Ramadan and Our Plight
PROF G R MALIK
Once more the blessed month of Ramadan has arrived. This year, however, it is casting its benign shadow on us at a time when we are passing through the most frightening and tragic phase of the nightmare that we have been living for over six decades now. How can Ramadan at a time like this prove to be a source of solace and inspiration for us? According to a hadith reported by Bihaqui through Salman al-Farisi (RA), the Prophet delivered a lecture (khutbah) on the eve of Ramadan in which he mentioned the various characteristics and blessings of Ramadan. Among other things the Prophet characterised the month as shahr al-sabr (the month of Sabr) and shahr al-muwasat (the month of sympathy and kindness).
Sabr is a comprehensive and wide-ranging moral quality which cannot be rendered through a single word or phrase in English. Self-discipline, self restraint, perseverance, steadfastness, unflinching adherence to a principle or cause and patience – all these combined together constitute the essence of sabr. To my knowledge the best definition of the Quranic term, sabr has been developed by Hujjat al-Islam Imam al-Ghazzali in his great work Ihya al-‘Uloom al-Din. According to him man, from his biological and moral-spiritual constitution, is a battleground of two opposing forces of huda and hawa. Huda, predilection and tendency towards cultivating the divine side in man in accordance with the guidance of Revelation, always faces tremendous resistance from hawa – the animal impulses and desires of man. Sabr is the moral attribute which helps a person to stick to huda and overcome the resistance of hawa. The beloved Prophet (SAW) remarked in a famous hadith that “none of you is a believer unless his hawa (desires and impulses) becomes subservient to the revelation with which I have been sent”. (Baghwi in Sharah al-Sunnah).
How does fasting help in inculcating the admirable moral attribute of sabr in us? The most dominant animal desires in man are those of eating, drinking and sensual impulse. One needs a long and strenuous training in order to develop the capability of gaining control over these unruly desires. Ramadan is one such rigorous training course. From early morning till evening man has to restrain himself from eating in spite of excessive hunger; he has to resist thirst when his throat and mouth are dry; and he has to deny himself the relief that one gets from the gratification of sensual desire. Not only this, he cannot satisfy these desires during the day in Ramadan even by lawful ways provided for in Shariah in other days than those of fasting. In this way fasting develops in us tremendous power of resistance to desires. That is why the Prophet in a hadith reported by both Bukhari and Muslim described sawm (fasting) as junnah (shield). Just as the shield resists and repulses physical attacks so does fasting save us from attacks aimed at the moral-spiritual side of our being.
Fasting is equally effective in inculcating among us the moral attribute of muwasat (sympathy and kindness). By experiencing hunger and thirst we empathise with those unfortunate members of the human race who do not have access even to the basic necessities of life. In accordance with the law of nature the circumference of this sympathy goes on expanding and covers all the poor and the needy who require help from their more fortunate brethren. It is reported in Bihaqui about the Prophet that his usual generosity would increase several fold during the month of Ramadan so that he would give magnanimously to every asker and set free the prisoners and relieve the suffering of those in pain.
At a time when we are most in need of self-discipline, perseverance, patience and relentless commitment to the ideals of truth and justice and at a catastrophic juncture when loss of life, property and daily wages of many of our brothers is causing tremendous problems, Ramadan, the month of sabr and the month of sympathy, should prove a source of blessed inspiration for us.
Lastupdate on : Thu, 12 Aug 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 12 Aug 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 13 Aug 2010 00:00:00 IST
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