Monday 29 May 2023 \


Exploring spirituality within Ramadan

As we witness another Ramadan and receive its multitudinous, tangible and intangible gifts – it is incumbent for us to reflect upon the centrality of the Glorious Quran in this sacred month, and to strive towards attaining the higher state of perpetual cognizance of God, i.e. taqwah. The word “Ramadan” comes from the root word ramad, which literally translates as “to burn”. The word “Ramadan”, it is suggested, denotes the burning of the sins of people with good deeds. (Tafsir Imam al-Qurtubi, Vol. 2 pg. 271)
Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an: in the last ten nights, we seek Laylat al- Qadr – a night described as better than 1000 months – on which the Quran descended from the Lawh al-Mahfuz to Bayt al-’Izza, or from the Preserved Tablet to our realm, the heaven of this earth. The word "Quran" comes from the word qira'ah, or "something to be recited".
Ramadan offers respite in a world steeped in the compulsive and mundane cycles of modern life. Through fasting, we reduce our satiety of bodily impulses and pleasures to experience a higher form of existence that revitalizes the deepest, most enduring part of ourselves: our souls. In order to receive this sacred month in all of its beatitude, we must deepen our connection to the Holy Book and approach Ramadan not (solely) as a time of heightened religiosity, but also as a serious and enduring reorientation and commitment to spiritual, higher living.
We must both establish a connection to and incorporate recitation of the Quran in our daily lives, increasing both during Ramadan. It is reported in the Sahih al-Bukhari that the angel Jibril used to meet the Prophet ﷺ every night in the month of Ramadan to teach him Qur’an [Sahih al-Bukhari #6]. The Quran contains clear guidance from Allah Almighty ﷻ as a mercy upon the believers, and thus is indispensable in strengthening the believer in his faith. In Surah Yunus The Almighty said: "O mankind, there has to come to you instruction from your Lord and healing for what is in the breasts and guidance and mercy for the believers." [10:57]. Also in Surah al-Anfal Allah Almighty said: "The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts become fearful, and when His verses are recited to them, it increases them in faith; and upon their Lord they rely". [8:2]. We are informed of our imperative to recite from the Quran by the Prophetic tradition that God ﷻ says:
Whomever the Quran and My remembrance preoccupy him from beseeching me, I give [him] the best of what the beseechers are given. The superiority of the Word of God over all others is like the superiority of God over His creation.
Moreover, in Surah Yunus of the Quran, God ﷻ tells us:
Say, ‘In the bounty of God and in His mercy – in that let them rejoice; it is better than what they accumulate.’ (10:58)
Scholars of the Qur’anic sciences explain this verse, saying the bounty in which we rejoice is in and through the resplendent gift of the Quran. The gift of the Quran is clear and its recitation is prioritized in the worship of the pious, especially during Ramadan. Imam Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali in Lataif al-Maarif relates the following practices of the Salaf as-Salih [pious predecessors] in Ramadan:
  • - Imam al-Shafi’i would complete sixty khatams [cover to cover recitation] of the Quran in Ramadan alone;
  • - Imam Sufyan al-Thawri would abandon all [voluntary] acts of worship and turn towards the recitation of the Quran;
  • - Imam Malik ibn Anas was known for withdrawing from reading the Hadith and attending gatherings of the People of Knowledge to dedicate his time solely to reciting the Quran from the Mus’haf (Quranic text).
The intensity in the devotion of the Salaf as-Salih – at one time, a necessity by those seeking nearness to God – is rare today. The dedication of our predecessors is indicative of the sincerity and purity of their states, and it is by virtue of this dedication that they cultivated the flowering of Islamic civilization. Surprise at their dedication is indicative of a malaise of our modern epoch – one embedded in heedlessness and spiritual impoverishment – which, in order to be remedied, demands that we approach faith with the same rigor that once resisted the ephemeral and vain pursuits of this life.
We cannot revive our connection to the Quran without disconnecting from all that ensnares our hearts in the trivialities of this world. Muslims must embrace Ramadan as a time to withdraw from the noise, haste, and vicissitudes of modern life. Bertrand Russell’s philosophical essay, “In Praise of Idleness” provides a detailed discussion on the perils of busyiness as a distinctly modern phenomenon. Byung-Chul Han in his The Scent of Time asserts that the mechanical and absurd demands of modern industrial life deprive us from spiritual introspection and cultivation. Ramadan, therefore, offers a merciful, extended retreat from the vanities of everyday life, allowing us to focus on living intentionally, transcending the impulses and needs of the flesh, and ultimately, achieving the highest state of being: that of taqwa (God-consciousness). In Surah al-Baqarah of the holy Quran Allah Almighty reminds us: “O ye who believe, fasting was prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may attain taqwa.” [2:183]
In practical terms, this includes reducing time spent on social media, to instead, spend more time practicing conscious and mindful living. It includes more time in silent solitude, practicing, especially in the last ten nights of the sacred month, the fast of Maryam (peace be upon her soul), whose fast entailed silence in order to attain the favor of God ﷻ. Reducing our exposure to external stimuli, while refraining from food, drink, and intimacy, allows us to experience a more meaningful way of life-a rarity in the noise of the modern world characterised by “haste, franticness, restlessness, nervousness and a diffuse sense of anxiety" which determine today’s life.” Time not spent in the present is time lost.
Ramadan allows us to reorient towards living deliberately in the present and to reaffirm our position in the the universe – not merely as finite beings living in a material world of fleeting pleasures and instantaneous gratification, but rather, as spiritual beings passing through a transient world that belongs to Almighty Allah, the Eternal, in hope of His Favor.

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