Ramadan: Reverence, Restraint & Responsibility
‘There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self,’ said Aldous Huxley, the English novelist best known for his dystopian novel, Brave New World. In his exploration of the dilemmas confronting modern man (the rise of capitalism, the dehumanising demands of technological progress, and the cult of self-worship and instant gratification), Huxley hits on many truisms in his chilling forecasts to the modern world.
This month will see Muslims the world over observe the fasts of Ramadan. Ramadan is a month in which believers are required to buckle down more consciously so as to improve their own ‘corner of the universe.’
The month is marked by heightened religious observance and also a keener sense of social cohesion, and provides a powerful energy for self-transformation. As the month progresses, many Muslims, repentant for the ills and misdeeds of their past, resolving never to return to such ways again. Indeed, men, women and whole societies actively purify themselves during this month. This experience becomes, for many, the turning point of the year and, for some, their whole lives. Furthermore, Ramadan yields to the believer an array of timely lessons to help steer them through what is fast becoming a chaotic and volatile world. Let’s touch upon three such lessons:
1. Undoubtedly, Ramadan’s core lesson is learning to be more mindful and conscious of God, which relates to the sense of ta‘zim (“reverence” and “awe”) of Him. Ramadan is a call to renew our reverence of God by revering the Divine orders and respecting their limits (hudud). The regime of fasting sets certain limits which, though designed to facilitate our detachment from the dunya; the lower world, and from the nafs; the ego, it is ultimately about offering believers an opportunity to revere and remember God more fully and faithfully.
2. Another of Ramadan’s recurring lessons is that of restraint. By temporarily denying themselves instant gratification while fasting, Muslims are taught self-restraint. Here we confront Islam as counter-culture. For what could be more unmodern than to keep the cravings of the nafs in check. Modernity is about pandering to the nafs. “Free yourself”, “Be yourself”, “Indulge yourself”, is modernity’s holy trinity.
Our current climate is one where Muslims find themselves under constant scrutiny, criticism or attack. Hardly a day goes by, in the media or the world at large, without Islam being fair game. Yet for believers, the self-restraint exercised in Ramadan is the same restraint we must demonstrate in the face of all such provocations. The Qur’an asserts: You shall certainly hear much that is hurtful from those who were given the Book before you, and from the idolaters. But if you are patient and God-conscious, these are weighty factors in all affairs.[3:186]
3. Ramadan also teaches us responsibility, particularly to the world’s poor and hungry. For by the end of a day’s fast, Muslims usually experience some sensation of hunger. Thus we are awakened, in a most direct manner, to the plight of hundreds of millions of our fellow human beings who suffer hunger and starvation every day. This should compel us to extend to them our help and support. In a world filled with grotesque human inequalities, and soaked in the unholiness of poverty, we must each commit ourselves to eliminating this global injustice.
This year, as schools up and down the country wind-up the task of grounding pupils in the Three R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic), Ramadan offers its own Three R’s: reverence, restraint & responsibility. Internalising such lessons best prepares believers to engage the brave new world of the turbo-consumerist Monoculture and help bring about its much needed healing.
Assalamu Alaikum warahmatullah. Jazakallah for such a wonderful blog on “The Humble i”. May Allah (SWT) grant you good health, long life and reward you abundantly for your relentless and wonderful effort in guiding, serving and enlightening the muslim ummah in the right path. May you and your family reap the bounties of your hard work both inthis world and the hereafter, Ameen.
Amin. Than you for your support; and please continue to keep us in your prayers. May Allah grant you immense good in both worlds.
Well written…what is a bigger test than to go against the zeitgeist of the pleasure principle.
May I ask you something sheikh ? Is it blasphemous to consider that all the “rites are rituals” of our beloved deen that have been practised throughout the ages; now, now is the time that they matter the most. For example Ramadan , nikah, praying, and just obliging to morals they all seem more difficult now in this day and age than ever before because of the disgusting world we find ourselves in. So perhaps now it more important than ever to follow through ? Do you see what I mean, in the ear of the Brave New World.
I’m not quite sure what you mean by the phrase “rites are rituals”, but I’ll hazard a guess anyway:
If someone believes, for example, that the true significance behind the act of prayer is mere bodily exercise, instead of worship and submission of Allah, then yes; this is indeed blasphemous. Such is also the case with one who believes that fasting in Ramadan has no other purpose except to detox one’s body. To believe that the well known pillars of practice in Islam are mere rituals, and not actual acts of glorification, praise and worship of Allah, is clear falsehood.
But if “rites are rituals” refers to how most of us Muslims pray and fast and perform our worship – as mere empty rituals, devoid of true sincerity and lacking in presence of heart with Allah – then the phrase cannot be objected to.
And Allah knows best.
May God forgive me, I meant to say the opposite of people who these days think ‘God is in my heart’ and then proceed to do whatever they want. The words may sound low, but I meant to say that the “rites and rituals” are more important now then ever before. I was especially referring to the liberal sects who have some form of belief in their heart but don’t follow through with any of the ordinances and “sunnah”.
And I think in these times, it is more important then ever before to follow the precedents as close as possible.
I hope I was a bit more clear this time. I know you are a busy man, but perhaps this Ramadan, you can write out two or posts a week.
-Jazak Allah Khayr
Angry Young Man,
No need to apologise. I know you were not advocating it, but just asking me to comment on it.
And yes, I couldn’t agree more. Faith first stems from the heart, but then must take concrete shape in the form of righteous deeds and works of faith (i.e. following the sunnah and the shari’ah). Hence the oft-repeated phrase in the Qur’an: those who believe and do righteous deeds.
As for writing two posts a week, for Ramadan, I’ll give it a shot inshallah; though three posts every two weeks may be more realistic.
Angry Old[ish] Man (trying to mellow in Ramadan),
Abu Aaliyah. 🙂
Beautiful article Sheikh! I see a lot of anger on social media about Gaza and Syria and how the “west” views Muslims. May this Blessed Month and your words encourage us to improve ourselves and our situations before looking at others.
Thank you, br Ali.
Righteous anger for the sake of Allah, against sin, tyranny and injustice, is from piety. Frenzied anger from the nafs or for the sake of the nafs isn’t. True anger for the sake of Allah is likely to be consistent and present whenever and wherever God’s majesty and justice is offended; it won’t be subject to being switched on and off by the media story of the week. True anger will also be conditioned with compassion and service.
Subhan Allah!! Very well explained and easily understood. Jazzak Allah Khairan!! Abu Aliya for sharing. May Allah Taala give you the best of Ajars. Aameen!!
Barakallahu fikum, Sr Novera. May Allah grant us the blessed fruits of Ramadan – the month wherein Allah needs any excuse to reward His servants. Such is the generosity of our Lord.