By Dr Alhagi Manta Drammeh (PG CerTHE, FHEA, FRSA), Professor of Islamic Studies & Contemporary World and Researcher at the University of Dundee
The month of Ramadan (fasting) is an annual training for a Muslim to return to his Creator, to purify and cleanse themselves from impurities. It is departure from the low animalistic instincts in the human being to the sublime. It is a month of spiritual elevation. It is a month of connecting oneself with the spiritual world. Indeed, it symbolises a big school where we learn lofty human values. “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous” (AlBaqarah 2:183). In every rule (hukum) in the Qur’an, the wisdom (hikmah) will be stated either directly or indirectly. The wisdom behind the promulgation of fasting is that the believers get (taqwa) translated as fear of God or piety. Upon more reflection, one can claim that taqwa is about the consciousness of God-that is the realisation of the presence of the Majesty and Greatness of God. This creates in one the sense of humility and the constant realisation that God is watching him wherever they are. This is related to the concept of Ihsan and that is to worship God as if you see Him. However, if you do not see Him, He verily sees you. The above verse relates to the following verse as well “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.” (AlBaqarah 2:185). This Qur’anic verse emphasises the symbiotic relationship between the Qur’an and fasting. It points out that the great bounty of God in this month is the revelation of the Qur’an.
Righteousness (taqwa) or God consciousness and guidance are the main themes of fasting and indeed AlBaqarah the longest chapter of the Qur’an. At the beginning of the chapter, God says “This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah” (muttaqin) (2:2) and He also says : “Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah , the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveller, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah; [those who] fulfil their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous” (2:177) (muttaqun).
From the above Qur’anic passages, we can notice that (taqwa) which is the theme of fasting transcends beyond the explicit ritualistic movements to deeply spiritual teachings of Islam regarding consciousness of God and His Majestic presence in us thus kindling in us Islamic ethical values, Islamic humanism and compassion. This sense of Divine presence everywhere inculcates in both the fear (khashiya) of God and His love (mahabbah). This month is the month of Qur’an as emphasised in many Qur’anic and Prophetic pronouncements. We should therefore make the utmost to recite the Qur’an and reflect on its meanings and interpretations.
This great month is an opportunity to develop ourselves spiritually and ethically. On the social level, fasting enables us to play an important role in the society by preaching the universal Qur’anic human values of compassion, peace and mercy. Fasting purifies us and gets us closer to God. Fasting should kindle in us the love of humanity and develop in us the sense of compassion towards humanity. Islam is a religion of love and compassion and not hatred and bigotry. As we are now living the last ten days, we should make firm resolutions not to return to our low human instincts. We should be able to fight our lower desires. In these days and beyond we should be more charitable, kinder and more compassionate in our dealings with the entire humanity and the cosmos as well. In the context of the Gambia, we should redouble our efforts to build our wounded nation and bring to the forefront of the international community. The Gambia should heal itself by itself if we would like to build a Gambia based on justice, truth and the rule of law. Let us come together as one nation and one people. In the end, politics is about reconciling differences and to promote healthy cross-fertilisation of ideas. Ideas should not be monopolised but shared. Fasting indeed teaches us to cultivate those values.
May Allah accept all our acts of devotion and may He bless the Gambia