Symbolism and Substance

by Tasavur Mushtaq

The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramzan is a month of reverence. Treasured as one of the five pillars of Islam, it stays from one observation of the crescent moon to the other. With fasting being one of the visible manifestations of this month, the essence lies in exploring the self and understanding the pain and problems of fellow human beings.

Divided into three phases, known as Ashra (ten days), whose beginning is mercy (Rehmah), the middle is forgiveness (Maghfirah) and the conclusion is seeking safety from the fire of hell (Nijat).

Since day one, every moment of this month is miraculous. Every minute is detoxifying. Besides imparting the discipline of self-control, this month takes us to the level of being conscious of our community.

The Last Ashra

Every Ashra of this holy month has its own significance, but when it comes to the last, it offers respite in many ways.

Beginning with the ritual of retreat in the Masjid (Aitikat), it ends on Eid, the day of gratitude. In between falls the Night of Power (Lailatul Qadr) and Jamat-ul-vida, the last Friday of the holy month.  As Laylat al-Qadr signifies the night when the first verses of the Quran were revealed to Prophet Mohammad (SAW), Jamat-ul-vida has its own significance. It is called the “day of worship.”

Not A Ritual

Being a month full of blessings, Ramzan is not a ritual. It is a reality to live for the next 11 months of the year. It is a drill that disciplines our demeanour. It helps to develop our manners and morality. Makes us responsive to the needs of others and instils a sense of empathy within us.  In the routine of our life, we would never be able to figure out what hunger means and how bad it is to feel pangs of thirst, that many less privileged people, who are repeatedly living a life without proper food. This month gives us a chance to comprehend the crisis of the less fortunate.

As we often see, places of worship are full during the month of Ramzan. From dawn to dusk, people meet each other more frequently than in the rest of the months. In the routine, there is a sense of belongingness. A unity is forged regardless of status and societal issues. Iftaar, the time to break the fast, imbibes us with the concept of interacting with each other. It gives us an opportunity to see other people take food before us. A lesson of selflessness.

Besides abstaining from food, this holy period teaches us to abstain from being the reason for hurting others. Be it through words or deeds. Importantly, there is untutored learning to take a pause and stop. In the rush of life, we never know how our life is being spent, but this month applies breaks to see and reflect and ensure that we manage to do all the things peacefully.

The Month of Charity

Known as the month of charity, the concept of helping people lies at the core of these four weeks. For want of getting rewarded more, people spend this month by way of Sadaqah, Zakat, and so on. One of the biggest charities in the Muslim world is shortly before Eid when every Muslim is mandated to offer Sadka Faitr for the less privileged. In Kashmir, for this year, it has been fixed at Rs 65, per head, at the lowest slab. It can go up to Rs 2000, depending on how the giver calculates it.

However, the tragic part lies when lessons are lost immediately after the Eid Namaz. We seldom retain the essence of this month after the celebrations. As we tend to forget the reason for celebration, we are caught again in the quagmire of life. We as a society replicate what a student normally does when he actually passes his examination. Forget the leanings, throw the books and be part of the new setup, only to work hard next time.

A Failure

But if this happens, we fail the purpose of purification. Ramzan is not a lesson for a month, but a lifetime.

There is a need to inculcate the teachings, intrinsically. There is no purpose to leaving food and other things for a month if we don’t make it perpetual in our life.

The sufferings do not end on Eid. The hunger persists. The thirst is there. Poverty is our part forever. Orphans have their own crisis. Widows wail all year. Sick seek attention. Children need education. Poor girls have their hands out. Aged parents need support. The homeless desire shelter. This is an unending process for all times to come. Ramzan or no Ramzan, the crisis persists. There is a need to sacrifice for the entire 12 months. Ramzan is a lesson to be implemented in totality for all times to come.

The symbolism may not remain, but substance should never be sacrificed.

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