By Dr Alhagi Manta Drammeh
The Qur’an reminds us that fasting is promulgated upon us as it was promulgated upon the nations before us so that we get piety (taqwa). Similarly it enunciates clearly that the Qur’an was revealed on a blessed night-Night of Power in the holy month of Ramadan as guidance for humanity. “O you who have believed, fasting is decreed upon you as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous” Al-Baqarah 2:184) and “The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion” (Al-Baqarah2:185).
The above Qur’anic passages outline three important facts as follows:
First: The month of Ramadan is the month of the Holy Qur’an and the need therefore to celebrate it through recitation, memorisation, understanding and deep reflection.
Second: Qur’an is the book of divinity meant to guide the entire humanity spiritually and morally to lead good life here and hereafter.
Third: Fasting is made obligatory upon Muslims in order to make them better persons that would be worth-emulating through their good examples in their humanity, humility, benevolence, compassion and sense of justice.
Here, I would like to dwell more on the spiritual and ethical perspectives of fasting that I think will help us develop personally and create a culture of tolerance and patience. Taqwa as in the above verses, makes us get the consciousness of our Creator that is based on love, fear and hope. Taqwa makes us closer to God by reflecting on His Divine Attributes (Asma Allah al-Husna) as the Ever-Living, the All-Knowing and All-Seeing. Thus, we are constantly reminded that we are mortal, vulnerable, weak and in need of His guidance.
Fasting is the devotional act that kindles in us the inclination to do charitable acts and to feed the poor and the needy. Fasting more importantly makes us constantly connected to our Creator through prayers, benevolence, recitation of the Qur’an, forgiveness, normalizing relations and gestures of kindness.
Therefore, an early Muslim scholar Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazalli (1058-1111) recognises three forms fasting namely:
Fasting of the ordinary people (sawm al-Awaam) who abstain from eating and drinking without imbuing in themselves values of fasting
Fasting of the special people (sawm al-Khawaas) who abstain from eating and drinking but also conscious of their human relations. They are careful not to harm verbally or otherwise
The highest category is the fasting of the special of the special (sawm khawaas al-Khawaas). This category of fasters are those who fast but conscious of the presence of the majesty of Allah in their actions and attitudes
The fasting of the special of the special are those who truly inculcate in them the real virtues and values of taqwa as the essence of fasting. Taqwa seems to me to being the primordial ethical value in the Qur’an and from it other Qur’anic values emanate. Taqwa is a balancing act between the material and the spiritual; and between the mundane and the divine.
Ramadan is therefore a golden opportunity for us to transform and repent once and for all. It is the month of repentance and reformation through the divine guidance of the Qur’an. As I mentioned earlier, we should strive to celebrate the Qur’an by its recitation and understanding. Qur’an is the Book of guidance and light. Prophet Muhammad reminds us that the best people are those who have learnt the Qur’an and taught it.
May Allah shower His mercy and bounty on us on the occasion of this Holy Month and in particular we are marking the last Ten Night.
Ramadan Karim and Eid Mubarak!
The author is the Managing Director, Timbuktu International Research Centre, Consultant at the Islamic Cultural Centre London and Associate Professor of Islamic Philosophy and Theology at the Muslim College London