“We shall surely test you with something of fear and hunger as well as loss of lives and wealth and fruits, but give good tidings (of hope) to the patient ones. Those who, when afflicted by a calamity (like COVID-19), will say: “we are all from God and to God we shall all return”. Q.2 :155-157
Human life is full of junctions. And every junction is an axis at which the baton of life is periodically changed. At a time, that baton may be positive. At another time, it may be negative. Thus, people who find themselves in a circumstance of comfort today should not expect that circumstance to remain so for ever. Ditto those who are in the circumstance of discomfort. That is a confirmation that comfort and discomfort are two phenomena of life which constantly rotate like days and nights around the axis of existence. There is no permanency in the ephemeral enclave that we call human life.
For Muslims, the world of man is like an Examination Hall in which success or failure of candidates is the main determinant of what may become of the statuses of those candidates later in life. For those who do not want to be tested, however, there is a way out and that is to avoid coming into the world at all. But, can any human being claim to be alive without passing through the Examination Hall of life? Allah is so merciful to mankind that He does not leave His creatures to the cobweb of failure without providing rescue. That is why, at some periods of catastrophe or melancholy, He (Allah) sends agents of rescue to the world in form of Guests. It is this wonderful divine mercy that elicited, in yours sincerely, the thought of writing this article with the title allotted to it. Right now, as humanity is wallowing helplessly in a ‘thorny’ valley of an unexpected pandemic, a spiritual Guest, deployed by the Almighty Allah, is fast approaching the world with a rescue mission that will soon be greeted with a thunderous chorus of ALLH AKBAR1! (Meaning God is great). The name of that Guest is RAMADAN.
Guests, everywhere in the world, are of different types. Some are on a beneficial mission and are treated with honour because of their acknowledged garland of clues to many knotty issues in human life. Some are bereft of honour because they are on empty missions that have no meaningful purpose to serve in human life. But despite the emptiness of the latter guests, they are somehow tolerated for their nuisance value. That is the other side of human life. In Islam, no litigant or defendant can be a judge in his own case just as no examinee can be the marker of his own examination paper. This message can be well understood only by wise readers of this column who are not fraudulent.
Categories of Guests
Each time we talk of guests, most people think only of humans alone in the erroneous belief that no other creature could be qualified for that dignified title. What such people don’t seem to realize consciously is that humans are just a fraction of Allah’s creatures. There are millions of other creatures that are not often noticed by man. One of such creatures is the phenomenon called ‘Season’ which often influences and sometimes regulates the conduct of environments. Seasons come in different forms with different postures and at different times of the year. They are like the tides of an ocean. They roll out spirally in quick succession and reshape the world’s environment from time to time as they come in multiples of months. No one can measure a season in the absence of months as there can be no seasons without months.
In a few days’ time, a unique but abstract guest will arrive in the world with grandeur of clues to human problems and an array of clemency with which to serve as a bearer of succour. The arrival of this guest will be the divine catalyst with which the long awaited respite will be ushered into the minds of genuine Muslims, all over the world, as a replacement for the current tribulation that intensely grips the minds of the entire mankind. Once again, the name of that awaited guest, as mentioned above, is RAMADAN.
Respect for Seasons
Europeans have so much respect for seasons that whenever they visited by an important guest, they give him a seasonal treatment and call him an ‘August visitor’. This is because the month of August that shares that honourary term as a matter of nomenclature is the peak of summer season that harbours hospitality at its peak for the Caucasian race of Europe. In Islam, the most venerable guest of the year, throughout the world, is the month of RAMADAN. Yet, the visiting time of that sacred month is not restricted to any particular season.
A Guest of All Seasons
The arrival of Ramadan in the world may coincide with that of any season. And that is what qualifies it eminently to be called the Guest of all seasons.
With Ramadan as a Guest, therefore, not only the Muslims but the entire humanity is consciously or unconsciously engaged in hospitable activities as a show of respect for that great Guest. Those who cannot fast in that sacred month do take advantage of its presence to readjust their social conducts by taming the brute in them even as some of them engage in buying and selling of some relevant needs either for the purpose of humanitarian charity or for strengthening social acquaintances. Thus, there can be no indifference to the awful presence of Ramadan in any part of the world.
Yours sincerely can vividly recall the description given this sacred month in this column, some years ago, which is still as relevant today as it was then. The description went thus:
“Once every year, something creeps glamorously into the world like the early morning light. It moves kaleidoscopically into an arena where the center becomes its stool. It lifts its unraveling veil and beams a special focus on the world with an arresting attention during the days. It envelops the nights in a shroud of divine covenant and links believers’ dreams directly with fulfillments. No one, except the Almighty Allah, knows Ramadan’s port of embarkation and no human being can claim to know its destination. All we know of this sacred month is that of a Guest that is so vividly present in our world and yet so physically invisible. Its arrival in the world is often heralded by a retinue of other lunar months that form its entourage. The two most prominent among those lunar months are ‘Rajab’ and Sha’ban’.
As an annual principal Guest to mankind, Ramadan does not come into the world of man without being accompanied by an entourage that forms its convoy. In the forefront of that entourage, to alert mankind of the imminent arrival of the globally expected Guest of Rescue are two prominent lunar months called Rajab and Sh’aban. Thus, like the sun in the midst of stars, Ramadan, on its arrival in the world, ascends the throne of human destiny in full regalia while all other months, (lunar and solar) quickly take their bow in salutation.
In that grandiose circumstance, Ramadan can be called the king where other months are just chiefs and it can be called the doctor in a world of physically and spiritually sick people. It can also be called the compass with which to find the rightly guided way in the wilderness of life. This same sacred month can also be called the sanitizer of human soul, the sterilizer of human spirit as well as the purifier of human biological system. Besides Rajab and Sh’aban that lead the convoy of Ramadan, there are also certain invisible ministers that serve as its personal bodyguards. Among such Ministers are piety, knowledge, truth, justice and peace. All of these jointly usher that Guest of guests into the world with splendour”.
“The ninth lunar month called Ramadan, in which fasting is divinely ordained, derived its name from the Arabic word ‘Ramd’ (meaning baking). That name had been in existence before the advent of Islamic calendar. It was coined from a baking summer that followed the then freezing winter. Ever since, Ramadan’s mission has been to firm up all loose ends in the life of man. And it does that with a ruling touch of perfection”.
The Mission of Ramadan
The 30 or 29 days of Ramadan are fully spent by Muslim believers in fasting from dawn to dusk. Such fasting is not about abstinence from foods and drinks alone. It is also about self-restraint from all sinful acts and self-equipment with a reign of impeccable discipline. More importantly, Ramadan is about repackaging human destiny through a new but sincere resolution.
Fasting during this sacred month is figuratively believed to be the burner of all sins. It was in this glorious month that the revelation of the divinely reformative guidance called the Qur’an first began.
Paradise and Hell
In the sacred month of Ramadan, all gates of Paradise, according to Prophet Muhammad (SAW), are wide open for all those aspiring to gain entry into it while the gates of Hell are tightly closed. That is a mark of Allah’s mercy for remorseful Muslims
Who do not want to remain in the fetters of Satan.
Traditionally, Ramadan is classified into three segments. The first ten days in the month are said to be of blessings galore for pious Muslims who need Allah’s blessings and seek them spiritually. The second ten days are believed to personify forgiveness for those who realize the gravity of their sinful acts, repent on them and resolve never to return to such sinful acts again. And, the last ten days, are divinely earmarked for spiritual emancipation of mankind from the shackles of satanic slavery. Thus, Ramadan, in the psychological and spiritual comprehension of its mission in the life of mankind, is, by far, beyond an ordinary month. It should really be seen as a whole season that serves as an exemplary template for other seasons.
The Night of Power
It is in the last segment of Ramadan, which consists of the last ten days of the sacred month that a particular night called ‘Laylatul Qadr’ (Night of Power) in which the secret of human destiny is encapsulated. Meeting that night consciously and spiritually is like securing the master key to one’s own permanent apartment in Paradise. However, to meet that night, there is a proviso. And the proviso is that one needs to remain awake throughout those last 10 nights to be fortunate to meet the D night of majesty.
It must, however, be noted that Allah did not disclose, even to Prophet Muhammad (SAW), which particular night of the sacred month of Ramadan is called Laylatul Qadr. Nevertheless, by asking the Muslims to look for it in the odd nights of the last ten days, the Prophet has helped the rightly guided Muslim Ummah tremendously. But, who can be so sure of the odd nights in that segment of the month when the issue of sighting the crescent before commencing Ramadan fast is often controversial? That is why it is better for all fasting Muslims to keep the entire 10 nights of that segment awake.
The last ten days of Ramadan also grant a rare opportunity to some willing Muslims, in accordance with the tradition of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), to either go for Umrah in Makkah or take to I’tikaf (spiritual seclusion) locally, to reaffirm their total submission to Allah. Following this is a session of charity made compulsory for all Muslims irrespective of age, gender and status. Such charity is given to the poor and the needy especially in the neighbourhood or in a lager vicinity. This charity is called Zakatul Fitr or Sadaqatul Fitr. It is given out in the very early morning of Ramadan Festival Day called ‘Idul Fitr’ or the night before it, to enable the poor and the needy celebrate the festival with the Ummah in a festive mood.
Islam is not a religion of levity. The spiritual seriousness of this divine religion is such that everything that needs to be done in it requires preparation.
For instance, to observe Salat, Muslims prepare by performing ‘wudu’ (ablution) or even Guslu (bath) when necessary. To pay Zakah, Muslims prepare by calculating their annual income and working out Nisab (net income) on which payable amount should be based. And to perform Hajj, Muslims prepare by knotting up the intention to that effect and by paying any outstanding debt as well as by taking care of the home front for family members. It is that same spiritual concept that warrants the monitoring of the appearance of the crescent as the symbol of preparation for Ramadan fast.
Indices of Recognition
Although the indices of recognizing the beginning and the end of the month of Ramadan are naturally vivid to those who care, sighting the crescent is foremost among those indices.
Ramadan is not preceded by two glorious lunar months of ‘Rajab’ and ‘Sha’ban for fun. The number of days in those two months is to enable any serious Muslim know the time of the arrival of Ramadan and prepare for it. In Islam, no lunar month exceeds 30 days and none is less than 29 days.
Therefore, crescent or no crescent, it is very possible and easy to know when to start Ramadan every year even without waiting to be prompted. The regular confusion often created by the sighting or non-sighting of the crescent, especially before the commencement of Ramadan is therefore avoidable.
The first day of the month of Shawwal, immediately after Ramadan, which is traditionally spent in great celebrations with rejoice and observed as ‘Fast-Breaking Festival’ (Eidul Fitr) by Muslims when a congregational prayer is observed in accordance with the Prrphetic ‘Sunnah’, is the anti-climax of the sacred month of Ramadan. That festival itself has its own preparation and methodology.
Looking at the uniqueness of Islam as a religion in terms of hygiene, dressing, spiritual discipline in observance of Salat, the spirit of charity which Zakah and Sadaqah represent, the rules and regulations guiding social interaction during Hajj performance and the codes of the divine law that governs the lives of Muslims as accentuated by the month of Ramadan, one cannot but ask relevant question as follows:
Where else can one find a Guest like Ramadan? Where else can one meet a Guest that serves as the host to his supposed hosts and becomes a supernatural doctor that heals mankind of ignorance and physical diseases? It was probably more to Ramadan than to man that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) referred when he said: “whoever believes in Allah and the ‘Last Day’ should venerate his guests”. That is why Muslims often greet one another in this unique month thus: ‘RAMADAN KARIM!
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