The Spirit Of Islam
RAMAZAN is a month of tremendous blessings and as a month long intensive training programme begins to teach self-discipline by rearranging our daily life. It changes the time we go to bed, the time we get up, the times we eat. We learn to do without the permissible joys of this life for the long prescribed hours of the day. After a day of fasting, we break the fast only to rush to the maghrib salat, which cannot be delayed beyond a few minutes.
An hour or two later we are ready for the special nightly prayer, a unique prayer which can only be performed during Ramazan and which both highlights and cements our special relationship with the Quran. We stand and listen to the entire Quran being recited from heart in the taraweeh prayer. This is in addition to our own reading of the Quran that aims at finishing at least one cycle of the complete reading during the month on our own.
With all the extra acts of worship, there is hardly any time left for anything beyond the essential during the day and night. This is special time, when the rewards for voluntary acts of worship equal the rewards of mandatory acts and the rewards for the latter are multiplied up to 700 times. With the scales of rewards so extraordinarily high during this month, it would be folly to waste our time on things that can be done during ordinary time — throughout the rest of the year. The opportunity cost is just unbelievably high to do otherwise. Yet that is precisely what we manage to do in so many cases.
Consider iftar, the breaking of the fast at the end of the day. A Jewish acquaintance once told me about his fast of Yum Kippur. Unlike the Islamic fasts, all Jewish fasts are a one day affair but the day is longer. It starts twenty minutes before sundown on the previous night. At the end of the fast, he said, “I went to a restaurant and ate like a pig.” With the maghrib salat and the taraweeh, the Ramazan fast does not permit that. Neither does the spirit of Ramazan permit indulgence. Yet today one can see fancy restaurants in the Muslim world offering high priced iftar dinner specials that invite you to do just that.
To be sure, the fraction of Muslims going to these fancy restaurants is small, although it is increasing. But their influence on the society goes beyond these numbers, as they set the norms and expectations for the larger society. Lavish iftar parties for which people drive long distances and miss their prayers are an indication of these influences. The same observations can be made about Qiyam-ul-Lail. Ramazan nights, especially during the last third of the month, are meant to be spent in personal acts of worship, in salat, zikr, duas, reading the Quran and seeking forgiveness. Instead these are spent in talks, socialisation, and visiting bazaars.
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) while telling us about the great blessings of Ramazan, also warned about the possibility that it could cement our loss and wretchedness if we are not serious about taking advantage from its blessings. In one famous hadith the Prophet (PBUH) said that there are those who get nothing from their fasts but hunger and thirst and nothing from their qiyam-ul-lail but sleep deprivation. There can be no sterner warnings than these. We have been forewarned to be forearmed. If we pay attention to them and become serious about Ramazan, then it would be a month of tremendous blessings, otherwise the blessings would have been hijacked from us. — Courtesy: Albalagh.org