All praise is due to Allah who commanded the Muslims to fast during Ramadan. He (Ta’ala) said,
“O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you as was prescribed for those before you that you became al-muttaqun (2:183)
And may the peace and mercy and Allah’s blessings be upon the Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) who received the Quran in the holy month and warned the Muslim community when he said:
“Recite the Quran and act upon it ..and don’t eat or profit from it”
As another Ramadan has passed us by, Al-hamdollillah, it is important for us to reflect upon whether we have recognized its purpose and improved our Taqwa by becoming people that embody the Quranic message in our actions; or whether we have merely abstained from food and drink while devouring the Quranic essence, and thereby its true objective.
Taqwa is a difficult word to define. It is usually translated as ‘God-fearing’ or ‘pious,’ but perhaps the best definition was given by Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (radiya Allahu anhu), who was asked to define it and responded with a question: “When you walk down a forest path covered in thorns, what do you do?” he asked his questioner. “You lift up your clothes, move very slow and take your steps carefully“, he [the questioner] responded, and Umar (radiya Allahu anhu) simply stated,”That, my friend, is Taqwa.”
And it is unfortunate that in this age Ramadan has largely lost its connection to the purpose of instilling Taqwa. Instead, in many ways, Ramadan has been turned into an occasion for festivity and entertainment, not unlike the way Christians have distorted their celebration of Christmas so that it is commercialized and void of spiritual purpose. Neglecting the purposes of acts of worship in Islam is a primary reason for the Muslim Ummah’s present degradation, and this Ramadan was significant in that several events in the heart of the Muslim world should have allowed us to recognize that our material and physical circumstances are largely a direct reflection of the state of the heart inside our chests.
The most prominent events are those occurring in Syria, an area destined to play a crucial role in any Islamic revival for its import is included in many ahaadith and isolated in many books of Fiqh as the home of the Taifa Mansoora, the Fustaat (flag) at the end of times where the Abdaal (righteous) gather, help to make Bay’aah to the Mahdi and eventually aid Issa Ibn Maryam (alaihissalaam) in fighting the antichrist. For example, the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) said,
“Syria will be conquered, and when you are given a choice of places to settle, go to a city called Damascus for it will be the Fustaat (Fustaat here means city) of the Muslims during the wars of Fitnah and the place of assembly.“
Thus, its condition resembles the condition of the entire Ummah, and this is as Allah’s Messenger (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) said,
“You see the believers as regards their being merciful among themselves and showing love among themselves and being kind among themselves resembling one body. So, if a part of the body is ill then the whole body suffers from sleeplessness and fever.“
And a proper conception of Islam helps us to understand that our personal conditions are connected to the condition of the global Muslim community altogether and that the condition of any given Muslim community is, at the same time, a direct reflection of the condition of Islam and Muslims across the world. It is for this reason that the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) admonished the companions saying,
“He who is not concerned with the general affairs of the Muslims is not one of us.“
Unfortunately, it is a lack of adhering to the path of Islam and [a lack of] trekking in a manner of caution and Taqwa that has caused the body of Muslims to suffer from sleeplessness and fever. And today we exist just as the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) described when he said:
“The nations will call other nations to stand against you as the eaters call each other to eat from the food in front of them on a large wooden plate.”
A person asked the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam),”Will that be because we will be few in number?”
The Prophet replied,”No, You will be great in number, but you will be rubbish like the rubbish of the flood water. And certainly Allah will remove from the hearts of your enemies fear of you and will throw Wahan in your hearts.”
A person asked, “What is ‘Wahan,’ O Messenger of Allah?”
The Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) replied, “Wahan is to love the world and hate death.“
And Syria is a perfect sample of the Ummah’s general existence. Despite having a dominant Sunni population, a deviant Alawite minority has ruled the post colonialist nation through a dictatorship managed mostly by a single family. That authoritarian dictatorship has maintained for over four decades, largely due to the rubbish associated with a preponderant Arab racism and post-sykes-picot nationalism united against all manifestations of Islam as a complete socio-political, economic order.
It is a common circumstance all over the Muslim world, but where critics attribute blame to the external coalition of nations conspiring to feast on the Muslim world’s natural resources and civilization, the Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) placed blame on the internal condition of the Muslims themselves. The tremors shaking the heart of the Arab world are proportionate to an Islamic Awakening over a generation, and perhaps the most evident lesson about “Taqwa” to take from this Ramadan, is the connection between the state of our spiritual selves and the general physical reality of Muslims everywhere.
The prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) stated,
“Beware! There is a piece of flesh in the body, if it becomes reformed, the whole body becomes reformed, but if it is corrupted, the whole body is corrupted and that [piece] is the heart.”
Today both the hearts of the individual believer and the identity in the heart of the Muslim world face all sorts of dialectical rupturing and everywhere glimpses exist of an ascendant Islamic identity which is also in accord with what the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) said, “As you are so are the rulers above you.“ That being said, it becomes apparent that the solution to our contemporary situation is, first and foremost, a spiritual one and Ramadan serves as a continuous annual reminder of the connection between the spiritual and material realms.
This has always been the case. When the Tatars were pushed from Damascus by successful battle during Ramadan in 702 A.H, physical victory was a result of Ibn Taymia’s cleansing the beliefs of the Muslims with texts like his Aqeedahtu Hamawiyaa, written for the people of Hama, a town besieged by the Assad regime today.
Similarly, At-Tabari recorded in his classic work An History that when the Muslims first conquered Syria under Umar Ibn Al Khattab, Heraclius, the Roman emperor asked a Byzantine who had been a prisoner of the Muslims about their condition. The man replied,
“I shall tell you, and it will be as if you are looking at them. They are horseman during the day and monks at night. In the areas they rule, they do not eat except that they pay for it, and they do not enter a house except with a greeting of peace. They stand up to those who fight them until they destroy them.”
Heraclius could only reply, “If you have spoken the truth, they will indeed inherit the land on which I stand.” Surely, their foundation was Taqwa and we remain, as Imam Malik once suggested, “Verily the only thing that will rectify the ends of this Ummah, is what rectified its beginning.”
As we push forward after Ramadan, let us remember that Taqwa is the foundation of all we do. That it is manifested in the heart and that our physical condition is dependent on the state of our spiritual selves.
It was for this reason that the noble Shaykh Nassarudeen Al-Albani adopted the Ikhwan Al-Muslimeen’s statement: “Establish the Islamic state in your hearts, and Allah will make it a reality,” even though he disagreed with them. Allah’s Messenger (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) constantly emphasized such principles. He said, “Straighten your rows (three times) and Allaah will bring together your ranks or Allaah will put differences into your hearts,” and he (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) informed us that, “A believer to another believer is like a building whose different part enforce each other.”
Today, we Muslims are being tested severely, and our current circumstances tell of potential revival, but it is evident the hearts are tainted by foreign desires. Allah has told us that “Allah has not made for man two hearts inside his body” (33.4). Taqwa is the spiritual garb of the heart that beats for Islam and Muslims, so let us cultivate it wherever we are and recognize that such efforts can only help to bring victory to the Muslims at large.
As individuals and collectives, Allah is testing our hearts. It is as the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) said,
“Trials and tribulations will be presented to the hearts, as a reed mat is interwoven stick by stick. Any heart which absorbs these trials will have a black mark put in it. However, any heart that rejects them will have a white mark put in it. The result is that hearts will be of two kinds: one white like a white stone, which will not be harmed by trials as long as the heavens and earth endure; and the other dark and rusty, like an over-turned vessel; not able to recognize the good, nor reject evil, but rather being absorbed with its desires.”
As an Ummah we are increasingly passing these tests and have witnessed some purification. As a result, a new middle east is formulating in the heart of the Muslim world and circumstances, like those unfolding in Syria, present numerous opportunities to connect the degree of material success to adherence upon the path of Taqwa as outlined by Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, for Taqwa fixates the hearts upon the Quran and sunnah and other superficial displays of Islam absent such a foundation only lead to further sleeplessness and disorder.
Brothers and sisters should use the affairs unfolding in Syria to connect to the global Ummah and to call to adherence to these principles.
The great scholar Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah stated that:
“There are four matters, that when their limits are transgressed harden the heart: food, sleep, speech and sexual intercourse. A body afflicted by disease does not derive nourishment from admonishment or exhortation. Whoever desires to purify his heart then let him give preference to Allah over his base desires.”
Ramadan forces the Muslim to restrain all four of these base desires but only those able to connect refraining from them during the holy month to the cultivation of Taqwa thereafter will cleanse their condition and benefit from the trial. In the same way, the historic trials unfolding in the communities of Muslims across the globe will only produce benefit where they stand upon a foundation of Taqwa that manifests action upon the Quranic path. It is a failure to recognize the purpose behind acts of worship in Islam that makes us those that eat and sell the divine message just like the nations before us. May Allah make us al-Muttaqun.
Younes Abdullah Muhammad
Jesse Curtis Morton #79274-083 FCI Schuylkill Federal Correctional Institution P.O. Box 759 Minersville, PA 17954 USA