|In the Name of God, the Merciful, the
|The Greatness of Ramadaan
the Quran and celebrating Taqwa
Shaykh Seraj Hendricks, Head Mufti of Cape Town, South Africa
"The month of Ramadaan is the month
in which the Quran was revealed as a guidance for humanity, as a clear proof of that guidance, and as a criterion for distinguishing
between right and wrong" (2 : 185).
In as much as celebrating the Prophets birthday (the Milad un-Nabi) can be read
as a celebration of the greatness of the Prophet (SAW) in his aspect of the perfect man (Insan ul-Kamil); and in as much as
Yaum Ashura can be read as a celebration of the saving of Nabi Musa (AS) from the tyrannical pharaonic oppressors; similarly
Ramadaan can be read as a celebration of the revelation of the Quran during this month. It is a celebration of the Quran as
both a living guidance and a living proof to humanity. It stands as a living proof of the divinity of Allahu Taaala, as a
living proof of the authenticity of the prophethood of Muhammad (SAW), and of the supremacy of revelation over all else.
the Quran is also a Huda (a guidance). And as Huda as true guidance it teaches us how to live our lives as complete human
beings. It teaches us how to live our lives with respect, dignity, honor, and love. It further teaches us that Allahu Taaala
is a divinity that embraces the concerns of all humanity.
It is also important to remember that the guidance and concerns
of Allahu Taaala are not limited to mere theoretical or idealistic utterances. The guidance of Allahu Taaala plunges us into
the mainstream of our earthly existence. One of the ways in which Allahu Taaala has done this is by making the fast obligatory
upon all of us.
Not only are we required to sympathize with the poor and the hungry, but we are thrown into the very
experience of hunger.
Not only are we required to reflect upon our condition in a society with its mores, customs,
habits, rules, and general routine which looms far greater than the sum of its individuals, but it forces us to reflect upon
the very nature of that society. It is so easy to become a cog in the political, economic, social, and industrial machine.
In short to become a spiritually forgetful being in the material and mechanical processes of ordinary life.
forces us to break this forgetfulness, and forces us to anchor the consciousness of truth and spirituality in every domain
of our existence i.e. to act upon the truth of Islam and to live by its spirituality.
Fasting, by depriving us of
the daily luxuries and niceties of our mundane existence asserts the supremacy of our essential condition as beings endowed
with a soul (ruh) over our condition as material and temporal beings. Fasting, therefore, at once draws us into the bosom
of Allahu Taaala and allows us to reflect upon the high moral, social, and spiritual values which Islam sets for us. In other
words fasting focuses our attention on the broader meaning of Taqwa as expressed in the following verse:
"O you who
believe, fasting has been prescribed upon you as it has been prescribed upon those before you so that you may learn Taqwa"
(2 : 183).
The Arabic of the phrase in the above verse "so that you may learn Taqwa" reads as "lallakum tattaqun".
The term "taqwa" in its narrower meaning - has been variously translated as fear, piety, self-restraint, and guarding against
evil. However, to do justice to its meaning, and to better understand the link between the Quran as Huda (true guidance) and
Taqwa as one of the most desired virtues in man, a more comprehensive understanding of the term is required. That understanding
is dependent on our understanding of the nature of man and woman.
The Islamic perspective is that we, as people, are
composed of both body and soul or matter and spirit. We are also considered to be both the viceregent of Allah on earth (khalifatullah)
and his servants (ibaadullah). As viceregents we are ordered to perfect our earthly existence whether it be in our private,
domestic, social, economic or political lives. As servants of Allah we are ordered to perfect our spiritual existence. Taqwa
circumscribes both these conditions. In other words, and as alluded to earlier, it means to observe our duty towards Allahu
Taaala in all our social and communal relations (towards Muslims and non-Muslims alike); and in our spiritual relations towards
Allahu Taaala Himself. This is a difficult task and one of the means that Allah has given us to attain this level is the fast.
But, and typical of Quranic "pragmatism", there are no false promises. In the Arabic the emphasis is quite clearly on the
phrase "l&allakum" ("so that you may" or "perhaps"). The means to Taqwa, through the great institution of fasting, have
been placed at our disposal. It is up to us to use, misuse, or even ignore the means. This condition is encapsulated in the
following Prophetic saying : "For those who do not refrain from lying or acting on such lies, Allah has no need of their abandoning
their food and drink" (Bukhari).
Taqwa can further be realized through three opportunities provided for us by the
The disciplining of the will (tarbiyat ul-Iradah)
The purification of the self (tazkiyat un-Nafs)
purification of the soul (tasfiyat ur-Ruh)
Allah says at the conclusion of the verse initially quoted: " That
He wants you to complete the prescribed period (of fasting) so that you are able to magnify the greatness of Allah for His
having guided you, and so that perchance you may be thankful" (2 : 185).
The greatness of Ramadaan therefore lies
in the opportunity it offers for the development of Taqwa a virtue that allows us to truly participate in that great cosmic
celebration in honor of the revelation of the Quran as a Huda to all people, which is, as mentioned earlier, Ramadaan itself.
It is a virtue furthermore, that allows us to magnify Allah Taaala as He ought to be magnified, namely, with complete awareness
of our earthly duties and spiritual vocation; and, therefore, to be of those who are truly thankful to Allah. It is a virtue
too, which is ultimately celebrated in the Quran itself, for Allah says: " The best of you are those who have learnt Taqwa"
(49 : 13).
© As-Sunna Foundation of America & The Muslim Magazine