The following is something I wrote on the eve of Ramadan, 2009 (as a Facebook note, no less). I was in a weird place in my life at that time. I was stuck between ideas, communities, beliefs; my heart and my mind. I had just finished my undergraduate studies and was embarking on my Masters – a route I was deathly still unsure of, despite the fact my first class was a mere two weeks away. It was also during this time that I met someone who would come to be my best friend and through whom I would learn the importance of what it really means to be a part of a community – specifically, the Ummah. When I wrote this, I was overwhelmed with a happy sorrow: the wisdom of God and the beauty of Islam have never failed to silence and humble me. Yet the small and overarching problems pervasive throughout our community (and communities) have also left me silent, albeit for other reasons. Three years after I first wrote this, I feel as though I’ve evolved greatly from where I was then but still remain the very bit balanced on a spiritual tightrope as I search for the best way to fix whatever it is in me that requires ‘fixing’. This isn’t my most eloquent or most illustrative piece but it is from the heart and it is a reveal of something very personal to me. I hope it can be of some good for you this Ramadan, as we reflect on our individual and collective state. I suppose this piece ultimately remains a reminder and reflection first and foremost for myself.
Ramzaan Mobarak. Ramadan Kareem. Happy Ramadan.
There is nothing more important for the sustenance of Islam, other than tawhid and imaan, than the unity of the Ummah. Our current situation in the world proves all the more the importance of this unity, from which we have fallen so quickly away. One of the most beautiful things about Islam, however, is that it has provided us, Muslims, with the tools to achieve this unity. Each of the five pillars of Islam works to unite the Muslimeen. If we uphold them with the greatest of sincerity and belief, then we cannot falter as a community and can only move forward and improve the condition of our Ummah.
The Shahadah is the first and foremost pillar upon which the Muslim stands. It is our declaration of faith and our agreement to submit our wills to the will of Allah SWT. Every Muslim must testify before God and in this we all become equal before the Almighty. Regardless of ethnicity, past, and creed we begin with a tabula rasa, a clean slate upon which our deeds will be written, both good and bad. This testimony requires our utmost sincerity and serves to be the foundation for the ethos we have chosen to live our lives upon. Without this testimony, this declaration, and this pillar, our faith remains silent, unknown and uncultivated. This is the first important and vital step towards the ultimate realization of what this declaration means, its consequences and the eventual actualization of it within our communities.
Zakat, or almsgiving, attempts to lessen the burden of a vast economic gap between peoples whilst ensuring that it is an obligation upon all those who can afford it. Everyone must be provided for, and both the state and the people are responsible for one another. This financial sustenance serves to create a communal morality in which no ones body and soul starves. It forces those of us with much wealth to be able to part with our material desires while providing the basic necessities of life for those who are unable to afford them. You part with wealth while gaining spiritual fulfillment.
Salaat, or prayer, is another pillar which gives each individual spiritual fulfillment in its completely universal and unifying character. As Muslimeen, we are obligated to perform salaat five times a day, in a uniform manner, facing towards Mecca. Regardless of where we are in the world, we all perform the same actions, recite the same words, converse with the same God, all whilst facing towards the same direction.
Hajj is considered by all Muslimeen to be the prime showcase of Islamic unity, and rightly so. Millions of Muslims gather every year, dressed in the same exact garb so not to differentiate between rich and poor, making the same journey made for over 1400 years by millions of others. Hundreds of languages and dialects are spoken, but when it is time to pray, each and every individual stops, and recites and understands the same language and words. It is a journey of complete unity and brother/sisterhood. It is meant to humble us, to remind us, to help us re-create our tabula rasa. We are to leave Hajj enlightened and beyond ‘racial consciousness’ and ‘class consciousness’ – we are to leave with the simple belief that there is no difference between us save for the arbitrary exteriors awarded to us by Allah SWT.
Lastly, there is Sawm, or fasting. The month of Ramadan is only a few days away, thus let us make the most of the unifying factors of this month and act. During Ramadan, we fast to starve ourselves – starve us of our egos, our materialism, and our individualism. During Ramadan, we experience, together, the realities of an empty stomach and the realities of a fed soul. Make the most of this month and make the most of those around you. Learn about your fellow Muslims, fast your shyness. It is in the sunnah of the Prophet sallallahu wa alaihi wasallam that when you meet someone for the first time ask them their name and where they are from. Join in taraweeh and make the most of your nights, especially during the last few of Ramadan. Starve yourself of your lethargy and avoidance of the Qur’an. Fast your tongue, your eyes, your ears and your hands. Create a routine out of this holistic fasting so that by the end of Ramadan, you have certain habits which have become a part of your general etiquette. Use this Ramadan, this very one which is fast approaching, to renew your intentions regarding yourself and to use each and every pillar of Islam with such sincerity that it becomes a sewn piece within your heart and mind. Don’t let Ramadan end at the first of Shawwal. Carry this into Shawwal, Dhu al-Qi’dah, Dhu al-Hijjah and throughout the year until we find ourselves here again.
I hope that by the grace of Allah SWT you all have an absolutely beautiful and spiritually fruitful Ramadan. I hope we are all able to walk away this Ramadan as far stronger Muslims than when we walked into the month, insh’Allah.
Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may attain taqwa. [2:183]