By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota
Ramadan is expected to begin on May 6th, give or take a day. Some helpful information was shared on the FaceBook site. Check it out. Ramadan Mubarak in Advance!
“O who believe, fasting is decreed for you as it was decreed for those before you; perchance you will guard yourselves.”
“The month of Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was sent down, a guidance for the people, and clear verses of guidance and criterion.” (Quran: Chapter 2, 183)
The fourth pillar of Islam is Sawm or Fasting in the month of Ramadan. Fasting is also practiced in many other religions and is mentioned in the Torah and Bible as well as in Hindu scriptures. Observant Christians fast during Lent by giving up a particular food. Hindus fast on certain days of the week or on holidays, and for Jews, the most important day of fasting is on Yom Kippur, which lasts a little over a day.
Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic Calendar. Because Ramadan follows the lunar calendar, it rotates through the seasons, moving back around eleven days each year. Last year, Ramadan started on May 16th and this year, Ramadan will begin on May 6.
Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, abstaining from food and drink during this time. The aim of the fast is to weaken the physical desire or self and allow for the purification of the soul. It’s a process of spiritual purification and strengthening of willpower to carry us through the year. Muslims break their fast with dates and water followed by the evening prayer and dinner.
Those who are sick or unable to fast, such as elderly, pregnant or nursing women, travelers, and of course children, are exempt from fasting. However, they do participate in the spiritual part of Ramadan, rejuvenating their faith and growing closer to God through extra worship, feeding the poor, charity and other good deeds.
A Month of Prayer and Qur’an
It is customary for families to attend the local mosque after breaking fast for special nightly prayers called taraweeh. The entire Qur’an, 114 chapters or 6,000 verses are recited by the end of Ramadan in a melodious recitation, called tajweed.
Paul Tillich said, “The first duty of love is to listen.”
God listens to every supplicant when we call on Him, to our prayers of need and forgiveness, and now we need to listen to His call so we may walk in the right way.
We spend our lives talking to each other and even talking to God. This is a month that emphasizes listening to God.
It is encouraged to read the entire Qur’an and listen to God. This might be difficult at first but if you do not judge yourself and wait for the right feelings to manifest, and just do it regardless the mood or feelings, over time, you will develop a love of listening to the Qur’an and listening to the meanings of the verses.
Initially, years ago, reading the Qur’an was difficult. At times, certain passages disturbed you. However, as time flew and one continued to listen, the beauty in the passages and the light in its wisdom started to unfold layer by layer. Now listening to various scholars discuss the verses of Qur’an is something that I enjoy. And the conversations within the Quran, help you understand not just life, but nurture within you love of the Prophets and God.
It is okay to say, I don’t understand but listen. The understanding will come to you at the right moment after serious study and you will develop a relationship with the Author as you struggle to know Him.
The words will no longer be words on a page, or thoughts in one’s mind, or an analysis – but a connection, to oneself, to the prophets and believers and more importantly to God. The prophets are described as when they hear the verses of God, they fall down in prostration and tears of adoration. May we reach that state of love of God that the Prophets reached.
A Month of Blessings
Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings taught Muslims:
“Ramadan has come to you. (It is) a month of blessing, in which God covers you with blessing, for He sends down Mercy, decreases sins and answers prayers. In it, God looks at your competition (in good deeds), and boasts about you to His angels. So show God goodness from yourselves, for the unfortunate one is he who is deprived in (this month) of the mercy of God, the Mighty, the Exalted.”
Muslims are reminded to embrace this opportunity and receive the blessed month of Ramadan with gratitude, repentance, sincerity, steadfastness and fervor.
Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, addressed his companions on the day before Ramadan began, saying,
“Oh people! A great month has come over you; a blessed month; a month in which is a night better than a thousand months; month in which God has made it compulsory upon you to fast by day, and voluntary to pray by night. Whoever draws nearer (to God) by performing any of the (optional) good deeds in (this month) shall receive the same reward as performing an obligatory deed at any other time, and whoever discharges an obligatory deed in (this month) shall receive the reward of performing seventy obligations at any other time. It is the month of patience, and the reward of patience is Heaven.”
A Month of Mercy, Forgiveness, and Salvation
The first ten days of the month is an emphasis on seeking mercy. The second ten is an emphasis on seeking forgiveness and the final ten, salvation.
Many view Ramadan as a boot camp for Muslims, where everyone strives to purify the soul together. Teachers will remind Muslims that God should also see from us on the first night of Ramadan sincere remorse and genuine repentance from all the wrong actions of our lives up to this point.
Allah shows mercy to those who are merciful. Mercy is not just for Muslims, but this should extend to people of other faiths. In addition to this, we should have mercy in our hearts for all of His creation and have a sincere desire for the guidance of all morally responsible beings on the surface of the Earth.
Teachers also emphasize to forgive everyone so that we can prepare our hearts for God’s gaze and seek His forgiveness. Muslims are encouraged to follow the example of Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, and sincerely forgive everyone that transgressed upon us as well as request forgiveness from anyone for any wrong we may have done to them.
During Ramadan, our teachers have advised us not to do anything with our limbs that would be a cause of sorrow for the heart of our beloved Prophet, upon him peace and blessings.
This is also a time for expressing our true state, which is brokenness and neediness for God. This is the real meaning of prostration in Islam.
These spiritual teachings are important as Prophet Muhammad, upon him, peace and blessings taught Muslims that fasting is not just about hunger and thirst. It’s about re-dedicating ourselves to God and becoming conscious and grateful of God’s enabling grace upon us. This is the month of self-evaluation and rebuilding community and family ties. It is an opportunity from the Divine to aid us in our struggles to perfect our character in every way.
- How did we do since last Ramadan?
- What milestones and goals will we work towards next year?
- What have we done for the less fortunate?
- What are we going to do? Did we remember them in our prayer at least?
- Will we not even make a prayer for them this Ramadan?
I always like to use the Prayers of Forgiveness from Hasan al-Basri and add the word ‘protection’ to each prayer as God knows us and our weaknesses and blind spots best. Below is an example.
“O Allah, I seek Your forgiveness [and PROTECTION] for every sin that Your pen recorded and Your knowledge encompassed—every one that I have committed and that I am to commit until the end of my life. I seek Your forgiveness for all my sins: the first and the last, the intentional and the unintentional, the few and the many; the minor and the major, the subtle and the noticeable, the past and the recent, the secret and the open and public—and all those I am to commit throughout my life.”
A Month of Charity
Muslims believe that Ramadan is also the month of charity and generosity, and a month in which a believer’s sustenance is increased. It is also the month that helps and trains Muslims to be compassionate for those less fortunate than us. Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, used to be at his most generous in Ramadan.
Muslims are taught to make the intention to perform extra acts of devotion and worship therein, including additional mid night prayer (qiyam) and end of night prayer (tahajjud), and abundant charity to the poor and needy. The last ten days of Ramadan, for the aspiring souls is a time of seclusion (i’tikaf) wherein Muslims spend the entire night at the Mosque spending the whole night till dawn in prayer and worship.
High Intentions and Set Goals
Ramadan trains you and gives you the support, but the acts of worship are encouraged throughout your life. If you make your intention for this Ramadan and every Ramadan until your last moment, and act upon it now and yet never make it to another Ramadan, you get the reward for every Ramadan you intended as though you did the act of worship.
What seduced you from your Most Generous Lord?
Make high intentions now, and act with the power and gifts you have.
If you wish to experience Ramadan with your Muslim neighbors or at your local Mosque, see Taking Heart program at Muslim American Society, Minnesota Chapter
Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian-American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US. Currently, she lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.