Islamic teaching. Nor do we need to narrow it down to monotheistic teaching only, as any practice or mode of prayer that does not contradict basic Islamic principles can be a pathway to God. Is yoga any less pertinent than reciting over a tesbeh? Isn’t there merit in both practices that can multiply our understanding and improve our spiritual and physical well being? Certainly, surah Nur, to take one example, is full of mystical meaning that transcends identity by any title or denomination. God and his realm to which we believe we will return is a dimension beyond our own concept of time and space. Faith should allow us to explore that realm, give us a taste of the realm, remind us that this life is temporary. That great mystery and truth all in one, God, is the reason and goal we were created for in the first place, to seek and learn so as to come to be ready for the cosmic iftar we all will share in the world to come. In this regard, all religions are one.

In that world to come, we take our thoughts and deeds with us, and these thoughts and deeds are also left behind for future generations in the present world as well. As the peoples of the Middle East experience political upheaval, and commit to the change to create decent societies for themselves here on Earth, they are the ambassadors of their past and the architects of their future. Now is as good a time as ever to demonstrate to the world the collected teachings and findings of their glorious historical past and the spiritual and ethical teachings that have made human dignity a priority. The Abrahamic ethic is one that focuses on the individual as a unique being, a member of a global human society that must see to it that the other members of that very human society all share in the rights that are for all mankind. Let us support those brave individuals who fight for freedom and righteousness, in the hope that they can bring about peace and fairness in their lands. It was in these lands that Abraham gave dignity to life, where Moses liberated his people, gave laws and spoke with God. Where Jesus walked and taught, where David and Solomon praised their Lord and displayed wisdom, and great kings like Cyrus brought about equality for all men based on the concept of goodness according to the teachings of the enlightened Zoroaster. John the Baptist and Mani, Rumi and Ibn Arabi, Paul of Tarsus and Ahknaten, Rabbi Ishaq and Mansur Hallaj all walked the paths. Where monks in Syria and Egypt codified the uncodable. It is where Muhammad, using intellect coupled with passion, called for a revolution and reform of his society and lit the lamp of learning, equality and culture across the known world. Having mentioned these enlightened Middle Eastern figures, we could only imagine what they would have thought of a Buddha, an Ashoka, a Lao Tzu or the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Enlightenment needs only enlightenment to be content. Since all scripture and motivated speech come from the same source, any words or scripture can inspire and teach, and help us on the path towards the light of infinity, especially when we are engaged in fasting and devotion for the glory of that very source.

Ramadan is a time of reflection, a time for spiritual growth. Let us pray that our spirit grows a little more. Let us see to it that what we learn during Ramadan can become a beacon and a hammer to change that which is in need of change, to create a better world for tomorrow…right now. I wish you all a blessed Ramadan.

Once again, the blessed month of Ramadan is upon us. It is truly amazing how time goes by so quickly. Another year has gone by in our short life span on Earth, as we are transported ever forward to our ultimate destination. To some, that destination is the end of life. To others, it is on to another life. Regardless of what we believe, we can all agree that the grave is the common denominator that we all are conscious of.

 

Resource: Muslim Debate

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