Ramadan: A Month Of Self-Reflection
In Malaysia, the month of Ramadan is common to everyone regardless of our ethnicity or religious beliefs. Our cultural and religious practices are norm to one another due to our living side-by-side. Two simple observations come to mind when it comes to Ramadan, that Muslims would fast and that some restaurants or eateries are closed during the day.
Basically, Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic (lunar) calendar. The month is significant to Muslims as it is when the Quran was descended upon and revealed to the Prophet Muhammad as well as fasting is obligated upon Muslims. Ramadan comes from the Arabic word meaning “heat” and “drought”. Thus, this connotes overcoming the hardship in daily abstinence from consuming food and water as well sexual intimacy from dawn till dusk throughout the sacred month.
Fasting is prescribed on every mature, adult Muslim who is physically fit, sane and capable. On the other hand, the elderly, children and those with health issues are exempted from fulfilling the obligation. Verse 183 of the Quran enjoins Muslims: “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint.” The verse, thus, establishes the obligation to fast so as to attain God-consciousness and taqwa (fear of Allah).
Thus, Muslims must do more self-reflection throughout the month so as to fully benefit the blessings and wisdom of Ramadan. Apart from fulfilling the fasting obligation, Ramadan brings invaluable lessons to Muslims. The month readily offers them the school of faith, spirituality, awareness, unity, dignity, charity, justice and social engagement that will yield positive impact in the long run.
The values above manifest from many good deeds such as gathering at mosques to perform a special Tarawih congregational prayer which takes place every night only during Ramadan. In a hadith narrated by imam Bukhari, “Allah’s Messenger said: “Whoever establishes prayers during the nights of Ramadan faithfully out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards (not for showing off), all his past sins will be forgiven.” Indeed, only in Ramadan is the Tarawih prayer performed. The Tarawih is performed after the `Isya’ (Night) Prayer for either eight rakaats (cycles) or twenty. It is the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad which means that he used to perform the prayer and Muslims are encouraged to do likewise. The gathering for the prayer brings people from all walks of life together in the neighbourhood to suraus or mosques thus, fostering good social wellbeing to the society.
Another good deed in Ramadan is giving charity. The Quran mentions such a deed in verse 18 of the surah al-Hadid, “For those who give in charity, men and women, and loan to Allah a beautiful loan, it shall be increased manifold (to their credit), and they shall have (besides) a liberal reward.” What is more, the reward for doing charity during Ramadan is multiplied most generously by Allah Most Generous. Prophet Muhammad said: “Allah gives this reward even to those who give a sip of milk to a fasting man.” This indeed shows the significance of charity with all its types and forms. Those who give charity in Ramadan and increase their charities therein have followed the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad.
Another virtue Muslims should ponder on is welcoming their non-Muslim friends for the breaking of their fast. This again forges good relationships in our multi-ethnic society. Nothing can go wrong when people are served with good food to be enjoyed together. In verse 49 of surah al-Hujurat, Allah intones, “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other.” Islamic teachings convey the message that Muslims should respect every ideology, religion, culture and community. Since diversity is the laws of nature created by God for us to benefit from, Muslims should get to know one another regardless of race and religion. Such an effort is also a test in their lives whereby we will all eventually be answerable to Him alone, the Al-Mighty, on the Day of Judgement.
Indeed, fasting in Islam is not merely a ritual. Rather, it is to achieve a more significant purpose that is to attain righteousness or taqwa. Hence, to achieve the best of it, self-reflection is a must in the month of Ramadan. Fasting ranges not only from the simple abstention from food and drink and sexual intimacies, but also more by applying self-restraint from evil thoughts and actions that eventually bring goodness spiritually and physically to the individual particularly and then society in general.