This article comes on Day Three of our special Altmuslim/Patheos Muslim Ramadan #30Days30Writers blog project, in which we are showcasing the voices of 30 Muslim leaders, activists, scholars, writers, youth and more (one on each day of Ramadan) as part of our commitment to own our own narratives and show how we are one Ummah, many voices. To demonstrate how our Ramadan experiences are shared yet unique to each of us.
The time of Ramadan is a powerful time for me to reflect not just on my own behaviors, but how my behavior affects others. The interconnectedness of humanity comes from the Quran, so the chance to read the Quran in its entirety, through the focus of fasting, elicits a greater sense of human kinship.There are several texts that help me frame the month, starting with Imam Zayn al-Abidin’s (AS) prayer welcoming Ramadan:
Praise belongs to God who guided us to His praise
and placed us among the people of praise, that we might be among the thankful for His beneficence
and that He might recompense us for that with the recompense of the good-doers!
And praise belongs to God who showed favour to us through His religion,
singled us out for His creed, and directed us onto the roads of His beneficence,
in order that through His kindness we might travel upon them to His good pleasure,
a praise which He will accept from us and through which He will be pleased with us!
And praise belongs to God who appointed among those roads His month, the month of Ramadan,
the month of fasting, the month of submission, the month of purity,
the month of putting to test, the month of standing in prayer,
“in which the Qur’an was sent down as guidance to the people,
and as clear signs of the Guidance and the Separator” (2:185)!
He clarified its excellence over other months
by the many sacred things and well-known excellencies which He placed therein,
for He made unlawful in it what He declared lawful in others to magnify it,
He prohibited foods and drinks in it to honour it,
and He appointed for it a clear time which He (majestic and mighty is He) allows not to be set forward
and accepts not to be placed behind.
Then He made one of its nights surpass the nights of a thousand months
and named it the Night of Decree;
“in it the angels and the Spirit descend by the leave of their Lord upon every command,
a peace” (97:4-5) constant in blessings until the rising of the dawn
upon whomsoever He will of His servants according to the decision He has made firm.
O God, bless Muhammad and his Household,
inspire us with knowledge of its excellence, veneration of its inviolability,
and caution against what Thou hast forbidden within it,
and help us to fast in it by our restraining our limbs from acts of disobedience toward Thee
and our employing them in that which pleases Thee,
so that we lend not our ears to idle talk
and hurry not with our eyes to diversion,
we stretch not our hands toward the forbidden
and stride not with our feet toward the prohibited,
our bellies hold only what Thou hast made lawful
and our tongues speak only what Thou hast exemplified,
we undertake nothing but what brings close to Thy reward
and pursue nothing but what protects from Thy punishment!
Then rid all of that from the false show of the false showers and the fame seeking of the fame seekers,
lest we associate therein anything with Thee
or seek therein any object of desire but Thee!
Then, I think the current book that helps me think through the Quran is Reza Shah-Kazemi’s The Spiritual Quest, where he talks about the holy book:
“If Imam ʿAlī declares that the whole of the Qurʾān is contained within the Fātiḥa, this means that the Fātiḥa must be a synthesis of the Qurʾān; and that, conversely, the Qurʾān is the differentiated, diversified articulation of the synthetic principles expressed by the Fātiḥa: the Qurʾān is the Fātiḥa exteri- orised, the Fātiḥa is the Qurʾān interiorised. For the Muslim who is attuned to the totality of the Qurʾān, therefore, each recitation of the Fātiḥa renders present—potentially, virtually or actually—the quin- tessence of everything that the Qurʾān teaches by way of revealed truth, and everything that it constitutes by way of sacred presence. (p. 17)
The Lord, al-Rabb, is not just the Creator of the world, creating it and then being separate from it; rather, the Lord also continuously sustainsed the process of universal manifestation, and this function of sustenance implies the perpetual and inalienable presence of the sustainer in that which is sustained. To say that God is perpetually present within creation means that the divine presence is inescapable throughout the entire realm of the cosmos, such that, ‘Wherever ye turn, there is the Face of God’ (2:115). (p. 19)
But the very fact that two Names of mercy are given in this formula which inaugurates the Revelation, and consecrates every act of significance for the Muslim, allows one to see that the essen- tial nature of ultimate Reality is compassionate and merciful, these two attributes being expressive of the overflow of infinite love. ‘I am as My slave thinks of Me’, we are told in a profound ḥadīth qudsī. The Basmala, by its very nature, encourages us to think of God as loving mercy. The truth of the first testimony (shahāda) of Islam is thus inextricably tied to the principle expressed by the Basmala: ‘There is no god except Him, the Compassionate, the Merciful (Lā ilāha illā Huwa al-Raḥmān al-Raḥīm)’ (2:163). (p. 22)
Imam ʿAlī’s definition of the true faqīh (literally ‘one who understands’) is ‘he who never makes people despair of the Raḥma of God’. (p. 28)”
In the last several years, as I try to work through the Quran, I’ve taken to Twitter and been encouraging people to Tweet the Qur’an. I’ve found it’s a good way to strengthen real life bonds using social media. Along those same lines, I want to end with a song reflecting on Ramadan and get my friend Hind at Hindtrospectives going on her Ramadan playlists.
Hussein Rashid is fairly certain that he is a mutant with unmanifested abilities, and is eagerly awaiting his invitation to join the X-Men. In the meantime, he is busy reading, writing, and figuring his role in the world.