By Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi
Allah, Most High, says, “Blessed be He in whose hand is the Sovereignty, and He is able to do all things. He created death and life that He may try which of you is best in deed. He is the Exalted in Might, oft Forgiving.” (Al-Mulk: 1-2)
Also, He says, “It is He who made the night and day to follow each other for such as have the will to celebrate His praises or to show their gratitude.” (Al-Furqan: 62)
Life and death and the succession of nights and day have a purpose and that is to test us and to give us an opportunity to express our thanks and gratitude to our Creator and Sustainer. The month of Ramadan comes and goes. We must examine ourselves now and see what we have learned and achieved during this month. The test of success of this month lies in the effects it has left upon us as follows:
1. Discipline: We learn in this month how to discipline ourselves for the sake of Allah. In our morning and evening, we follow a strict schedule of eating and drinking. We are constantly aware that even in our such mundane activities as eating and drinking, we must remain under divine injunctions. We change our habits in our daily routines because we learn that we are not the servants and slaves to our habits, but always the servants of Allah. Then after Ramadan, we have to keep this spirit of discipline in other modes of our life and must continue with our submission to the commands of Allah.
2. Renewal of Devotional Life: Ramadan renews our enthusiasm for worship and devotion to Allah. In this month we are more careful of our daily prayers and have special prayers at night. There is no religion without prayer and Muslims learn in this month how to strengthen and deepen their religious life.
3. Renewal of Contact with the Qur’an: Ramadan and the Qur’an are linked together from the beginning. It was in this month that this divine message was revealed to Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. We are told that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was fasting when he received the first revelation. Fasting prepares the believers' hearts to learn the Word of Allah. It is the most suitable condition for our spiritual and mental communication with the Qur’an. The Muslim Ummah pays more attention to the Qur’an in this month. This renewed contact with the Qur’an must help us in following its message.
4. Renewal of Identity with the Ummah: Ramadan is not an individual experience only, but it is an experience in community. The whole Muslim Ummah fasts together in one and the same month. We identify with one another in our obedience to Allah. This gives us a new sense of togetherness and association. Ramadan teaches us that the Muslim Ummah is the community of piety and devotion to Allah and its members derive their strength from each other in deeds of piety and virtue. The bonds that are based on piety and virtue are the strongest bonds and it is these bonds that prove good for mankind. The strength of the Muslim community lies in its commitment to the values of goodness, morality and piety. Ramadan leaves an imprint of all these values upon the Muslim Ummah.
5. A Fresh Sense of Care and Sympathy: Fasting in the month of Ramadan helps us to understand the suffering and the pains of the poor and needy. By our voluntary hunger and thirst we realize what it means to be deprived of basic necessities of life. Ramadan is called the month of charity and sympathy. We learn how to be more kind and generous in this month. Many Muslims also pay their Zakah in the month of Ramadan.
6. Jihad or Struggle: Fasting in Ramadan and Jihad both of them were prescribed in the same year, that is, the second year of Hijrah in Madinah. Fasting prepares for hardships and sacrifice. These are two important things without which Jihad is not possible. Muslims learn in Ramadan how to struggle against the forces of evil in their own selves, in the society around them, and in the world at large.
7. Taqwa: To summarize all the moral and spiritual gifts of Ramadan, we can say that Ramadan gives us the great gift of Taqwa. Taqwa is the sum total of Islamic life. It is the highest of all virtues in the Islamic scheme of things. It means, God-consciousness, piety, fear and awe of Allah and it signifies submission to Allah and total commitment to all that is good and rejection of all that is evil and bad.