Time for stock-taking (Friday feature DAWN)
By Prof Mohammed Rafi
RAMAZAN comes every year to remind us that it is not a month of mere fasting but a time to re-assess our commitment to God for upholding and practising His directives as revealed in the Quran. It is not a month to ‘finish’ reading of the Holy Quran in ‘taraweeh’ in three, six, ten, or twenty seven days. The Book was revealed as guidance and has to be attentively and carefully read with rapt attention.
The next step is to comprehend the message it contains and apply it practically in our daily lives for a peaceful, contented and harmonious living. The rapid unintelligible reading of the Quran in Ramazan and in other months too is quite common. The Quran talks about those people who study the Quran as it should be studied (2:121). The word Qirat means mere reading and Tilawat means reading with full comprehension.
The commonly used term Roza does not clearly indicate the true meaning and spirit of the month. The Quranic term Saum means controlling one’s desires and disciplining oneself within the limits prescribed by God. Sa’im is the one who stops himself from treading the wrong path by controlling himself.
Muslims all over the world generally observe this month in a routine manner by fasting from dawn to dusk. They feel at the time of Iftar (end of fasting) that their obligations are fulfilled. Little do they realise that Islam, as a way of life, is a round the clock affair. It is not confined to rituals, but encompasses all their activities. Rituals are easy to perform and are usually satisfying. A true test of the Muslim comes in the practical application of Divine laws in everyday life.
The Quran says that this month has been chosen for collective training. The objective of this training is to establish Allah’s supremacy for He has shown us a well lighted way, (2:185).
The Quran is now recited to acquire the reward of a virtuous act (Sawaab): It is because the way the Quran is recited during Taraweeh prayers is neither understood nor does the congregation comprehend as to what they have listened. The Quran is the most widely read book in the world but sadly its readers are not aware of its meanings. This injustice is not done to any other book in the world.
Ramazan provides us an opportunity to refresh our beliefs and the Quranic teachings. The Quran tells us that if humanity follows the Divine guidance in letter and spirit, it will rediscover the paradise that was lost by man as a result of disobedience of God’s instructions. Through this message Muhammad (SAW) reformed and transformed a cruel, unjust, ignorant and disintegrated society into a united, just and enlightened one. Today, Muslims who were directed by the Quran to work towards solving the problems of humanity are unable to solve their own problems.
The month also emphasises that freedom of faith is the corner stone of Islam. There is no compulsion or coercion in Islam (2:250). The Christian missionary T.W. Arnold wrote: ‘For any organized attempt to force the acceptance of Islam on the Non-Muslim population or of any systematic persecution intended to stamp out Christian religion we hear nothing. Had the Caliphs chosen to adopt either course of action, they might have swept away Christianity as easily as Ferdinand and Isabella drove Islam out of Spain.’
The basic objective of the revelation of the Quran during this month was to give the Muslims specific guidance to develop themselves. For that, it is important to have an ideal standard. This objective standard incorporates all attributes of God. As a human being inculcates and develops these attributes, within human limits, he comes nearer to God. This has been described in the Quran as adopting the ‘Colour of God’ (2:138).
During Ramazan and at all times, Muslims should strive to protect themselves from the dangers of evil and adopt the Divine laws. The next step is that of thanking God for the rewards that are forthcoming as a result of disciplining their lives.
If you ask a Muslim the reason for his fasting, he would straightaway respond by saying that he is obeying the directives given in the Quran (2:183). In other words he accepts the fact that the Divine directives have to be obeyed. This simple principle should be applied to all other directives; otherwise we would be accepting one directive of the Quran and ignoring others.
The Quran was revealed from time to time over a period of 23 years. Muhammad (SAW) had made fool-proof arrangements for its transcription and preservation and before he died it had been fully written and compiled in the form of a book by honourable, pious and just writers (80:13-16). This is how the Quran testifies to its compilation negating countless man-made and confusing theories.
The responsibility of the Messenger to whom the Quran was revealed was not only to communicate this Divine revelation to others but also to establish a socio-economic order in the light of that guidance. Muhammad (SAW) established this order which fully recognized the dignity of all human beings (17:70).
This month tells us that individual interest has to be replaced by the ideal of the good of humanity at large. Equity and justice should prevail over oppression and exploitation. Man’s desire to dominate others must end and every one must live in peace and harmony. This is exactly the opposite of what Muslims are now doing.
The metamorphosis of Deen into Mazhab (Religion) — a word which does not occur in the Quran; has led Muslims astray into a world of contrived ideas and concepts that totally negate the true spirit of Islam.
Ramazan also reminds us that men have no right to rule other men: yet it does not advocate a lawless, anarchical society. It lays down the principle that Allah alone has the right to rule over them (12:40) and none has the right to any share in it (18:26). Sovereignty belongs to Allah alone. The question arises how Allah should be obeyed? The answer is by observing His laws as given in the Quran. This totally negates theocracy and modern secularism. The concept of monarchy or totalitarianism is un-Islamic. We never remember Muhammad (SAW) as a king or president, although he had a million square miles under his authority.
In the Eid message to the Muslims of India in 1945 the Quaid-i-Azam said, Every Muslim knows that the injunctions of the Quran are not confined to religious and moral duties. From the Atlantic to the Ganges, says Gibbon, the Quran is acknowledged as the fundamental code, not only of theology, but of civil and criminal jurisprudence, and the laws which regulate the actions and the prophet of mankind are regulated by the immutable sanction of the will of Allah.
Everyone, except those who are ignorant, knows that the Quran is the general code of Muslims — a religious, social, civil, commercial, military, judicial, criminal and penal code. It regulates everything from the salvation of soul to the health of the body, from punishment here to that in the life to come. Our Nabi (SAW) has enjoined that every Muslim must possess a copy of the Quran and be his own priest. Therefore Islam is not confined to the spiritual levels and doctrines and rituals and ceremonies. It is a complete code regulating the whole Muslim society in every department of life, collectively and individually.
Ramazan also makes us think about the importance of the Quranic teachings in our daily lives. It should generate new energy and conviction in discovering the forgotten values of Islam. Above all it makes us realize that the laws made by our earlier jurists and promulgated in the past are not eternal and binding on all future generations.
Islam is the name of obedience to Divine laws, not by compulsion but by obedience from the core of the heart. It is the accomplishment of the laws in such a way that a true follower of these laws cannot ever touch a thing unlawful. Ramazan is stock-taking time through which we have to evaluate the sum total of our deeds and consequences spread over the whole year and to oversee as to what extent we have marched ahead on this scale in one year.