rat-race-meetingSome lovers of this fleeting life live their lives in the fast line; ever eager to keep their motor of materialism in top gear. Some are content to cruise the consumerist dream in third or fourth gear. Others only manage to dawdle through dunya’s distractions in second. But all such lovers are bitterly averse, to moseying along in first gear, let alone reverse.

For believers, Ramadan is that time of the year where we are reminded to ease off the accelerator and to responsibly slide out of the rat race – if not in body, then at least in mind and in spirit. Only by stepping outside of the frenzy can we realign our centres and reassess our true goals. Ramadan has all the social and spiritual technology built into it to allow us to do precisely that. (Even as I write, I have just received a text from a well-known business company asking me to remember just how amazing the world is and how I need to “Jump in” and “Embrace life”).

In Ramadan, I hope to post a few spiritual reminders touching on different facets of Ramadan, from the acclaimed jurist, hadith master and worldly renunciant (zahid), Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali. But for now, let us kick-off this series with the following words from him, which seek to arouse sleepers from their sins and slumber and energise and alert us to what we can do and become in the blessed month of Ramadan. Thus, in concluding his advice concerning the duties and spiritual attainments in the month of Sha‘ban, Ibn Rajab writes (in verse form):

‘O you who were not content to sin just in Rajab;
But disobeyed your Lord, even in Sha‘ban.
The fasting month has come now to shade you,
Turn it not into a month of sinfulness too.
Recite the Qur’an and glorify God, diligently;
For it is the month of glorification and Qur’an.
Deny bodily appetites, seeking salvation through it;
For soon bodies shall be consumed by the Fire.
How many you knew who fasted previously:
From among family, neighbours and brothers.
Death obliterated them, leaving you to live on;
How close are the the living to those who are dead.
You take pride in your Id clothes, cut to fit;
Yet the morrow they will be your burial shrouds!
Until when will man dwell in his place of dwelling?
Knowing his ultimate abode is the grave.’1

1. Lata’if al-Ma‘arif (Riyadh: Dar Ibn Khuzaymah, 2007), 351-2.

9 thoughts on “Ramadan: Time to Slide Out of the Rat Race

  1. Good reminder. At jumah yesterday the pre khutbah talk was on reminder of Ramadan and its benefits- but then the imam spent 10 mins trying to informpeople that taraweeh was not 8 rakat but 20!! The mosque has some worshippers who leave after 8 rakat- I don’t know why the imam thought this was something to raise.
    After all, night prayer is in 2+2+2+2 etc.. and you can read how much you want- ending in witr (to make odd number). It does not need to be 20+3 it can be 8+1 or 8+3 etc.

    1. Perhaps the imam raised the issue because he knows that the established practice of tarawih in all the Four Sunni madhhabs is twenty rak’ahs (early Malikis would have prayed 36 rak’ahs) – with a number of classical scholars citing an actual consensus on the matter.

      Perhaps he raised it because he knows that there is no documented evidence, since the time of the tabi’un, that the Two Sacred mosques of Makkah & Madinah have ever prayed eight rak’ahs.

      Or perhaps he raised it because he is aware that those of the most authoritative manuals of fiqh – which detail for us the positions, fatwas and practices of the early mujtahid imams – only mention a difference between 20 rak’ahs and 36; they don’t even mention 8 rak’ahs as being an option.

      Perhaps he raised it because he just cannot conceive how the great bulk of the ummah could have erred for over thirteen hundred years, while one or two scholars in the last half a decade have managed to arrive at the so-called truth that tarawih prayer in Ramadan is eight rak’ahs due to the hadith of the lady Aishah related by al-Bukhari. And perhaps he refuses to accept that this hadith was unknown or overlooked by the vast majority of the jurists, only to be spotted and correctly understood by a few late-commers.

      Perhaps he raised it fearing that, if we can begin to rewrite established juristic practices that have been handed down to us by the great imams of early Islam, based upon texts that are talaqqi al-qubul (unanimously accepted as authoritative proof), then what others parts of Islam can and will be reformed and rewritten?

      Who knows why? 🙂

      Finally, though you are right, one could pray as little as two rak’ahs for tarawih, but the issue is what is the preferred method that has been transmitted to us in an unbroken chain of practice from the imams of Sunnah and shari’ah? And why the mini mass migration out of the mosque after eight rak’ahs; why not after ten, or six or fourteen?

      May Allah bless our Ramadan and make our actions correct and sincere, seeking only His face.

      1. …i reckon they just want to go home and sleep, which is why they walk away after reading just 8 rakahs. In my local majid they have even changed the taraweeh time….it’s insane!

  2. I have been many times to the Middle East and at this time of the year the temperature can get to about 50c ,which is really scorching..when the soles of shoes stick to the tarmack…I have seen workers on the road doing manual work and sitting listelessly..and have been told that because of Ramadan they cannot drink or eat……now what sort of God would expect these people to be made to suffer like this for the sake of an order from someone who is sitting in an air conditioned room…..they die like ants….because they were denied food and water while working under extreme circumstances……and diabetes is high in the ME as people overeat after sundown…they eat chestfuls of chocolates and food into the early hours of the morning some like gluttons…what is the purpose of Ramadan when enacted culturally like this? don’t kill me please!!!x

    1. You’re probably aware that those who are required to do very strenuous labour in such scorching temperatures will, in all likelihood, be exempted from fasting in Ramadan, according to Islamic law (although they will have to make the days up later).

      However, such workers (like builders, for instance, working on an open building site) will have to consult a qualified scholar or mufti first, in order to obtain the correct religious ruling for their specific situation.

      And Allah knows best.

      Finally, if people are missing the deeper significance of fasting, they should gentle be advised and taught its true significance. There is always some point in a Muslim fasting in Ramadan, even if it be with the smallest grain of faith and the tiniest morsel of spiritual ambition. However, it is for other co religionists around him to help motivate him to higher heights of faith, sincerity and obedience.

      (Please also read Abdur-Rahman’s comment below)

  3. What beautiful words . I am looking forward to ramadaan. There is that feeling of peace in your heart and soul that words cannot describe. It is such a month
    of transformation for me, like a re-charge or catch up for my shortcomings.People ask why do we do it and I feel sometimes that they want to know that feeling of faith. I took that leap of faith about 4 years ago when the ‘ship was sinking’ and I had nowhere to turn and alhamdulillah my life has changed immensely. There are people who are excused from fasting because of illness or extreme work conditions like charlotten2 mentioned but look at these people, they still do it because of their true faith and submission and to please their Lord. Then again its a very small price to pay for paradise. May Allah swt increase their faith and all of ours and may we be soaked in the blessings showering down from the heavens in this blessed month. Ameen

  4. Greetings,

    Thank you very much for this post.

    Ramadan is a month during which I seek (as you say here) to ease off the accelerator, despite (and challenged by) working in a frenetically busy corporate environment. As it is a non-Islamic environment, there is no collective acknowledgement of Ramadan, and thus I am left to seek, and fast, quietly to myself.

    All good wishes,


Leave a Reply