It was in the month of Ramadan that the Qur’an was revealed as guidance for mankind, clear messages giving guidance and distinguishing between right and wrong… [2:185]
As we witness another Ramadan and receive its multitudinous gifts – those tangible and those intangible – it is incumbent for us to reflect upon the centrality of the Glorious Qur’an in this sacred month, and to strive towards attaining taqwa [the higher state of perpetual cognizance of God] (1,2). Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an: in the last ten nights, we seek Laylat al- Qadr – a night described as better than 1000 months – on which the Qur’an descended from the Lawh al-Mahfuz to Bayt al-’Izza, or from the Preserved Tablet to our realm, the heaven of this earth (3,4,5). Ramadan offers respite in a world steeped in the compulsive and mundane cycles of modern life. Through fasting, we reduce our satiety of bodily impulses and pleasures to experience a higher form of existence that revitalizes the deepest, most enduring part of ourselves: our souls. In order to receive this sacred month in all of its beatitude, we must deepen our connection to the Holy Book and approach Ramadan not (solely) as a time of heightened religiosity, but also as a serious and enduring reorientation and commitment to spiritual, higher living.
We must both establish a connection to and incorporate recitation of the Qur’an in our daily lives, increasing both during Ramadan. The angel Jibril used to meet the Prophet ﷺ every night in the month of Ramadan to teach him Qur’an (6). The Qur’an contains clear guidance from Our Lord ﷻ as a mercy upon the believers, and thus is indispensable in strengthening the believer in his faith (7,8). We are informed of our imperative to recite from the Qur’an by the Prophetic tradition that God ﷻ says:
Whomever the Qur’an and My remembrance preoccupy him from beseeching me, I give [him] the best of what the beseechers are given. The superiority of the Word of God over all others is like the superiority of God over His creation.
Moreover, in the Qur’an, God ﷻ tells us:
Say, ‘In the bounty of God and in His mercy – in that let them rejoice; it is better than what they accumulate.’ (10:58)
Shaykh Abu Salman Al-Obaisy – a master of the Qur’anic sciences – explains this verse, saying the bounty in which we rejoice is in and through the resplendent gift of the Qur’an. The gift of the Qur’an is clear and its recitation is prioritized in the worship of the pious, especially during Ramadan. Imam Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali relates the following practices of the Salaf as-Salih [pious predecessors] in Ramadan (9):
- Imam al-Shafi’i would complete sixty khatams [cover to cover recitation] of the Qur’an in Ramadan alone;
- Imam Sufyan al-Thawri would abandon all [voluntary] acts of worship and turn towards the recitation of the Qur’an;
- Imam Malik ibn Anas was known for withdrawing from reading the Hadith and attending gatherings of the People of Knowledge to dedicate his time solely to reciting the Qur’an from the Mus’haf [Qur’anic text].
The intensity in the devotion of the Salaf as-Salih – at one time, a necessity by those seeking nearness to God – is rare today. The dedication of our predecessors is indicative of the sincerity and purity of their states, and it is by virtue of this dedication that they cultivated the flowering of Islamic civilization. Surprise at their dedication is indicative of a malaise of our modern epoch – one embedded in heedlessness and spiritual impoverishment – which, in order to be remedied, demands that we approach faith with the same rigor that once resisted the ephemeral and vain pursuits of this life.
We cannot revive our connection to the Qur’an without disconnecting from all that ensnares our hearts in the trivialities of this world. Muslims must embrace Ramadan as a time to withdraw from the noise, haste, and vicissitudes of modern life (10). The mechanical and absurd demands of modern industrial life deprive us from spiritual introspection and cultivation (11). Ramadan offers a merciful, extended retreat from the vanities of everyday life, allowing us to focus on living intentionally, transcending the impulses and needs of the flesh, and ultimately, achieving the highest state of being: that of taqwa [God-consciousness] (12).
Practically, this includes reducing time spent on social media, to instead, spend more time practicing conscious and mindful living. It includes more time in silent solitude, practicing, especially in the last ten nights of the sacred month, the fast of Maryam (peace be upon her soul), whose fast entailed silence in order to attain the favor of God ﷻ. Reducing our exposure to external stimuli, while refraining from food, drink, and intercourse, allows us to experience a more meaningful way of life-a rarity in the noise of the modern world (13). Time not spent in the present is time lost.
Ramadan allows us to reorient towards living deliberately in the present and to reaffirm our position in the the universe – not merely as finite beings living in a material world of fleeting pleasures and instantaneous gratification, but rather, as spiritual beings passing through a transient world that belongs to God, the Eternal, in hope of His Favor.
- The word “Ramadan” comes from the root word ramad, which literally translates as “to burn”. The word “Ramadan”, it is suggested, denotes the burning of the sins of people with good deeds. (Tafsir Imam al-Qurtubi, Vol. 2 pg. 271)
- “Qur’an” comes from the word qira’ah, or, “something to be recited”.
- Sahih al-Bukhari, #2017.
- Al-Qur’an, 97:3.
- Surah al-Qadr, Tafsir of Ibn Kathir.
- Sahih al-Bukhari, #6.
- Al-Qur’an, 10:57.
- Al-Qur’an, 8:2.
- Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, Lata’if al-Ma’arif, 318.
- A discussion on the perils of busyness as a distinctly modern phenomenon can be found in Bertrand Russell’s philosophical essay, “In Praise of Idleness”.
- Byung-Chul Han, The Scent of Time, vii.
- Al-Qur’an, 2:183: “O ye who believe, fasting was prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may attain taqwa.”
- “Haste, franticness, restlessness, nervousness and a diffuse sense of anxiety determine today’s life.” Hans, The Scent of Time, 31.
About the author: Abdurrahman is a student of robotics engineering. His interests include philosophy, history, the Islamic sacred sciences, physics, mathematics, and poetry. You can follow him on Twitter here.