For Muslim men and women the Islamic month of Ramadan is a time for spiritual rejuvenation, rekindling the spiritual spark in our hearts, to refresh our love for our Sustainer – Allah the Exalted.
It is time for spiritual purification. While fasting our bodies take less food, but our souls aim to be nourished profusely to gain spiritual vigour and strength. The very objective of fasting during the month of Ramadan is to revitalize our inner self – through attaining and then endeavouring to maintain righteousness, getting closer to God through acts of self-restraint, and by means of many spiritual exercises.
The day long fasting, for continuous 30 days, helps us to learn the merits of remaining patient, steadfast and determined. We try our utmost not to think or indeed do any evil, but to spend time to think well, to be benevolent to others, and to re-establish a strong connection with Allah.
Muslims read, recite and listen to the Holy Qur’an in the month of Ramadan as much as possible and more than they would at other times. Special sermons and classes on the teachings of the Qur’an are held. Most Muslims try to finish at least one reading of the entire Qur’an in this month.
Ramadan is also a time to change one’s attitude towards others – to reaffirm to behave better, to live in kindness and love with others – be they our family members, neighbours, colleagues and indeed strangers. It is also a time to settle disputes, to apologise and to seek forgiveness from others. The Qur’an is very clear that controlling one’s temper is a necessary virtue for a believer, and the month of Ramadan is the right time to practice anger- management as indeed during fasting hours it is a requirement to control one’s anger.
During the month of Ramadan, it is not only that the intake of the food — which is otherwise permissible and required for the body — is restricted, but more importantly it trains all of our physical senses to stay in control – may they be the eyes, ears or tongue: to control the eyes from wandering around inappropriately, the ears not to listen anything useless and improper, the tongue not to speak ill, not to lie, not to backbite, and not to get into any useless gossip or argument. Ramadan is a time to focus and look at the positive side of life, and eschew the negative. It is an excellent time to break bad habits.
It goes without saying that it is a good time to have a sense of community. Not only bread is broken with family members, friends and community members at the time of breaking fast, but more importantly taking care of those in need, the homeless and the destitute is an essential part of Ramadan. Charitable acts are heightened with the aim of attaining higher spiritual level.
In Ramadan, with the passage of time, the intensity of spiritual heat increases, so much so that some Muslims decide to spend the last 10 days of the month of Ramadan full time in mosque. While making supplications to God, worshiping Him regularly in the mosque, and reading the Holy Scripture, people spend their time in personal reflection, meditation, and repentance – thinking of past mistakes, how to overcome personal weaknesses, and how to do better in the coming days ahead. This practice of retreat is known as I’tikaaf – or staying in seclusion, completely cut off from the worldly and materialistic pursuits and fully focused on the spiritual. During these last ten days, spiritual vigil is important, because it is said that there is one night of special importance – called Lailatul Qadr – or the Night of Decree that falls in the last ten days of Ramadan. It is said that it was the night in the month of Ramadan when the Holy Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (May peace and blessings of God be on him) received the first revelations of the Holy Qur’an through angel Gabriel when he was meditating in seclusion in the cave of Hira, near the sacred town or Mecca 1400 years ago.
In essence Muslims all over the world try as much as they can to attain spiritual blessings during this month of fasting with the objective to maintain and sustain these blessings throughout the rest of the year. May God help us in doing so! Ameen.