8 Reflections on Ramadan
July 02, 2019
My reflections on the social and spiritual dimensions of Ramadan and Eid
Every year I have some reflections on Ramadan and these reflections keep changing.
They constantly change because these reflections are connected to our mental status, our spiritual status, as well as what we see or read or hear at the time. All these always affect our understanding.
My personal journey from the Middle East to the West, to Karachi, to Bahrain, to Saudi, to the UAE and to various other places have all given me a very different understanding of Ramadan and Islam.
When I was in Beirut, where I’m originally from, 20 years ago, my understanding was a bit limited to where I was, and I couldn’t see the universality of Islam that I have since learnt. I just knew the theory but hadn’t seen it in practice. When I came to the West I came to understand what universality means. It’s from these reflections that I’d like to share with you what Ramadan is about for me and ultimately what Eid is about, as Eid is the end of Ramadan,
The first observation about Ramadan is that it’s all about connection. We all like good connections. Originally we had kilobyte connection, then the megabyte connection and now the cloud connection. The connection is always developing. Ramadan is like the cloud connection. Spiritually, we have a connection throughout the year and it can be a kilobyte, megabyte, or fibre optic connection, but in Ramadan this connection is boosted. Ramadan gives you this boosted connection, in particular through the recitation of the Quran.
Though we have the Quran throughout the year, Muslims increase their recitation of the Quran in Ramadan as it is our link to our Lord. Recitation fosters this closeness to Allah Almighty and that closeness lifts you to a different level. Ramadan brings this connectivity to your door step. For those who want to invest in the opportunity, Ramadan is a great opportunity . It gives you a boosted connection.
The second thing Ramadan brings is communication.
Family comes together at iftaar when they eat their dinner together. Guests come together with the family. Usually we don’t have that many guests but Ramadan is an open iftar for family and friends to come and share the blessings of the month. It connects the family together first, then collects relatives together and then friends. On the other side, it brings the Community Connection. During the night we have the tarawih prayer, This prayer brings the community together. There are many people you don’t see throughout the whole year except in tarawih. You only meet them at tarawih prayer. Outside of this prayer you wouldn’t see them.
Tarawih brings people together and creates a strong bond in the community and this is beautiful. When you feel the warmth of your brothers and sisters inside the mosque in the same row it gives you a different feeling. So Ramadan brings unity and communication.
The third dimension Ramadan brings is purification, the tazkiyah element. It purifies the heart, it purifies the intention, it purifies the soul and it purifies the body. In Ramadan we experience detoxification for the body physically as well as spiritually
Ramadan helps us bring our intentions under the radar which often get lost. The reasons underlying our choices actions such as our career, business, or how we behave with our family come under scrutiny. We need to review our actions and this purification gives us time for accountancy. Keeping Account helps us to purify ourselves.
Ramadan is a time for transformation, a transformation of our self to become a better person. This transformation arises as we experience greater self-control in Ramadan. Control over our eating and drinking, over what we say or don’t say, over our involvement in arguments and how we avoid them. In Ramadan this self-control Is in place and it helps us to transform into a better person. This is the core of the practice in Ramadan. Ramadan helps us to be better people, better citizens, better husbands, better wives, better children, colleagues and friends etc.
In line with this, you feel like you are able to change your habits. Outside of Ramadan you are accustomed to eating at a certain time, you are very addicted to your hot chocolate, or your coffee, or whatever may be the case. Ramadan helps you to control addiction. You can’t have your coffee in the morning, or your dinner at a certain time, This pushes you to change your habits. This provides the opportunity to extricate ourselves from set routines which we don’t know how to change. Scientifically it takes between 21-40 days to change a habit. Ramadan is spot on in helping facilitate this change. It’s a period of 30 days training – changing your old bad habits into new good ones. The English proverb is ‘old habits never die’ but Ramadan teaches us otherwise.
Discovering your Inner power
I never thought about this aspect of Ramadan until the time in which Ramadan came changed. Ramadan follows the lunar calendar, rather than the solar calendar so every year it moves 11 days.
It takes 33 years to complete a whole cycle and return to the same time again.
When I was a child the fast was 8 hours long, it was very short and now in the summer months we are fasting 16-18 hours which seems overwhelming. If you were to tell me this 20 years ago, I would say no way, an 18-hour fast is very difficult we can’t do this. However, we are doing this, and you discover your inner power, I can fast 18 hours. This is beyond what I imagined I could do. Don’t underestimate your inner power. Ramadan allows you to discover yourself, to delve into your good qualities, to polish them, to use them and bring them to the forefront. i.e. from the back office to the front office. In practice you don’t just place anyone to the front office, only special people. You have these qualities you must bring them out when you delve into yourself in Ramadan.
Balance and Control
We have the balance and control. This is a very beautiful concept because we as human beings have been created from matter and soul. We are always in a state of imbalance. We feed the body, our desires etc, but we forget about our soul. Ramadan restores balance to our life by feeding the soul. If you wanted to change the name of Ramadan you could say it’s the food for the soul. Paradoxically, though you are fasting, you are actually feeding the soul. This is how you move to the next level by emulating the angels because the angels have no desire. They don’t eat, they don’t drink they don’t have intimate relationships. It is like saying in Ramadan you can experience what it is like to be an angel.
Ramadan may help you to be like an angel, but it comes in a package. You cant pick or choose one or two things to practice, you need to take the whole package. You must also control your tongue, your character and so on and so forth.
To be under control or to be in control.
In our normality, we are usually controlled by many things, most often than not we are under the control of someone , either by our boss or by our spouses or someone else, but Ramadan helps you to take control back. You are in control over your desires, over what to eat, over what to say. It puts you in a position of empowerment and helps you to improve your control.
Closeness and Peace
Towards the very end of Ramadan, we have the last ten nights which we call the peaceful nights. Laliatul Qadr nights. This is most often mistranslated as the night of Power. This is completely wrong. It’s the night of blessings, or the blessed night, not the night of power.
It’s the night of peace. Allah Almighty mentioned in a very specific chapter in the Quran called Surah Al-Qadr, Salaamun Hiya (It is all about peace). It’s a peaceful night. It helps us to achieve peace. Inner peace and outer peace.
As we are heading towards the end of Ramadan it is for us to achieve a state of peace.
These peaceful nights are then followed by Eid. With Eid you have the celebration of the completion of your achievement. After long hours of fasting, long and difficult days you celebrate what you achieved, but we are not celebrating in terms of the literal meaning of Ramadan , we are celebrating in the spiritual sense . It’s not a tick box exercise, i.e. I have fasted 16 hours etc, although this is what we’ve done, this is not what we are celebrating. Ultimately what we did should have lead us to be better people and we are celebrating our achievement in the completion of our worship , our Ibaadah throughout the whole month .We then show our gratitude to our Lord that we were able to this , as without his support we wouldn’t be able to achieve this
We celebrate the internal growth and external change which we supposedly gained from Ramadan. We have changed ourselves to be better and this should charge our battery and last us until the next Ramadan. Batteries often last a few hours or the distance of a few hundred miles but if we have charged our battery properly it should last us for 11 months until the following Ramadan.
We also celebrate the updates of our system. Every Ramadan you have the new version of you. After Ramadan, you are a New You. A better person emerges with a better character, with better self control, better connection, better communication, and this is exactly what Ramadan is about. This is then followed the day of Eid – which is the Day of Reward.
Its been narrated in the traditions of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be on him) that on the day of Eid, the angels go out in the streets and call upon those who were fasting the whole month and say, ‘This is Yawm ul Jaiza.’ This is the Day of the Prize, those who were fasting have received their reward, and their prize from their Lord, ‘Go you are forgiven. Go you are forgiven. Go you are forgiven.’
Thus Eid is the Day of Forgiveness. After you’ve earned peace, you have earned forgiveness. Now you should be feeling very light. This is because sins make you feel heavy internally, and after forgiveness you should feel a sense of lightness. Food doesn’t make you heavy in this sense. In the spiritual sense, sins are heavier than the food here. Its about feeling light inside and receiving divine light, when you feel light.
This is what Eid should bring to us . It brings happiness, it brings peace, it brings forgiveness, and the whole family should feel this happiness. Not only our family but we share our wealth with the poor when we pay our charity and Zakah, most often in Ramadan, and there is a special charity which we only give in Ramadan – Zakat ul fitr, which you can’t give it outside Ramadan. We support the needy in the community. It is about bondship – feeling empathy for others, communicating with others and being a better person.
Hope this happiness lasts until next Ramadan and that we can be better people always and try to achieve our best and do what is the right thing and be like angels – not only in Ramadan but also outside of Ramadan.
Talk delivered by Shaykh Haytham Tamim at LLoyds Banking Group on 20th June 2019
Transcribed by Uzma Kareem
Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001.His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College).He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.
July 07, 2020