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Monday, 6 October, 2008, 3:40 ( 1:40 GMT )
Opinion: Ramadan, the month of blessings
By Zainab Al-Arabi
07/09/2008 00:17:00
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar is eagerly anticipated in Libya as its arrival nears. Called the ‘blessed month’ and the ‘generous month’, it is considered to be an interval in which each adult person pauses to take stock of his or her life in general. It is the month in which the Qur’an was first read to Muhammad, the messenger of Allah:

" Read: In the name of thy Lord Who createth,
Createth man from a clot.
Read : And thy Lord is the Most Bounteous,
Who teacheth by the pen,
Teacheth man that which he knew not."

Surat Al-'Alaq, verses 1-5

The night on which the Qur’an was revealed is believed to be the 27th of Ramadan, but this is not verified precisely; the 23rd , 25th and 29th , have been suggested also. Fasting starts from the early hours of the day, at dawn, and lasts until the sun sets. No food or liquid whatsoever may be taken, except by those who are ill, are travelling, or women who are in the period of menstruation. All these can fast the days they missed whenever they choose, before the succeeding Ramadan.

Those who are ill may give alms instead, but it is better for them to fast, if they can. Physically and spiritually, fasting is of great benefit to humans: the medical aspects of fasting are well documented in Islamic medicine, emanating from the Prophet’s instruction, "Fast and you will be healthy."

Spiritually, the benefits are endless. In this month, God’s love and mercy engulf humanity; we are told in the Qur’an, and by the Messenger of Allah, that it is boundless. This is the time when people may strengthen their connection to Allah by increasing their prayer time during the night prayers, by reflecting more deeply on their relationship with the Creator, and by being more charitable towards one another.

Every charitable act, which in Islam may even be a smile to a family member or neighbour, being kind to a child, showing respect to an elderly person, or giving alms to needy people (food or money), is counted a thousand fold in the giver’s favour.

Practically speaking, some people find it very hard to control their tempers, and to think of others before themselves. In which case, an insult to another person or a selfish act will erase the merit of fasting.

It is not merely a question of will, of being able to stand the hunger and the thirst- especially on extremely hot days – of being able to look away from any form of temptation, but also the ability to control one’s tongue from uttering anything indecent, slanderous, or backbiting against any other person.

Of course, this should be done throughout the year, but in Ramadan, one tries to take extra care, to be extra sensitive to others’ feelings, as Islam is not a religion of abstract piety, but of reality. A Muslim’s conduct, his every word, should reflect his faith, and his submission to Allah’s will.

'Laylat al-Qadr', or 'the night of Power' and in some translations of the meaning of the Qur'an, 'the night of Pre-destination', is the night in which the Qur'an was revealed to Muhammad, peace be upon him. This night has special meaning for Muslims as it is said in the Qur'an that it is "…better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, with all decrees." Surat Al-Qadr, verses 3-4.

Translators agree that translation does not do justice to the beauty of the Arabic language in the Qur’an, which drives men to tears on hearing it, but I included these verses to try and show an aspect of Muslims' deep attachment to their faith, and how they feel God’s presence in their lives. The translation is taken from ‘The meaning of the Glorious Qur'an' by the English Muslim, Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall.
 
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