In a few days’ time, the world will play host to a unique but abstract guest that will perch on the shores of human life with special grandeur of accurate clues to human complex problems. This genderless guest will come with an array of clemency that will qualify it as the bearer of a timely succour. The arrival of this guest will be the divine catalyst by which the long awaited respite will be ushered into the minds of all genuine Muslims, throughout the world. When it comes, that catalyst will serve as a replacement for the current tribulations that intensely grip the entire mankind by the jugular. The name of the Guest, is RAMADAN.
“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 used to come after the spring which followed the freezing winter before the advent of Islam.
The Mission of Ramadan
Ever since it became a major attribute to Islam, Ramadan’s mission has been to firm up all loose ends in the life of Muslims. And, it does that with a ruling touch of perfection.
The 30 or 29 days of this Holy Month are fully spent by Muslims 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 in 610 CE.
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. That 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 to enable it link up believers’ dreams directly with their 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’.
Traditionally, Ramadan is classified into three main segments. The first ten days in the month constitute the first segment that is said to be of blessings galore for pious Muslims who need Allah’s blessings and seek them spiritually. The second ten days constitute the second segment that is believed to personify forgiveness for those who are ready to repent on their sins and seek forgiveness on them. 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 rather 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 Night of Power (LaylatulQadr), 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.
Identity of LayulatulQadr
Meeting LaylatuQadr in its full regalia is a serious matter of efforts rather than that of mere guessing. 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 LaylatulQadr. 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, these days, 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.
Respect for Seasons
Europeans have so much respect for seasons that whenever they are 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 gesture or for strengthening social acquaintances. Thus, there can be no indifference to the awful presence of Ramadan in any part of the world.
As an annual principal Guest, Ramadan does not come into the world of man all alone. It is always accompanied by an entourage that forms its convoy. Thus, like the sun in the midst of stars, Ramadan, on its arrival in the world, ascends the throne of 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 where people are physically and spiritually handicapped. It can also be called the compass with which to find the right way in the wilderness of life. And, because of its multipurpose posture, this same sacred month can also be called the sanitizer of human soul, the sterilizer of human spirit as well as the immunizer of human biological system. Besides the lunar months of Rajab and Sh’aban that lead the convoy of Ramadan into the world, a retinue of invisible ministers is also in its convoy to serve as parts of its entourage. Among such Ministers are piety, knowledge, truth, justice and peace. All of these jointly usher that Guest of guests into the world with rare splendour”.
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 of hope 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 especially where Allah’s instruction in Q. 5:59 is sincerely followed.
Islam is neither a religion of spiritual levity nor that of commercial venture. The spiritual seriousness of this divine religion is such that everything that needs to be done in it requires preparation.
For instance, to observe daily prayer (Salat), Muslims do prepare by performing ablution (Wudu’) or even special bath (Guslu) when necessary. To pay obligatory annual charity (Zakah), Muslims do prepare by calculating their annual income and by working out the ordained net end of that annual income (Nisab) from which the payable amount of Zakah should be deducted. And to perform Hajj, Muslims do prepare by knotting a spiritually guided intention to that effect and by settling any outstanding debt as well as by taking care of the home front to guarantee food and social security for the family members to be left behind before proceeding on pilgrimage. It is that same spiritual concept of preparation that warrants the monitoring of the appearance of the crescent as a precursor of Ramadan fast.
The last segment of 10 days of in the month of Ramadan also grants 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 spiritual seclusion (I‘tikaf) locally, as a way of reaffirming their total submission to Allah. Following this is a session of charity (ZakatulFitr) made compulsory for all Muslims to pay 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. It is given out in the very early morning of Ramadan Festivity called ‘IdulFitr’ or the night before it, to enable those poor and needyones celebrate the festival with the Ummah in a festive mood.
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’ (EidulFitr) by Muslims through a congregational prayer is the anti-climax of the sacred month of Ramadan. That festival itself has its own preparation and methodology.
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 fetteredtp the manacles of Satan.
Looking at the uniqueness of Islam as a religion in terms of constant hygiene, decent 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 questions 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, poverty 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 uniquely great month thus:
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