There is an art of polishing copper utensils in Kashmir known as ‘kalai’ wherein the old utensils which have lost lustre and colour due to wear and tear are polished to bring back the shine.
Ramadan is exactly this!
I never believed that Ramadan was a mere calendar month of the year, with a new moon, full moon and the cycle of lunar stages. It is a spiritual journey along with cleansing of the body and mind. The journey without travelling any linear distance takes the self to a higher elevated level. It depends upon the individual as to what he or she derives from this month. As in Indian philosophy we have the body(shareer), mind(Mann) and intellect (shukshma shareer) always in disturbance due to or with each other. The de cluttering of mind, body and soul is essential for the continuity of life. Every faith has a built in mechanism to control these three entities. The Buddhists emphasise on silent meditation. The Christians, the Jews and the Muslims have their own month of fasting. And Hinduism has every form of worship. Yoga is their way of reforming the overall self. The Divine for them is formless, or in multiple forms or in self. Every idea of Divine has been accepted in the Asian religions. Therefore, the path that leads to this divinity is varied and diverse in form.
Islam brought in more discipline and regularity in reviving the self periodically.
The practice of reviving, re-energising and re-orienting the self is the essence of the month. Each one of us has been bestowed with an energy field or an aura. The three parts of our personality define this aura. The spiritual personality entails the self-purification, devotion or worship one does. The physical personality requires nutrition, diet and healthy organs. And the mind requires power to control itself, to weed out the negative thoughts and focus on the life goals.
People all over the world spend dollars on reforming self and they call it ‘personality development’ crash course. In the corporate world, we have personality development coaches, human resource development programs, modules, training and development sections that fall under the ambit of Human resource management.
The big jargons and modern concepts one learns in these programs is rooted in the basic virtues of character. And strength of character does not come from short bridge courses but from the experiences and practices in everyday life. Teamwork, Integrity, efficiency, cooperation, and name any organisational principle, all are hidden features of the human character. Month of Ramadan is the best personal coach one can ever have in life and that too free of cost. We as a community are bestowed traditionally with a therapy or a yearly program to deal with the modern world of any century. Ramadan is the most advanced scientific way of treating the human psyche along with the physical self. The Japanese scientists have recently been awarded Nobel prize for disclosing the fact that fasting for around 25 days in a year can possibly prevent growth of cancerous cells in the body. The Muslim community silently practised and treated themselves since centuries without the wisdom of physical benefit. The belief that goodness encompassed this month was far important for the medieval world than the factual proof of the modern world. We need logical analysis, reasoning and scientific proof to accept any concept. Our conviction is wired around scientific explanations.
Nevertheless, the foremost principle of Ramadan is self-control. The pangs of hunger bring in empathy towards those struck with poverty by destiny. In a grossly homogeneous society like Kashmir where almost everyone is fasting, we realise we have limited physical and mental energy for the day. Hence cooperate, have patience, forgo irritations and save ourselves for the most important tasks of the day.
Eventually by the end of the month, we inculcate the habit to ignore the unnecessary trivial matters and conserve the mind energy for the important aspects of life. Rich, poor, old, young, men, women, all are tested by the same mechanism but it is upon the individual to reach the Pinnacle of piety, to learn the art of control and management, to de clutter the impurities of mind and transform into better versions of self. The month that starts with the new moon ends with the new moon. What one does to self between this cycle becomes his story.
The author is of Karnataka origin settled in Kashmir.