SHAIKH SA’DULLAH KHAN states that if we are to exit Ramadaan better than we entered it, we should ‘prioritise’ and ‘actualise’ our values.
THE global ummah is about to enter Ramadaan, ready to get into the mode of fasting.
Fasting is, of course, one of the fundamental pillars of Islam and an important component of our ibaadah (worship). It is also an integral programme for the spiritual and moral enhancement of human consciousness, for the improvement of human character and the promotion of welfare to communities and advancement of societies.
As we approach Ramadaan, a month of high intensity ethical training, let us mindfully reflect that those who are fasting are on a journey and the Qur’an refers to them as sa’ihun (spiritual travellers on a transcendent journey). The question, however, is: journeying towards what?
This is where fundamental values are significant. Values are essential for the development of our spirituality, our morality and our character. Whether we exit Ramadaan better than we enter Ramadaan depends on how we prioritise and actualise our values. Values help us figure out what we want out of life, help us behave in ways that match what we really want to do and who we actually want to become. When we are faced with challenges, it is our values that guide and inform our decisions. Our values reveal who we are.
Living by our higher values requires moral maturity, and moral maturity entails taking responsibility for our own lives, taking rational decisions that reflect the best that we can offer. The yardstick of maturity, however, is personal integrity: applying basic values to the decision-making process and thus living in a way that allows our personality to be consistently good. In reality, integrity is about thinking and acting in a way that reflects the full stature of a rational human being.
Fasting and taqwa
In Islam, values are embedded in ihsan (goodness), premised on and motivated by ikhlas (sincerity of intention and genuineness in purpose), manifested in ‘amalus-salihaat (good beneficial deeds) and one is always in pursuit of taqwa (righteous Allah consciousness).
Taqwa is the ‘pinnacle of human spiritual and moral development’ (Quran 49:13), and is the primary objective of fasting which was ‘divinely prescribed through history’ (Quran 2:183). Fasting and the pursuit of taqwa are highly personalised, yet they are integral to our overall values entrenched in ihsan. Fasting is thus not merely the abstention of food and drink; it is the abstention from indifference towards the dignity of people. In the words of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), ‘Whoever does not give up false statements (i.e. telling lies), and evil deeds, and speaking bad words to others, acting foolishly/ignorantly; Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (fasting).’ (Musnad Ahmed)
‘The person who rushes to help a widow or an orphan is like a mujahid in the path of Allah, like a person who prays the whole night and fasts all day.’ (Bukhari)
In fact, among the best evidence of taqwa is expressed through our commitment to manifest social justice, ‘Ensure that you are just for the manifestation of justice is the closest expression to taqwa’ (Qur’an 5:8) We can not truly be living Ramadaan, with all our personal attempts at a heightened level of spiritual consciousness and recalibrating our morals through our siyaam (fasting) and qiyaam (night prayer), without social consciousness; without being concerned about the suffering of those who are desperate, oppressed and dispossessed.
Holding to account
Look at our magnificent country, with its hallowed history of noble souls who fought against injustice and discrimination, now ruled by incompetent and selfish-self-centred leaders who have rendered our beloved country into a virtual failed state. The South African economy is in tatters, darkened by load-shedding, burdened with unemployment, overwhelmed by crime, led by the incompetent, dominated by corruption. ‘Corruption has appeared because of what people have done’ (Qur’an 30:4),
The inability or unwillingness of our political authorities to addresses the evident corruption, increasing lawlessness, and growing inequality may all lead to major civil strife in this beautiful country. ‘The blame is against those who perpetuate wrongdoing and insolently transgress throughout the land without justification: for such there will be a painful penalty.’ (Qur’an 42:42).
As a collective Muslim community, we have the responsibility of ensuring that those in leadership positions are worthy of leadership and serve the people. And those of us who are by the means should liberally avail what we have to uplift others. Our community of faith should not be distracted by unnecessary divisions but be united by the Qur’anic slogan: ‘hold on fast to the bond of Allah and do not be divided’ (Qur’an 3:103) and strive to consult constructively (make shura) with one another to resolve the pressing issues that we face.
This could create avenues to make the lives of many worthy and meaningful. Apt indeed are the words of the Prophet (SAW): ‘When your leaders are the best among you, when the richest ones are the most generous among you, and your affairs are conducted by mutual consultation among you, then being alive on the surface of the earth is better for you than to be dead and buried in it. (Tirmidhi)
Personal Commitment to ihsan
As for the improvement of our selves, let this coming month of Ramadaan truly be a month of high intensity moral development and spiritual rejuvenation.
The Prophet advised the need for ‘sincerity in private and in public, justice in anger or happiness, moderation in times of scarcity or abundance; forgiving those who may have done wrong, generosity to those who may not reciprocate, relationship with those who break off with me. Therefore let us hasten to do good.’ (Sahih Muslim) and know ‘Allah loves the doers of good’ (Q 2:195).
So, this Ramadaan, let us make a commitment to cleanse our hearts and minds of all base thoughts and destructive emotions. Let us rid ourselves of the moral diseases of pride, jealousy, malice, backbiting, rage, self-righteousness, dishonesty, pretension, vanity, selfishness, vainglory, greed, envy, bigotry, hatred, egoism, arrogance, vindictiveness, obsessive love of the world, manipulation of power and abuse of Allah’s favours.
Let us instead fill our hearts with a positive inspirational motivations that lead to constructive deeds; deeds that reflect our imaan; deeds done with purity of intention; deeds emanating from empathy, compassion, kindness, truthfulness, trustworthiness, humility, sincerity; all the characteristics that reflect ihsaan.
Ihsaan entails the confluence of good deeds emanating from a sound mind, motivated by a pure heart; and it is that pure heart that is the passport to Paradise. Let us be reflective of the divine admonition: ‘Prepare yourself not to be of those who will grieve on that Day of Resurrection when neither your material worth nor your family status will benefit you; What will rather benefit is presenting yourself to Allah with a pure/sound heart.’ (Qur’an 26:87).
So, if we could truly engage our hearts it will open our minds and elevate our insight; evoking our higher consciousness and then we may see the essence of our acts beyond the apparent rituals. The consciousness of Allah that is required for the pursuance of taqwa is facilitated through ihsaan: ‘To be in divine obedience as if you witness the divine, for He is ever observing you.’ (Sahih Muslim)
Carpe diem (seize the opportunity)
At a personal level, let our Ramadaan journey be steps towards a better self. Know that our tomorrows are determined by the steps we take each day. Let every suhoor and every iftar be time for introspection. Realise that every sunset gives us one day less to live, but every sunrise also gives us one day more to hope. Savour every step; make every fast count; treat every moment with respect, for we do not know how many more moments exist before all our moments in this world are over.
How many dear ones, who have passed on in recent months, did not know that they would not witness the coming month of Ramadaan? Though our yesterdays have passed, those yesterdays are alive in our hearts because of memories… our tomorrows are anticipated because of hope; therefore make every day of Ramadaan means for a great memory for the future so that tomorrow does not become a time of regret.
Remember, it is about purity and goodness. Let each one ask: ‘How many Ramadaans have passed, how many Ramadaans do we actually have left?’ Do not leave the coming Ramadaan saying ‘I wish I had done that. Rather end Ramadaan saying ‘I am glad I did that.’
- Shaikh Sad’dullah Khan is the CEO of Islamia College, Cape Town. This is the text of the pre-khutbah talk he delivered at Masjidul Quds, Gatesville on Friday March 17, 2022.