Families are getting together, food is being shared, the poor are being looked after, and the Quran is being recited all around us. Yes, we have just completed the first 10 days of Ramadan, also known as the days of Mercy. A month so blessed that the doors of the heavens are believed to be opened and the doors of hellfire shut. The month in which the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (May the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him), who was sent as a mercy to mankind. So rewarding is this month, that it has a night that is greater in value to any believer than a thousand months of worship!
All of the above are beautiful concepts that appeal to spiritual elements of Ramadan, however, the core beauty of this month, lies in a divine command that has been prescribed to generations of mankind with a defined purpose. This command is fasting with the intent of attaining a state of awareness of Allah’s presence and ability, defined as piety.
“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may attain piety” -The Holy Quran [2: 183]
I look at piety as a vehicle that is necessary to transport us from this world to the bounties of the next; similar to the performance of a vehicle that has not been well maintained, as time goes by without due attention, piety levels also start decreasing. A few obvious factors that lead to this decline in piety include indulgence in major and minor sins, lack of adherence to Islamic commands, and the lack of conscious thought behind daily Islamic or life-related acts. Gradually and subconsciously, actions begin to taint intentions and give birth to a state of negligence.
This is where the prescribed fasting comes into the picture. It acts as a purification tool for two very important and interlinked channels of our existence; the body and the soul.
The purification of the body occurs mainly through daytime fasting or abstinence from food, water, and other worldly desires. Not only does this act allow for the purification of the body from deadly toxins but also it allows for the control of certain physiological elements through conscious mood management. A 2005 study from the University of California, Berkeley, suggested that the purification process of fasting can lead to a reduction in risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and immune diseases. Subsequently, the study suggested that fasting could ultimately reduce the ageing process and extend a person’s lifespan.
The purification of the soul occurs mainly through the elements of worship which Ramadan focuses on heavily. These include prostration in late hours of the night, control of temper, suppression of sexual desires, recitation of the Holy Quran, and engrossment in acts of charity and kindness. Not only is it an essential component to attain piety but also it is a necessity for success in the hereafter.
“Truly he succeeds that purifies it (the soul), and he fails that corrupts it!” -The Holy Quran [91: 9-10]
The soul component of purification is heavily supported with certain special privileges given to believers from Allah such as amplification of reward and spiritual elements of closeness of the Creator to the believer. These beliefs of the hereafter and this entertainment of the soul through worship, act as factors that lead to mental relaxation (meditation) and a state of serenity and self-gratification.
In combination, the purification of the body and the soul act as quality control and continuous improvement measures for attaining and maintaining the state of awareness of a divine presence to whom believers will return and be accountable for all their deeds. For the whole purification process to be successful, it is important to adhere to principles of balance in Islam and not to take any form of purification of Ramadan to extremes.
“…as your body has a right on you, and your wife has a right on you, and your guest has a right on you…” –The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Saheeh Al Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 196
In summary, without constant monitoring, a believer can be naturally prone to a decrease in levels of God-Consciousness. Every year, Ramadan welcomes us with a clear purpose and intent to purify our bodies and souls in order to revive and strengthen our beliefs and reinforce our piety. In light of entering the Days of Forgiveness, let’s focus this Ramadan on extracting the most value from its fasting and worship. Let’s align our actions to the purpose for which they were prescribed. Let’s attain piety as commanded by the Almighty and let’s do so through the purifying ourselves in the dimensions of body and soul in balance.
“Verily for (those who attain piety) there is an achievement (success or paradise)” -The Holy Quran [78:31]
Mohammed’s bi-monthly column aims to openly and honestly target issues around the native culture, society, religion, economy, and policy that have resulted as a consequence of the constantly changing demographics of the region. The column is characterized by a point-like articulate approach that gives the reader a comprehensive understanding of the discussed issues.