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Significance of Ramadan


By Dr Fazlur Rahman


Friday feature

ALLAH is Rahman and Raheem. In Arabic usage, linguistic structure of Rahman suggests fullness, abundance, overflow, brimming over. Thus Rahman signifies One whose mercy knows no bounds, Who is over-brimming with compassion, kindness, love and deep concern.

Rahman is He whose Rahmat encompasses each and everyone without any discrimination, its spectrum is so wide, so comprehensive that no creature, human or otherwise, falls out of its sphere. Like Allah it is applied to God alone.

The connotation of Raheem is somewhat different. Though derived from the same root, ie., Rahm, its structure is suggestive of continuous, repeated, frequent occurrence. Thus Raheem denotes the Being Whose mercy and compassion is showered continuously, without break, incessantly, ad infinitum. Taken together both the attributes would mean that His mercy is boundless, infinite, indiscriminate, continuous and constant.

The Quran, we are told, is the manifestation, the outcome, the expression and the outpouring of the Divine attribute Rahman. "Ar-Rahman, He taught the Quran," (Q:55: 1,2). His Rahmaniyat, His limitless mercy, His unbounded compassion, demanded that the humanity must not be left at the mercy of blind emotions and animal instincts which continuously raid upon his intellect and his faculty of discernment between right and wrong, thus relegating him to the status of a 'developed beast'. Human beings were not created to lead the life of animals and beasts.

At last, human history came its full round and the Divine Mercy, the Rahmaniyat, demanded that as the time was ripe, an incorruptible everlasting final code of conduct, an unerring book of eternal guidance, a final criterion of virtue and vice, right and wrong, good and bad, an unequivocal and clear statement of Truth, be made available to humanity to enable it to navigate its way to the goal of eternal success here and in the hereafter.

"It was in the month of Ramadan that the Quran the most sublime guidance for entire humanity ; clear, intelligent, convincing arguments, evidences and signs; criterion for distinguishing right from wrong, good from evil was sent down," (Baqarah 2:165). It is thus the most magnanimous manifestation of God's mercy and compassion, Rahmaniyat, towards mankind that this invaluable gift was made available to it in the month of Ramadan.

This momentous event has bestowed a unique status upon this month and herein lays its real significance. Fasting during this month has been made compulsory for all, excepting for the time being only those who are unable to do so being sick or on journey, to enable them to attain purification of soul, heart, mind and body. "In consequence to this great Divine favour, whoever of you witnesses this month must spend it in fasting," (Q:2:185). And let them who were temporarily excused "make up the number later," (2:185), so that none may miss the spiritual benefits of this auspicious month. Fasting during this month, says Quran, has been prescribed "that you extol the glory of Allah for His providing you the Guidance and so that you may be grateful for that," (Q:2:185).

It is for the first time that the Quran introduces itself in this Surah by its proper name al-Quran. Apart from suggesting a strong bond of relationship between the Quran and the month of Ramadan, it hints at something more. The word Quran literally means that which is read over and over again, which is recited very frequently. It signifies that this Code of Guidance is not an ordinary book to be gone through once and then kept aside. Relationship with the Quran has to be a life-long engagement.

The dual purpose of sending down the "Book" as evinced by the verse "this Book which we have sent down, full of Barakah, is to be perused with particular attention and followed in practical life by those who possess understanding,"(Q:38:29), is that man must consume his best intellectual capabilities to delve deep in the Quranic treasure trough and accordingly fashion his individual and collective life. This purpose cannot be materialised unless frequent visits to the Quran are ensured.

It must not, however, be misunderstood that simple intellectual exercise could in any way be the exclusively aneffective tool to a genuinely correct understanding of the Quran. This misconception has been removed by the Quran itself. It is said in Surah al-Waqi'ah "Verily it is the Quran, most venerated, preserved in a written document, hidden from the eyes, it would not be touched except by the most pure, the most cleanly." The Quran does not allow itself to be physically touched by the ritually impure, the bodily filthy and unclean .

The much needed Divine Guidance was made available to humanity. The crucial problem, however, remained as how to attain that spiritual cleanliness, that purity of the inner self which would elevate man and enable him to ensure his access to the real Divine intention underlying the words of the Quran. The clue is supplied by the Quran itself. "O, ye who believe! Fasts, for a few fixed number of days, are prescribed upon you as they were prescribed upon those before you, that you may attain Taqwa." These appointed days constitute, we are informed in the following third verse, the whole month of Ramadan. Fasting during the whole month of Ramadan is said to inculcate Taqwa in the believers.

Taqwa is that spiritual sublimity of the soul which when attained restrains the believer from indulging in any such activity which may cause Divine displeasure and thereby result in the loss of love and favour of the Most Compassionate One. The Ramadan exercise to attain Taqwa and consequently be blessed with Furqan so raises and purifies a believer spiritually, morally and intellectually as to replenish him with the needed equipment, the required capacity, to pierce the veil of the Quranic words and peep into the underlying Divine intentions, aims and objectives, so to say read the "mind of God." The ultimate purpose of Fasting during the month of Ramadan is thus to enable a believer to have a really better, deeper understanding of the Divine Message.

A word of caution is needed here. Fasting during Ramadan, no doubt, has an intrinsic quality of inculcating Taqwa and under normal circumstances it may be reasonably expected to produce the desired result. What requires our attention is that while stating the Taqwa-producing property of Fasting the Quran uses the word La'allakum which denotes hope and fear at one and the same time instead of using the word Kay which carries the sense of certainty. Thus the Quran instead of saying outright that Fasting is certain to inculcate Taqwa, introduces an element of uncertainty and ambiguity by saying that it is expected to produce Taqwa, while there is also fear that it may fail to do so.

The Quran thus strongly suggests that there are some preconditions attached which must be fulfilled at all cost so that Taqwa may blossom into full bloom. These prerequisites have been explained at full length by the most authentic interpreter of the Quran, the Prophet himself, peace be upon him. In a nutshell, those observing Fasting have to shun and avoid all such mental and physical acts or omissions which have the propensity of nipping the Taqwa in the bud.

Source: http:// DAWN.Com/   Editorial October 05, 2007 Friday, Ramadan 22, 1428


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