RUKAYYA SAMSODIEN, writing under the auspices of the Department of Quranic Affairs of the Muslim Judicial Council (SA), reflects on this month’s verse to understand its significance as we enter the ‘Month of the Quran’.
AS the blessed month of Ramadaan approaches, I find myself reflecting upon verse nine of Surah Al-Shams, where Allah states: ‘Successful indeed is the one who purifies their soul.’
This verse speaks to one of the key objectives of Ramadaan, that is, working on our inner state. We all seek to imbue ourselves with the most sublime qualities in our daily interaction with the Almighty and others, drawing from the blessed Prophetic example.
It is noteworthy, then, to reflect upon the advice of our scholars when embarking upon improving our inner state.
Their mantra in Arabic is: Al-takhalli qabla al-tahalli, and translates as: rid yourself of dishonourable qualities first before becoming imbued with praiseworthy qualities.
Lessons contained in the verse
This message is echoed in the verse: ‘Successful indeed is the one who purifies their soul.’ It calls to being active and conscious in our divine charge to elevate and improve the state of our inner selves.
While this is arguably a constant charge, it is accorded extra focus during the month of Ramadaan since spiritual purification is of its key objectives.
Beyond this, Ramadaan provides a beautiful opportunity for us to marry between the legal and spiritual expectations of this month, and we should use it as a springboard to set the tone for every form of worship in our homes.
We should instil in our children that abstaining from food and drink, from dawn to dusk, is the legal requirement of fasting and a huge achievement in itself; however, we should not neglect the spiritual intent and aim of this month.
In his famous work, Purification of the Heart, the erudite Mauritanian scholar, Muhammad Moulood bin Ahmad Faal, quotes Imam Ghazali in the following lines: ‘Knowing the illnesses of the heart, its many causes and its remedy is – according to Al Ghazali – obligatory.’
If the very study of the illnesses which may affect our heart is mandatory, what then about making a concerted effort to combat it?
This verse is supremely powerful, creating renewed awareness of this essential part of our faith and lifelong path each one of us must follow.
It invites us to practise a renewed consciousness in striving towards spiritual purification, and while it is ultimately a path we all have to tread individually, we should not fail to follow the advice of the Almighty to co-operate in goodness.
Our individual role
We should embark upon this path with a clear goal in mind. Ramadaan consists of a finite number of days, and while we may not be capable of eliminating all our vices at once, we can certainly make a committed start in Ramadaan.
Focusing only on one or two undesirable qualities and similarly, one or two desirable qualities, is a good start, as consistency is a quality loved by our Creator.
Daily journaling to document progress and areas of improvement is an excellent means to hold oneself accountable and work towards realistic achievements in Ramadaan.
Co-operating in goodness
Subsequent to each family member documenting the qualities they would like to work on as individuals, it would be helpful for the household to know the goals of each person in the nuclear family unit, with the aim of assisting and guiding each other during this blessed month.
Indeed, believers are all brothers and sisters of each other. Hence, what better way to manifest their mutual desire for goodness than by guiding towards righteousness?
Maximising our striving
Consider two farmers, each intending to plant seeds on similar stretches of land. Before planting, Farmer A removes all the debris he can find, such as twigs, rocks, weeds and loose roots. After ensuring that all the debris has been removed, he now prepares the soil and proceeds to sow the seeds on the land.
Farmer B skips all the preparation work and immediately proceeds to plant the seeds in the weed-ridden and rocky ground. Such is the likeness of our deeds.
The debris and weeds represent vices, such as dishonesty, malice and backbiting, which we should actively seek to purge from our inner state. This is so that our hearts may be better prepared to receive all beautiful and sublime qualities, manifesting as kindness, generosity, patience, loyalty etc.
The natural outcome would be that both Farmer A and Farmer B would experience some benefit from the land. However, since Farmer B did not go to the trouble of preparing the soil first, his benefit would be limited compared to Farmer A, whose crops would flourish.
Such is the example of our deeds. We should strive to combine the two essential elements of inner purification: eliminating dishonourable qualities and imbuing oneself with praiseworthy qualities in order to maximise the fruits of our striving as Allah states: ‘Successful indeed is the one who purifies their soul.’
We make duah for increased closeness to the Almighty during the blessed Month of the Quran.
- Rukayya Samsodien, who studied in Syria, is the founder and principal of the Baseerah Institute and is a member of the Muslim Judicial Council’s Department of Quranic Affairs Think-Tank.
This article was first published in the March 2022 print edition of Muslim Views.