IN THE NAME OF ALLAH THE MAGNIFECENT, THE MERCIFUL
SELF-EVALUATION – THE ESSENCE OF RAMADAN
[Shamim A Siddiqi.
It is a very strange phenomenon of the Muslim society both at individual and collective levels that Muslim men and women and very often children do fast in a great number with all sanctity that it demands, offer Traviah during the entire month of Ramadan with regularity and do “Qayamullail” on the night of “Quadr” and other nights too with devotion but still there is not much change or improvement in their character, habits, behavior, human dealings, day to day performances in life except some changes in daily schedule due to Aftar, Traviah and Sahoor during this blessed month. When the days and nights of this month are over, their life style becomes “normal” as it was before Ramadan. It does not carry any sequence of one month’s continuous rigorous training course of days and nights. One wonders why it is so. Why the effect of Ramadan’s training of 720 hours does not lost longer than the month itself. Muslims start doing the same “don’ts” from what they were restraining themselves one way or the other during Ramadan.
The more I thought over this anomalous situation of the Ummah, the more I was convinced that something is wrong in understanding the spirit of Ramadan. Something is understood superfluously and not in depth, in spite of the fact, the Ahadith of Rasulullah (S) are very clear and positive. The effect of “Allah-consciousness” that they were supposed to have inculcated while fasting during the month of Ramadan is difficult to trace out in their day to day life-activities after Ramadan. The air of piety, Taqwah, good behavior, compassion for others all gets evaporated with the departure of Ramadan. A fasting person lives consciously under the constant vigilance of Allah but he forgets after Ramadan that Allah is still there and watching him or her. His sense of accountability becomes ineffective and he is lost again in this world and its enchantments. Why it is so? Let us analyze the situation in depth.
There are three Ahadith narrated by Abu Hurairah ® and quoted both by Bukhari and Muslim. The text of these three Ahadith can be put together as follows:
“One who fasts [during] Ramadan; one who stands in Traviah; one who does Qayamullail [on the night of Quadr] with “Iman” wa “Ehtisab”, all his past sins are pardoned.”
The last portion of the Hadith about the “reward” that all the past sins are pardoned is common in all the three situations but with one expressed condition in each case that all the three acts of fasting, Traviah and Qayamullail must be observed with “Iman wa Ehtisab.”
This is a very important condition. It is all surmounting. It is a constant exercise of evaluation about the state of Iman. It is, therefore, essential that I must discuss what Iman means to a Muslim who is fasting.
Iman, in fact, is a commitment with Allah (SWT) with the following connotations:
1. Allah is the Creator and Sustainer of man and this cosmos. He harnessed this universe and what it contains for the service and benefit of humans. That he/she is obedient to Him alone in every walk of life. He is constantly under His vigilance irrespective of the fact what he is doing and wherever he is, providing a total supervision of his conducts.
2. Man using this universe and all that it contains for the satisfaction of his/her powerful urges by exercising his or her free will the way he/she likes becomes reckless and fills the earth with fasad [transgression]. He becomes slave to his/her urges through this process and makes the human life unbalanced, creating oppression and bloodshed all around.
3. The entire month of fasting during the month of Ramadan provides an opportunity to Muslim to bring his or her natural urges of rest, food/water and sex under control and be their master ultimately.
4. Allah has given us life, time, talents and abundance of material resources for the satisfaction of the human urges. A Muslim must evaluate constantly throughout Ramadan, day in and day out, that how he is behaving; how he is using his time and talents; how he is using the resources: in the way of Allah or the way his whims and caprices dictate in the pursuits of life.. This habit of constant examination is the requisite process of evaluation [Ehtisab] of “Iman” that is emphasized in all the three Ahadith quoted above.
5. Our tragedy is this that this process of “Ehtisab” [evaluation] is missing from the life of a person who is fasting. It is just taken or explained by our scholars as “expectation” of reward with the result that Muslims fast, offer Traviah and do “Qayamullail” with the expectation of getting reward only and forget the process of “Iman with Ehtisab” which is the essence of fasting. As a result, Muslims “run” for “Sawab” [reward] only and do nothing or very little to evaluate how they are fasting; where and in what ways they are using their time, talents and resources in the service of Batil or in submission to his/her Creator and Sustainer? If the sense of accountability is missing from our Sawm, the fasting remains only an exercise to live with ‘hunger and thirst.” Another Hadith of Rasulullah (S) confirms this fact that ‘there are people who fast but get nothing except “hunger and thirst.’
6. It explains as why we are facing the anomalous situation in the Muslim community that it changes a little or nothing at all even after having fasted one moth long. The essence of fasting with “Iman wa Ehtisab” remains obscured from our fasting “habit” and the society remains “unchanged” though fasting year after year through ages. A wave of sanctity engulfs our life with the beginning of Ramadan but we do not consolidate its blessings by becoming conscious of the process of accountability [Ehtisab] that is interwoven with the concept of fasting with Iman for Allah alone. Seeing the “helal” [crescent] of Shawwal, it becomes the part of history and the Ummah fails at all levels to make any use of the magnanimous offer that Ramadan always carries in its lap.
Shamim A Siddiqi
November 2, 2003