EVEN as the world battles a virus that has gripped the human race in its tentacles, Muslims observe the month of fasting with fervour and hope. Covid-19, in fact, should be taken as an opportunity for those who pray, because they can now do so in isolation and away from temptations of social gatherings. This is the time for deep introspection and developing and strengthening one’s bonds with the Creator, with no one watching.
Ramazan is very special for Muslims for many reasons. It is one of the main ways God prescribes for them to work towards developing piety and righteousness, the beautiful word ‘taqwa’ which has been variously translated. “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint” (2:183). It enables us to bring our nafs under control, purify our physical system and, through prayer and Quran reading, cleanse our souls. Indeed, if we do not control tendencies to anger, abuse, lying, cheating, committing other small or big sins, our fasts will be merely acts of starvation.
One fact often missed by Muslims is that they had already accepted God as their Creator before coming to this world. This life is a period during which they overcome their tribulations and control their desires so as to return to their natural selves, fitrah. Ramazan is an amazing gift from God to His servants, to be relished day to day, each day bringing more promise of fulfilment and reward. The Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have said: “Whoever observes fasts during the month of Ramazan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain God’s rewards, all his past sins will be forgiven”(Bukhari and Muslim). However, people who are ill or travelling or unable to fast for other reasons can also benefit equally.
Ramazan is an amazing gift from God to His servants.
The main reason for the special place occupied by Ramazan in the hearts of Muslims is that the Quran was first revealed during this month. This is stated in the Quran itself (2:185).
The night during which this revelation first came to the Prophet through angel Gabriel is the one every practising Muslim aspires to search for and find. It is the blessed night during which every matter is decreed (44:1-5). It is the night in which, through prayer, sins are forgiven, supplications are accepted and mercy and blessings surround the persons engaged in prayer. It has been variously called the Night of Power, Decree, Destiny (because people’s destinies are determined during this night).
It is not only the power of God that is indicated, but the power of prayers of humans, who can take their souls to heights of purity and obtain closeness to God. It is the power of the Quran, which when recited with sincerity and understanding, lightens heavy hearts and shows the path to salvation in dark times. It is the power of submission to God which calms the troubled mind and brings peace to lives in conflict-ridden and chaotic times. It brings hope and continued desire to struggle for a better future in this and the next world.
“We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power: And what will explain to thee what the night of power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by Allah’s permission, on every errand: Peace!...This until the rise of morn!” (97:1-5).
“This” is the night that is better than a thousand months. Whether we take this number to be in human or heavenly terms, it is clear that sincere worship during this night would have considerable worth in the eyes of God. This is when angels descend to do God’s merciful bidding. This is the night of peace, consolation, warmth and compassion, bringing Muslims and the universe together into one entity of creation by God, bound to Him by virtue of this connection and hence bound to each other, called upon to establish peace and harmony, with each other and with nature. “If this night is peace, then so is the revelation, that is, the Quran itself,” writes Juan Cole, in Muhammad, Prophet of Peace amid Clash of Empires. The night and the Quran together form peace upon earth.
Through hadith, we learn that this night is to be found among the odd nights of the last 10 days of Ramazan. According to Shias, it is most likely to be the 23rd and the Sunnis believe that it is the 27th. It can benefit us if we seek this night, each night of the 10 days. Our purpose could be, in addition to searching for the night when the revelation came, to also search for a personal night of power and peace that serves as our guide for the year until the next Ramazan. We could thus find our own laylat ul qadr, as we continue to search for the Laylat ul Qadr.
The writer is a freelance contributor, with an interest in religion.
Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2020