By Imam Raouf Abdullah
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem,
As Salaamu `Alaikum wa Ramadhan Mubarak.
We want to benefit from Al Islam. Religion is given to the people by their lord to advance communal life. A lone person does not need religion. Such a person will find his lord on his/her own. A community, by contrast, cannot exist without religion. The stress of the competing attitudes, motivatons, needs, values, and perceptions inevitably leads to mistrust and conflict. (See, e.g., The Lord of the Flies). A relief valve and a salve for the stresses of community life is the unifying effect of religion. Our leader, Prophet Mohammed, Prayers and Peace upon him, as he is illuminated in the tafsir of Imam Warithudeen Mohammed, Peace upon him, said take charge of five before five deprive you. The “five” referred to in this context is the five senses or the human intellect. Thus, to benefit from Al Islam we must take charge of our thinking mind and apply our human intelligence to the message of the Holy Qur’an.
Applying our thinking mind to Ramadhan frees us to get the “Night of Power.” The purpose of the Ramadhan fast is for the Muslim community and the individual member of the Muslim community to give up reliance on the physical food and the sensory infusion that the material world offers us so that we might open our spiritual appetite to the spiritual food of trust in Allah, the Most High, and surrender to his will in commitment to peace on earth and good will to all creatures. The emphasis in the regimen that is offered by Allah, the Supreme Being, to us in Ramadhan is controlling the appetite for selfish indulgence. The emphasis is also in freeing the potential to be fair to one’s self and fair to all others. When we come into the state of love for Allah coupled by a commitment to decent behaviour, we have made a major step into grasping the “power” that Ramadhan offers. The power comes in the night and wisks us into the dawn of a new world order of civilized society. This achievement, in one night, is better than a lifetime of futile prayer and dhikr with no real commitment to Allah and to human harmony.
Applying the intellect to spiritual concerns means always asking what is the purpose and benefit of the guidance given to us in religion. Those who fast because the Qur’an enjoins fasting are wonderful people. Those who fast and also ask Allah to guide them into the understanding of the fast are the ones who make the most progress. The angels give perfect obedience. Adam, by means of his desire to please Allah, gives perfect obedience and then asks Allah to reveal to him the science of the obedience. Allah is pleased that Adam’s nature impels Adam to seek the “destiny.” The destiny is the understanding. So, if we seek the understanding, we are seeking heaven. When we seek heaven, we are taking charge of “five” and we are not being deprived by the lower five (sensory desire).
Ramadhan offers a way to reach heaven yet while we live. The Jews and the Christians have their form of Ramadhan. Unfortunately, they lost the understanding of the purpose of the fast. Yes, the fast is a pentenance for our misdeeds and failures, but the most important aspect of religious fasting, as discussed above, is to shut down the distractions so that our soul can receive the spiritual food of submission to Allah and obedience to his command for us to be upright in conduct (primate). By studying the Qur’an and the life of Mohammed, the Jewish and Christian scholars can refocus their communities’ attention on applying their ritual fasts for the original, intended purposes.
We pray for the blessing of a blessed month. We ask for mercy, blessings, and last, for forgiveness. We embrace all of our brothers and sisters and ask that we work together to live in peace, extolling our common values and respecting our distinctions.
Raouf M. Abdullah