This Holy Month of Ramadan: Cultivate the Character of Allah in yourselvesBy Imam Sultan Rahman -Guest Columnist- | Last updated: Jul 1, 2014 - 9:40:03 PM
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In spirit and deed, we join nearly 2 billion Muslims around the Islamic world in the annual fast of the Holy Month of Ramadan, the 9th month of the lunar calendar. We rejoice at its coming and thank Allah (God) for another opportunity to observe the rites of self-purification of the heart, mind, body and spirit for the purpose of self-improvement to better the condition of ourselves and people through self-discipline and seeking to attain nearness to Allah (God).
It is through prescribed self-restraint, during this month, that Allah (God) says He Teaches us how to “guard against evil’ or develop Taqwa—God-consciousness. We are all equal in the Eyes of Allah, except in one way: Our duty, our God-consciousness (Taqwa). It is by our duty that Allah (God) differentiates us in accord to our vigilance of our duty toward Him and our fellow human being.
It is in this month that we are asking for Allah’s help and His mercy. It is mentioned in the Tradition of Muhammad (peace be upon him) that in the beginning of the Holy Month of Ramadan, the Gates of Allah’s Mercy are opened to the Believer. We see a type of this blessing that comes upon us when we begin our fast. When we begin our fasting, we see it may be a little difficult to get into the swing of the fast, if we have not been preparing ourselves.
Sometimes we may forget we are fasting, especially in those first few days or weeks. We might find ourselves with a mouth full of water during fasting time, two or three days into Ramadan, and in the middle of swallowing and we catch ourselves “Ahhh! My God. I’m fasting.” It is habit that when we are thirsty we drink, hungry we eat, when we want sex, we have sex, and when we want sleep—we sleep. It is this habitual behavior we pick up that makes us continue to drink, eat, have sex, and sleep even when we do not need it.
The Month of Ramadan’s Fast is a habit breaker as it takes about 21 days to break a habit we have a month to break the ego of self. It is a common mistake that we accidently eat or drink something during the Month of Ramadan, without thinking or intentionally doing so. This makes the food or drink taken, considered to be a gift from Allah (Most High). We are granted forgiveness and should continue our fast upon recalling. This is truly a fast of Mercy. However, do not let deceptive intelligence take over and we complete a meal or a full glass of water–all the while thanking Allah (God) for His gifts! (Smile.) This would most definitely break your fast and the day missed would have to be made up.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has stated,“The Fast of Ramadan, the Discipline of Prayer and Reflection through the reading of the Qur’an at prescribed times during the days is the greatest aid in developing discipline.” Prayer and fasting strengthens our discipline. We must purge the Enemy’s mind and thoughts from ourselves. We fast externally by abstaining from marital relations with our wives and husbands and from eating or drinking any beverages during the daylight hours. We are not only fasting externally (physically) from eating, drinking, and the passions during the daylight hours but we are also fasting internally (spiritually) by staying away from arguing, anger, lewd behavior, gossip, and other negative character traits, while seeking to cultivate the best of ourselves through self-restraint. Fasting in Arabic is called Sawm, which means “to be still” or “to be motionless” as it relates to a specific activity or desire by practicing restraint.
Allah says in the Qur’an in Surah al-Furqaan, 25:63, “the servants of the Beneficent are they who walk on the earth in humility and when the ignorant address them, they say: Peace.” When someone ignorant comes to you with ignorance, do you respond with the like and become ignorant like that ignorant one? Or do you maintain your stillness, maintain your peace and give to that brother or sister who is in ignorance and turmoil a prayer of Peace? Surely, they are in need of Allah’s Peace to be upon them.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad has stated in How To Eat To Live, “The Muslims do not eat nor drink from before sunrise until she, the Sun, has set. If you take it, the fast of Ramadan with them (the Muslims) you are doing the right thing until this evil world has vanished.”
We are practicing fasting of the eyes by not looking lustfully at the opposite sex. We are practicing fasting of the tongue by controlling ourselves from speaking obscenity. We are even fasting with our feet by not taking ourselves where we should not be. How can we say we are fasting if we are standing in a night club surrounded by temptation and lewdness?
The ear should be fasting. We don’t spend our time listening to music all day with low influences designed to fan the fires of passion and other “pastimes” such as indulging in sport and play. The Prophet (peace be upon him) has said, “He who does not desist or stop from obscene language and acting obscenely during the period of fasting, Allah has no need that he did not drink or eat.” Every aspect of ourselves should be subjected to the stillness of restraint from engaging in immoral activities as well as activities that are empty or vain.
The Holy Month of Fasting in Ramadan is a secret between the Believer and Allah (God), Most High. For Allah knows best of our fasting; He knows if we are keeping to clean thoughts, the pure actions. He knows whether or not we have cursed our brother or sister out. He knows if we’re sneaking in the refrigerator in the midday. These are aspects of the self that we must eradicate by changing these bad habits of egoism that we all have suffered from.
We are not fasting to lose weight. We’re fasting to lose our egos. If we fast with the right mindset, we are putting aside the basic hungers of life. When we are able to put our hungers aside the Enemy cannot control us through our stomachs and low desires. What beautiful advice we have from the Holy Prophet of Islam in these words, “cultivate within yourself the Attributes of Allah (God).”
Who among us is vying or competing for a level of God-consciousness that would allow us to stand out among people because of our good works toward others as one seeking the path of the Straight and Narrow? Not for the sake of vanity but the pleasure of Allah (God). In a Tradition of the Prophet (Peace be upon him), he was asked by one of his companions, “(What do you say about when) a man does a deed for the sake of Allah, and people love him for it?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “That is the immediate glad tidings of the Believer.”
In the love of people for a person and his or her good works Allah sends us good news of the reality of our belief. If you are one that people have said, “Oh, that’s a good brother. I can always count on him. That’s a good sister. What a beautiful support to the community that brother is.” Know that reputation you are building with the brotherhood and sisterhood is the confirmation of the same reputation that you’re building with Allah (God), Most High, when our intent is pure.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad writes in Message to the Blackman in America, pg. 84, Islam “heals both physical and spiritual ills by teaching what to eat, when to eat, what to think, and how to act.” Let us in this Holy Month look into our fasting as a means of cultivating our character by staying away from obscenity and acting ignorantly toward one another. Let us conquer our desires. Let us through righteous works, good deeds, and self-discipline conquer the darkness of self by going to war with the ignorance of self and the ignorance of society in this month.
(Imam Sultan Rahman Muhammad is the National Imam of the Nation of Islam and resident Imam of Mosque Maryam National Center, tweet him @ImamSultanM or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)