Time to Act, Closest to God, Subject of History
Issue 696 » July 27, 2012 - Ramadan 8, 1433
Time to Act!
Al-Alaq (The Blood Clots) - Chapter 96: Verse 1
The first Revelation to the Messenger was the command: Read! This command, coming at a time when there was nothing readily available to read, meant that believers should use their intellectual and spiritual faculties to discern God's acts in the universe and His laws related to its creation and operation. Through such discernment, believers seek to purify themselves and their minds of all ignorance-based superstitions and to acquire true knowledge through observation and contemplation.
We are not composed only of our minds. God has endowed us with many faculties, each of which needs satisfaction. So while feeding our minds with the Divine signs in the universe, we seek to cleanse our hearts of sin. We live a balanced life in awareness of Divine supervision, and continuously seek His forgiveness. In this way, we eventually conquer our desire for forbidden things and, through prayer, ask God to enable us to do good deeds.
Thus Read! signifies action. For the Messenger, who already was absolutely pure in spirit and devoid of superstition, it meant that it was time to start his mission as a Messenger of God. He was to recite the Revelation in public and instruct people about His signs. By doing this, he would purify their minds of superstitions carried over from the Age of Ignorance, and their hearts of sin. He would enlighten them, intellectually and spiritually, by instructing them in the Revealed Book of God (the Quran) and His Created Book (the universe).
"The Messenger of God: Muhammad" - Fethullah Gulen, pp. 207, 208
Closest to God
Sujud (Prostration) is the noblest posture that a worshipper can be in, for it is the epitome of humility and submissiveness. And how can it not be, when a person in prostration lowers her face - the most noble and sacred part of her body - to the dust, seeking the pleasure of her Lord? This is why this posture is the most beloved by Allah, all Glory and Praise be to Him. Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said:
"The closest any worshipper can be to his Lord is while he is in prostration, so increase your duas in it." [Muslim]
For this reason, the Prophet, peace be upon him, was prohibited by Allah from reciting the Quran while in a state of ruku or sujud, and he in turn, prohibited the Muslims from this also. Ibn Abbas narrated that the Prophet said:
"I have been prohibited from reciting the Quran while in ruku or sujud, so during ruku, glorify your Lord, and during sujud, exert yourself in making dua, for it is very likely that you will be responded to." [Muslim]
"Dua: The Weapon of the Believer"- Yasir Qadhi, pp. 125, 126
Subject of History
Sawm should not be misunderstood as an act of self-denial, and an act of asceticism and, therefore, a renunciation of the world and of life, as an act of self-mortification. This life and this world are God's creation, and are, therefore, good. He established them as people's destiny enjoined upon him to seek and promote them. His Prophet, Muhammad, defined, the good, the noble, the felicitous person as one whose career adds a real plus to the total value of the universe, who leaves the world a better place than that in which he was born. But, sawm is definitely an abstinence from food, drink and sex. What then is its meaning?
Besides constituting another act of obedience to Allah, hence realising all values appertaining to obedience to and a communion with the Divine, sawm is an exercise of self-mastery. The instincts for food and sex are the basic ingredients of which life is made. They are the strongest and ultimate urges a person possesses. For their sake as ultimate goals, normal human life and energy are spent. Sawm addresses them. It does not deny them continuously and perpetually, but only during the month of Ramadan, and does so only between dawn and sunset. That is precisely what self-mastery requires: to deny and to satisfy, to deny again and to satisfy again, and so on for every day of Ramadan. Had denial been the consequence of condemnation, it would have been commanded for continuous observance. That is why the Muslim rejoices and celebrates at every sunset in Ramadan. For the sunset signifies his victory over himself during the day! This is why Ramadan is the happiest month of the year.
Sawm is, furthermore, an act of 'retreat' and self-stock-taking; an occasion for hisab or evaluation with oneself as to one's whence and whither; a remembrance of and commiseration with the poor and hungry, the destitute and deprived. It is the prime occasion for every noble act of sadaqah or charity, of altruistic concern which is the opposite of egotism, and ultimately for all ummatic values. Its effect on the development of the human personality is capital and decisive. It disciplines a person and enables him to master the strongest urges raging within him. It trains him to subdue them to the nobler ends of the ethics of religion. It orients him - in his physical and psychic being - towards the Ummah, and, thus, makes him an effective executor and actualiser of the Divine cause in history.
Indeed, it prepares him, par excellence, to enter the arena of history, and there to fulfil the pattern of God. The true observant of sawm is a person ready to be the subject of history, not its object.
Islam: The Way of Revival, "Inner Dimensions of Worship" - Ismail al-Faruqi, pp. 175, 176