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The Month of Meaning

Muslims today need more than ever to reconcile themselves with the school of profound spirituality along with the exercise of rigorous and critical intelligence. At a time where fear is all around, where suspicion is widespread, where the Muslims are tempted by the obsession to have to defend themselves and to prove constantly their innocence, the month of Ramadan calls them to their dignity as well as to their responsibilities.

Most of the classical religious teachings regarding the month of Ramadan insist on the rules being respected as well as the deep spiritual dimension of this month of fast, privations, worship and meditation. While thinking about it more closely, one realizes that this month marries apparently contradictory requirements which, nevertheless, together constitute the universe of faith.

To ponder over these different dimensions is the responsibility of each conscience, each woman, each man and each community of faith, wherever they are. We can never emphasise enough the importance of this “return to oneself” required during this period of fast.

Ramadan is a month of abrupt changes; this is true here more than anywhere else. At the heart of our consumer society, where we are used to easy access to goods and possessions and where we are driven by the marked individualism of our daily lives, this month requires from everyone that we come back to the centre and the meaning of our life.

At the Centre there is God and one’s heart, as the Qur’an reminds us: “…and know that [the knowledge of] God lies between the human being and his heart.” At the Centre, everyone is asked to take up again a dialogue with The Most-High and The Most-Close.. a dialogue of intimacy, of sincerity, of love. To fast is to seek.. with lucidity, patience and confidence.. justice and peace with oneself. The month of Ramadan is the “month of the Meaning”.. why this life? What about God in my life? What about my mother and my father.. still alive or already gone? What about my children? My family? My spiritual community? Why this universe and this humanity? What meaning have I given to my daily life? What meaning am I able to be consistent with?

The Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) had warned “Some people only gain from their fast the fact that they are hungry and thirsty.” He was speaking of those who fast as mechanically as they eat. They deprive themselves from eating with the same unawareness and the same thoughtlessness as they are used to eating and drinking. In fact, they transform it into a cultural tradition, a fashionable celebration, even a month of banquets and “Ramadan nights”. A fast of extreme alienation.. a fast of counter-meaning.

As this month invites us towards the deep horizons of introspection and meaning, it reminds us of the importance of detail, precision and discipline in our practice. The precise starting day of Ramadan that must be rigorously found; the precise hour before dawn on which one must stop eating; the prayers to be performed “at determined moments”; the exact time of the break of fast.

At the very time of our profound meditation with God and in our own self, one could have thought that it was possible to immerse oneself into one’s feelings because this quest for meaning is so deep that it should be allowed to bypass the details of rules and schedules. But the actual experience of Ramadan teaches us the opposite: no profound spirituality, no true quest of meaning without discipline and rigor as to the management of rules to be respected and time to be mastered.

The month of Ramadan marries the depth of the meaning and the precision of the form. There exists an “intelligence of the fast” that arises from the very reality of this marriage between the content and the form: to fast with one’s body is a school for the exercise of the mind. The abrupt changes implied by the fast is an invitation to a transformation and a profound reform of oneself and one’s life that can only occur through a rigorous intellectual introspection (muraqaba).

To achieve the ultimate goal of the fast our faith requires a demanding, lucid, sincere, and honest mind capable of sane self-criticism. Everyone should be able to do that for oneself, before God, within one’s solitude as well as within one’s commitment among one’s fellow human beings. It is a question of mastering one’s emotions, to face up to oneself and to take the right decisions as to the transformation of one’s life in order to come closer to the Centre and the Meaning.

Muslims of today need more than ever to reconcile themselves with the school of profound spirituality along with the exercise of rigorous and critical intelligence. Particularly in the West. At a time where fear is all around, where suspicion is widespread, where the Muslims are tempted by the obsession to have to defend themselves and to prove constantly their innocence, the month of Ramadan calls them to their dignity as well as to their responsibilities.

It is urgent that they learn to master their emotions, to go beyond their fears and doubts and come back to the essential with confidence and assurance. It is imperative too that they make it a rule for themselves to be rigorous and upright in the assessment of their conduct, individually and collectively: self-criticism and collective introspection are of the essence at every step, to achieve a true transformation within Muslim communities and societies.

Instead of blaming “those who dominate”, “the Other”, “the West”, etc. it is necessary to make ours the teaching of the month of Ramadan: you are, indeed, what you do of yourself. What are we doing of ourselves today? What are our contributions within the fields of education, social justice and liberty? What are we doing to promote the dignity of women, children or to protect the rights of the poor and the marginalised people in our societies? What kind of models of profound, intelligent and active spirituality do we offer today to the people around us? What have we done with our universal message of justice and peace? What have we done with our message of individual responsibility, of human brotherhood and love?

All these questions are in our hearts and minds.. and there is only one response inspired by the Qur’an and nurtured by the month of Ramadan: God will change nothing for the good if you change nothing.

6 commentaires - “The Month of Meaning”

  1. Assalamou’alaykoum,

    Barakallahoufik pour ce rappel. Quelquefois, il est si simple de se laisser emporter par la “vague”.

    Soyez en Paix et qu’Allah (swt) vous accompagne.

    1. Alsalam Alikum
      Yes, Ramadan is a month of abrupt change. I hope it is a solid steady and permanent change, not a transient or hypocrisy.It should include change in soul, mind, and behaviors…Thanks for this spiritual tip
      Alsalam Alikum

    2. Assalamou’alaykoum,

      En effet, un mois généreux et appartenant au très Haut (swt).

      Et quelles choses détestables que sont l’hypocrisie et la ruse!

      Qu’Allah sobhanaho wa ta’ala nous en préserve et qu’IL en préserve tout être qui tourne sa face vers Lui.

      Soyen en Paix cher Frère et qu’Allah vous accompagne.

  2. Masaallah.
    AMADAN KAREEM Assalamuallikum. May Allah keep us on the right path,
    and accept our fasting and prayers. We wish the best blessings of
    Ramadan to all. May Allah accept our worship and may He help us
    rejuvenate our faith. May He help us share the joy of this month with
    all our family, friends and neighbors. Jazakkallah…u khairan Mohamed Ali
    jinnah

  3. Bismillah ir rahman ir raheem

    Masha Allah what beautiful reminding words. The encouragement you offer with this paragraph: It is urgent that they learn to master their emotions, to go beyond their fears and doubts and come back to the essential with confidence and assurance. It is imperative too that they make it a rule for themselves to be rigorous and upright in the assessment of their conduct, individually and collectively: self-criticism and collective introspection are of the essence at every step, to achieve a true transformation within Muslim communities and societies.
    MASHA ALLAH…..I will take this and paste it on my locker at work and read it to remind myself to master my emotions when they attack me from all sides. Thank you …thank you …thank you…I must get back to the basics you had once told me at the R.I.S. conference last December. Insha’Allah that is the only saving grace is to get back to our roots. May you have a wonderful Ramadan Kareem!

    May Allah Almighthy give you the strength to continue your work and may he give patience to your family so that they do not miss you too much when you are away on your trips. It must be so hard for them to share you. Ameen!

    A’ISHA from Canada

  4. Un beau texte, comme le précédent (So fragile) qui méritaient la traduction en Français…

    Sur la partie française du site, il y a eu beaucoup d’audio. On n’a pas toujours le temps ou l’envie d’écouter.

    J’ai eu l’impression que parfois l’inspiration vous manquait. Et puis, on découvre ici ces deux “lettres du coeur”.

    Finalement, l’écrit me semble tohcer davantage la sensibilité profonde. Il reste là. On peut le reprendre, lasser l’écho entre en soi. L’oral se déroule sans retour et l’on peut en rester à la première compréhension.

    Alors, à l’occasion, quelques lignes en Français..

    Merci.

    MV

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