The Intrinsic meanings of Ramadhan Part 10

Ensuring Socio-economic Justice

Muhammad H. al-'Asi

Ramadan 08, 1425 2004-10-22

Bismillah Ar-Rahmaan Ar-Raheem. Alhumdulillah. Peace and blessings on Muhammad (sallalahu alaihi wa alihi wa sallam), his Noble Companions and Family. Dear Committed brothers, dear committed sisters,

At the beginning of the month of Ramadhan it is only appropriate to go directly to Allah’s words to express and refresh our minds and hearts concerning this once in a year exercise. Allah, whose words tolerate no doubt, are the following… (and) even though there are following ayaat and instructions we will make do with this amount. These life sustaining ayaat tell us the following

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا

Oh you who are secured in your commitment to Allah… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 183)

This expression- Ya ayyuhalladhina Aamanu- is repeated probably over 100 times in the Qur’an. When Allah addresses us with these words, He expects us to fulfill the assignment that follows. There are other forms of address in the Qur’an; Allah says Ya Ayyunah Naas, Ya Ayyuhalladhina utul kitaab, Ya Bani Adam, but here and in the similar ayaat in the Qur’an, what is to follow is a policy or an assignment- something that requires a collective effort and an organized and disciplined method and approach. As-siyaam is not just a personal responsibility; as-siyaam is a social responsibility. Allah takes us into the socialization of the coming order, instruction or in this case an institution and this is something that has escaped the average Muslim when he reads the Qur’an. Little does he notice that after Allah says Ya ayyuhalladhina Aamanu, then the following statement or sentence has to do with organizing the Islamic social reality. Allah says

كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ

… fasting has become your assignment… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 183)

He didn’t say kutiba alayka as-siyaam- as an individual. (This is where we live today), fasting has become an individual obligation; it no longer is pertaining to Ya ayyuhalladhina Aamanu and kutiba alaykum as-siyaam- no longer is Ramadhan within this definition; it has receded, retreated and lost its social dimensions to become what it is today- an individual responsibility; this is the way we approach and exercise our fast, which is not the way that is meant by the meanings of this ayaat.

كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ

…as was the assignment of those who came before… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 183)

Pause a moment here- Muslims who are listening to this Qur’an have inherited an assignment that had it not been for this Qur’an the whole assignment would have been warped. There were nations and people of scripture before this Qur’an who also were tasked with fasting- where’s that fast now? (Take a) look at people of previous revelation and prior scripture- how do they fast? What does fasting mean to them? The concept or idea of fasting has become mutilated in those who have shared the responsibilities of scripture before this Qur’an. If some people fast, they fast 24hours one day in a year; is this a social institution? To other people it means you abstain from meat for one day a week or 40days a year; is this fasting? So, it falls on us to move this responsibility into future generations and to re-institutionalize it within its social dimensions. It is a matter of humble pride that it falls on us- the students of the Prophet and the disciples of the Qur’an- to fulfill this act of as-siyaam, but what is it about? Why do we fast? Why are we given this month of fasting? La allakum tattakun. Once again, we encounter the socialization of the fast- there’s a plural here. Ya ayyuhalladhina Aamanu is a number of people; kutiba alaykum is a plural and then, fasting has been assigned to us for the purpose of La allakum tattakum- once again, we are looking at a congregation or a congress of people. All reference in this ayah is to people in their multitude and masses. There is not one word in this ayah that refers to an individual or one person. Ramadhan, fasting or abstaining from food, water nourishment and the desires of the self is meant for society not for an individual or individuals. The objective when we fast is

لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

…so that you may be on guard against Allah. (Surah Al Baqarah verse 183)

This is at-taqwa. One of the ways of explaining at-taqwa is there is a sense of avoiding in our civic life the breaking of the law. Why? Because there is a consequence of penalties and punishment. Anyone who breaks the law is going to run into the legal system, the verdict and whatever else comes out of that- a sentence to jail, community service, death penalty, whatever the case maybe. This feeling of trying to avoid breaking the law is (in the linguistic sense) at-taqwa. Everyone in himself has a sense, feeling or a consciousness of “if at all possible, we are not going to run against the law.” It is this meaning that Allah is referring to when He places the word La allakum tattakum in this ayah He does not want us to run afoul of Him- this is what is meant by fasting. This cannot be accomplished if we are fasting only as individuals. It can be achieved when this collective fast becomes a social institution- something that has been absent from Islamic public life for centuries. We have been reduced to something like the fasting of the ego. It has become so private and so personal that even when it comes to explain the objective of fasting in society and the social order around feels strange to our ears. It shouldn’t be because it is saturated in these ayaat. Once again- think, focus and concentrate on the particulars in this ayah. The multiple repetition of the plural in this ayah leaves a thinking person no choice but to begin to think about Ramadhan in its social scope, depth and in its social inclusiveness. If this is the case and if this is our understanding of the ayah, then why do we have Ramadhan coming and going (in previous years, this year and if things continue at this pace, in the coming year) but when we are fasting during the month of Ramadhan this fast doesn’t have a social impact? Maybe one of the hadiths of Allah’s blessed Prophet will explain a little more about this. Muhammad- Rasoulillah said whoever does not part with the expression and actualization of fraud, then Allah has no interest in him parting with him parting with his food and water. What does this mean? This is in reference to our fast- we know alphabetically that fasting means you don’t eat, drink and have conjugal relationships if you are married during the day. Allah’s Prophet is telling us Allah has no need for us abstaining from food, water and our desires if we are not abstaining from fraudulent expressions and acts. So, if people are fasting, why are they at the same time part of a larger fraud in this world? You (can take a) look at the politics, economics, education, entertainment, socialization- almost everything that is going on in our own society- Ramadhan is social, we understand that from the very firstayah in Surat Al Baqarah, but, (we ask ourselves), who are the Muslims who are withdrawing from the social, political and economic fraud that has become the fiber and the fabric of the society that we are in? Who are the Muslims who by parting with their food, water and desires are at the same time parting from this pronounced fraud around us? There’s an answer to this. They are on the lesser side- numerically. There’s not many people doing this. What brings them to Ramadhan is the force of tradition, and then the way they observe Ramadhan is also a matter of culture and tradition, therefore we have no social Ramadhan; because we don’t see around 2billion Muslims in this world making a serious attempt as they withdraw from food and water also withdrawing from the corruption and the fraudulent policies all around them. There’s plenty of them; there’s no lack of this. What happened? There’s a dysfunction of the fasting that we are observing. It doesn’t take its social range. Did someone make up this hadith? No! It is there for all to listen and refer to, but why do we have the average Muslim incapable of absorbing this understanding of the fast? Words of frankness sometimes hurt- because there is no confidence in Allah. Muslims today they look around and they see “wow, there’s a big military force flexing its muscles; dispatching its armada and striking with its aircraft”-so what if that is the case- is not Allah more Powerful, Forceful and Potent than what you are looking at? If you don’t withdraw from this fraudulent impression that has seeped deep down inside the recesses of your feelings and heart, then what does it mean to be fasting? Who do we expect to take the initiative to say “we no longer are part of this global fraud.” Who’s going to do that? King so-and-so in Arabia or President so-and-so in Africa?! Are they fasting according to the standard and meanings of these ayaat and the hadith of Rasulillah?! Ramadhan would have an impact on the world if one-third of humanity, the Muslims of the human race, were observing a social fast. Where is this taqwa? Is there a heightened sense of not running afoul of Allah? Is there a sharp sense that developed through our fasting not to break the laws of Allah? (You can) compare your own internal self and our internal social self- make that connection and make that leap. Allah never meant for you to be incarcerated within your own individual self; He also wants you to think about your social self- something that is never is expressed and radiated from these Manaabir under occupation. Think of the average Muhammad, Uthman and Ali and the rest of these Muslims and compare the way they compare breaking the law of man with breaking the law of Allah- where is at-taqwa in this comparison? They are more afraid of breaking the secular law than they are of breaking the Islamic and the scriptural law! Where is at-taqwa? Where is Ramadhan? Where is as-siyaam? Siyaam is a matter of discipline. It takes discipline, organization and patience to observe these vital meanings in our social self, not in our personal self. Take a look at our social psychology, where is at-taqwa there in? You can extend that and take a look at our rulers- are they fasting the month of Ramadhan and fulfilling the meanings of these ayaat? The straight answer to that is no! Allah’s Prophet furthermore states you may have a person who is fasting but gets nothing out of his fast except hunger and thirst. That’s a physical fast and Allah doesn’t want us to be only physical or material human beings, He wants us to extend that so that we realize that we are accountable to Him- and only to Him. Is this what Ramadhan is? Are these the types of meanings that begin to take hold during these days and weeks of siyaam? One of the companions of Allah’s Prophet said for everything there is a zakaah, for every privilege, bounty or provision that Allah has given you, you give out of it as a form of purifying and elaborating what Allah has given you. If He has given you money, you give out of that money so the money that you have left will grow and prosper in a method of halaal; if Allah has given you time, you share this time with others who are in need of it. Allah has given us a body and the zakaah of this body is to fast…

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