Dear Ramadan BY Femi Abbas
In the name of the Almighty Allah and with His mercy and blessings, which you brought to us, recently, we salute you. For 30 days, in the month of Ramadan, you were our special guest. And, with your special visit, you transformed our lives positively and rekindled our hopes spiritually.
Before you first descended on this world about 1442 years ago, what we used to know of hospitality was the entertainment that the host offered his guest. But with your arrival, that tradition was reversed in a revolutionary manner. You became the only known guest in the world, who entertains his host to satisfaction. Yours is a hospitality that cannot be measured in quality or quantity. And, that is why the universal preparation for your arrival, every year is unequalled.
Even the unbelievers are forced to recognise your presence with veneration despite your invisibility. For instance, all the manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, all over the world, prepare for your arrival annually, if only to take advantage of your grandiose presence to do brisk businesses. Today, the greatest persecutors of Islam in Britain and the US are forced to pretend to be friends of that divine religion by hosting Muslims to Iftar in London and Washington. And the rest of the Western world copies them in doing that. Yet, each time you come around, most of us receive you reluctantly. But, when it is time for you to go, we hardly want to part with you again.
And, when we are eventually forced to say bye for now according to the law that established our spiritual relationship with you, we do so only in tears.
No other time of the year injects into us, the vivid consciousness of our faith as you do. No other pillar of Islam instils in us the high level of discipline which you take us through for a whole month. We acknowledge the effect of your role in our lives and we pray the Almighty Allah to sustain that effect in us so that the door to AL-JANNAH which you evidently represent may not be locked against us when it is time to take our place in that everlasting home of bliss.
With your coming once every year, we learn that life is neither static nor are the things inside it. No man of reason and letters stays put at a particular spot. Human body system gets strong only by shifting positions and moving around. Meeting and parting with fellow human beings from time to time are what make life interesting.
Interacting and intermingling with other elements of nature are the ingredients that fertilize the soil of harmony on our terrestrial planet.
The sun would have been boring, despite its usefulness to mankind, if it does not rise in the east at dawn and set in the west at twilight.
No water spring would have been drinkable if it had remained stagnant on a permanent basis. Had the arrow refused to part with the bow, it would not have been able to hit its target. The regular exchange of baton between days and nights is what makes calendar possible for humanity.
We came into the world as travelers in transit. Our travel from father's port of semen to the confines of mother's womb in form of foetus is a transit. Our transformation from stage to stage inside that womb as vividly described by Allah in the Qur'an is a transit. And, following our arrival in this world, we naturally embark on a pilgrimage from the unknown to the unknown. Thus, any stage or condition in which we find ourselves in life, at any given time, is a transit. Without such transit, human life would have been monotonously valueless. Ditto other forces of nature, seen or unseen, animate or inanimate.
Not by Fortuity
Our world, the earth, did not come into existence by fortuity. Our primogenitors, Adam and his wife, Hawa'u (Eve) were not created to take charge of the earth by fortuity. The divine law by which this world is governed was not coined to guide us by fortuity. And, man's peregrination on earth, world, towards the world hereafter, is not by fortuity.
All these are a ground design of a great revolution through which the meaning of the universe is to be understood. That design is the handiwork of the Supreme Being known to Muslims as ALLAH.
The divine signature appended to that design is what came to be known as the Qur'an which you (Ramadan) facilitated through a single night inside you, that Allah described as "more beneficial than 1000 months.
That signature (The Qur'an) is inimitable and unsurpassable not only in the grandeur of its diction and the splendour of its contents but also in its connotation, essence and profundity. Its summary is what is known to humanity as 'REVOLUTION'.
By implication, the Qur'an can be semantically called 'THE GREAT REVOLUTION' that transformed the world from the sphere of obscurity into that of unimaginable sophistication. Yet, it is through the great night inside you, called 'LAYLATUL QADR' that such a great revolution came to Prophet Muhammad (SAW). If only the Qur'an is what humanity is privileged to access through your motherly belly it would have been enough. But, what is more, your contribution to the guidance of mankind transcends our perception of the Qur'an alone.
A former American President, John F. Kennedy, did not know that he was describing the Qur'an when he once said: "We live in a hemisphere whose own revolution has given birth to the most powerful force of the modern age- the freedom and fulfilment of man".
Other Pillars of Islam
In your absence, the other four pillars of Islam could only presumably be engaged in an imaginary debate even as each claims to be the key to paradise. Faith, for instance, might claim that without her, all other pillars could only exist in vain.
To counter her claim, Salat might describe her five daily appearances in the life of a Muslim as the impetus that gives faith a deserved relevance. Zakah, on its own, may recount to the first two that whoever would be faithful enough to observe Salat ought to be married to Zakah either as a giver or as a receiver. And, at that point, Hajj might come in to contend that only a semblance of the 'Hereafter' (Yawmul Qiyamah), which she represents, can authenticate the spiritual visa with which humanity would be ushered into paradise through the wagons of other pillars. She (Hajj) might claim that without her as an emancipator of rightly guided humanity from the shackles of Satan, no one would have had the slightest idea of what that Great Day would be.
When you are around, dear Ramadan, all other pillars fall in line conceding leadership to you without any argument. You are not just the undeniable evidence of faith in man; you are also the most reliable witness of Salat, Zakah and Hajj.
Prophet Muhammad (SAW) attested to this through one Hadith-ul-Qudsi when he quoted Allah as saying that "Fasting (in Ramadan) is Mine and I am the one to give reward on it".
To fast while you are around, faith must not only be present, it must also be a formidable foundation. Salat must also convincingly increase the tempo of her spiritual vitality. Whoever is not dressed in the toga of faith and feather his hat of Salat will only be wasting his time if he claims to be fasting. And when you are about to return home according to your tradition, Zakah must appear before you to pay homage in the name of 'Sadaqatul Fitr'. Even Hajj which, should not statutorily meet you, must also send an envoy to pay homage to you in the name of Umrah (Lesser Hajj).
By making this observation, one is not trying to crown you as the king of the pillars of Islam but to exhibit your exemplary virtue in the realm of spirituality. And, with the awful role you play every year, the position of a coordinator may be ascribed to you directly or indirectly.
In the light of the aforementioned, we cannot persuade you to stay with us permanently since going and coming once every year adds to the legendary grandiose that makes us crave passionately for your presence. We fervently pray the Almighty Allah to grant us further opportunities to benefit in the years ahead, from the unlimited bounties which you are privileged to bring to us every year. With tears flowing through our eyes, we bid you adieu for now hoping that by the grace of Allah you will come to meet us again alive and in sound health.
Prior to your arrival, dear Ramadan, some people dreamt but never lived to realize their dreams. Some looked but never saw. It is only in the imagination of man that age or illness should be the cause of death. We shall all die at our scheduled time. Therefore, whoever was privileged to have passed through your endearing presence successfully this year should endeavour to add spiritual value to his or her life and not diminish in faith after your departure. We shall all account for that value before Allah.
As you just bade us bye, for now, we shall continue to look back with nostalgia to the good things we have done under your influence while you were around.
Needs and wants
It is mostly when you, Ramadan, are around that Muslims reconfirm their NEEDS rather than their WANTS as the necessities required for the sustenance of their lives.
Muslims, by their faith and orientation, are not, ordinarily, given to WANTS. They are more concerned about NEEDS than WANTS. The reason for this is not far-fetched. With NEEDS come contentment and satisfaction while WANTS are the cause of greed and avarice.
Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, had provided the needs of every living creature even before its creation. But then, He knew that of all those creatures man alone would go beyond NEEDS into the realm of WANTS. That was perhaps what informed the negative role which Satan assumed in the life of man shortly after the creation of Adam.
By introducing WANTS to man, what Satan did was to create a permanent job for himself in the life of man. Without WANTS the world would not have been what it is today. Blood would not have been flowing. Money would not have been deified. Hatred would not have been known to man. And, man's inhumanity to man would have been totally averted.
The effect of WANTS first became known when Qabil (Cain), the first son of Adam preferred his brother's wife to his. In the tantrum that ensued from that unfortunate saga, Qabil (Cain) killed his brother Habil (Abel) and combined the latter's wife with his own and became a polygynist. From thence, greed and avarice became ingredients of man's culture. And, WANTS rather than NEEDS became the domineering factor in the life of man. This is one of the vices which you, Ramadan, often come to correct in man.
At no time in the life of man can the true nature of human existence be more manifest than in Ramadan. It is in that sacred month that Muslims reflect mostly on the purpose of their existence on earth.
Some people fasted actively last year but were no more to witness this year. Some put their feet at the doorstep of Ramadan this year but never entered it. Some felt by the way side along the line. Some fasted with absolute faith in Allah and confidence in making use of the lessons of Ramadan. Some joined the spiritual train with no idea of their destination in the month. Some sat on the fence with one leg here and the other there. However, none was hidden from Allah.
Now, all is over. But we shall keep remembering those days with indelible nostalgia. We shall keep recalling our anxiety while looking towards sighting the crescent that ushered you into our world with incomparable glory. We shall not forget the compensating evenings of Tarawih and the marvellous nights of Thajjud and Sahur. We shall look back to the immaculate days of Tafsir and the exclusiveness of 'Itikaf. Yes, our minds will not be off the great expectations embedded in the majestic LAYLATUL QADR as well as the great pleasure in the payment of Zakatul Fitr. All these will surely enable us to take a retrospective look at your grandiose annual presence with nostalgia. Bye for now, dear Ramadan, until we meet again next year, by the grace of Allah.