In the Qur'an, God says:
"You who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be mindful of God." [2:183]
The month of Ramadan was a month that was prescribed for fasting for the community of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The word used for “mindfulness of God” in Arabic is taqwa (pronounced: tuq-wa), which comes from the same root as the word wiqaaya which means a shield. It’s meant to increase our spiritual awareness of our actions and speech. When we focus less on what we put into our mouths, we tend to focus more on what we are doing with our limbs. It helps us to be hyper-aware and sensitive to our actions, and focus on our relationship with God. This is done via individual and communal ritual worship as well as service-oriented worship.
"He who observes optional prayer (Tarawih prayers) throughout Ramadan, out of sincerity of Faith and in the hope of earning reward will have his past sins pardoned." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Muslims are encouraged to increase any acts of good, be it ritual worship, prayers, recitation of the Qur’an, acts of kindness, charity, etcetera. They take on and fulfill this religious duty to their utmost while fulfilling their normal day-to-day obligations. It makes regular physical and mental tasks a bit more difficult, but it’s all part of the 5-pillar package of Islam.
Muslims come together during Ramadan to communally break their fast and offer extra congregational prayers at the mosque during the night. Due to our inability to congregate as physical communities in our homes of worship, for those with family members in their homes, they will congregate together and pray together as families. Although people may be physically distant from one another, that does not mean they are alone. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “The example of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever.”
As the Muslim Chaplain with and for the Muslim Student Association are putting together continued programming for Ramadan, anyone is welcome to join. Throughout the month, I will be covering a series of topics primarily aimed at spiritual development. Those interested may sign up via the following link.
Click here if you are interested in reading more about Ramadan and extra resources.
Contentment in Crisis
The life of this world is temporary for every creation, both animate and inanimate. Particularly in Islam, we are reminded of this, as well as how life is full of trials and tribulations, both minor and major. This is a part of the life God has created, He mentions in the second chapter of the Qur’an: “And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, Who, when disaster strikes them, say, "Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return." Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided.” [2:155-57] and later in the third chapter “And these days (of varying conditions) We alternate among the people.” [3:140]. In times of difficulty, in times of crisis, we are encouraged to take solace in our faith, use it as a sturdy pillar upon which to rely. We turn to our Creator understanding that He is in control of everything, and there is surely Divine wisdom behind everything He does, whether we are able to perceive it or not. Finally, we should also take comfort in the beautiful words of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), "How wonderful is the case of a believer; there is good for him in everything and this applies only to a believer. If prosperity attends him, he expresses gratitude to Allah and that is good for him; and if adversity befalls him, he endures it patiently and that is better for him." - reported in the collection of Sahih Muslim. We understand that both happiness and sadness are temporary, but contentment is everlasting.
Prayer; a Constant in Crisis
I previously wrote about “Faith & Crisis,” and how for a Muslim, trials and tribulations are to be viewed as part of God’s overall plan for each and every one of His creation. Even though situations and circumstances are constantly changing, it helps, as human beings to have some sort of consistency in our lives. With the onset of a pandemic which, as we are constantly reminded, has upset that consistency, I find solace in the fact that regardless of time and place, a Muslim prays five times a day. We carve out a few minutes, multiple times a day, perform wuḍū (ritual washing), turn toward the city of Mecca, and establish a connection with our Creator. Once a week, Muslims congregate on Fridays for the Jumu’ah (literally congregational) prayer. This consists of a short sermon followed by a shortened version of the mid-day prayer. It’s a time for coming together in worship and community. Being unable to attend regular daily prayers at the mosque let alone Friday prayers has broken the consistency I’ve had, even when I do my regular daily prayers at home. This is not something easy to swallow, because we thought we’d have something to stick to while the routines of the rest of our lives are completely disrupted. I then remembered in my last entry I ended by mentioning contentment. I found it profound what Imam Al-Jurjānī, a leading 15th century Muslim theologian lists as the definition for contention in his Kitāb at-taʿrīfāt (“Book of Definitions”), a short dictionary of technical terms from theology, philosophy, and philology. He defines “riḍā” or contentment as: happiness of the heart with the bitter aspects of divine decree. Islam has, in my opinion, a simultaneously clear yet complex explanation of free will & divine decree which I won’t get into here. However, I find that being able to gain a deeper understanding of instrumental concepts of our system of beliefs is a hidden blessing that I otherwise may not have had the opportunity to experience first-hand.