Assalamu alaikum, peace be with you!
My dear readers, Ramadan Mubarak! (= congratulations on Ramadan/wishing you a blessed Ramadan/Happy Ramadan…any of these will work, again its a phrase hard to translate). Thanks and praise to Allah for the felicity to meet another Ramadan. I pray you are all well and in good health to meet her, in happiness and ease.
Of the many things I am in love with in this way of life – deen ul-Islam (the religion or way of Islam) is the way our lives are tied to the natural phenomena. I love it that the five prescribed ritual worship cycles or salat (some call it prayer but prayer is what we do at anytime) are tied to the position of the sun in the sky. These are obligatory ritual acts of worship. The word ‘salat’ comes from a root that means to ‘do good’, ‘to align rightly’, ‘to recalibrate’. It has all these meanings. It is the daily 5-time reminder of who we are, where we came from, where we are going to, and who we belong to. It’s that one-on-one meeting of the slave with his or her Maker that is the most precious thing in the world.
And I love it that the way we count the months is tied to the phases of the moon. There is something very magical about the moon. And something more magical about how this moon and sun tie into each other. About the passage of day and night. About the light and dark. The Quran talks of these often in many many places. Again, I love these passages too much not to share, so here is one instance below. Where Allah SWT swears by these immense creations…and scholars of Quranic interpretation say, that whenever Allah SWT swears by something that is a mark of the greatness of that thing, and also a mark of the import of the message that is sworn upon – in this case, to have a pure upright character or soul or self.
These are the first 11 ayat (=signs) from surah Shams (=sun). Unfortunately the English does not capture the cadence, rhyme or rhythm of the Arabic. Also there is no ‘neuter’ gender in Arabic. Everything is either male or female.
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the name of Allah the most Loving, the One showing Love
By the Sun and his (glorious) splendour;
By the Moon as she follows him;
By the Day as it shows up (the Sun’s) glory;
By the Night as it conceals it;
By the Firmament and its (wonderful) structure;
By the Earth and its (wide) expanse:
By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it;
And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right;-
Truly he succeeds that purifies her (meaning one’s soul)
And he fails that corrupts her (meaning one’s soul)!
Now the fact that it is the moon that determines the count of the months is significant also for religious reasons. Since the third main pillar of the deen is the obligatory fast during the month of Ramadan. So much has been said about this that I won’t repeat anything here, except to say briefly that during this month Muslims are obligated to fast from dawn to dusk. The fast entails keeping away from all usual pleasures – definitely of lawful eating, drinking and marital relations and also (though less strictly observed) of too much of the sensual pleasures such as movies, music, TV etc. even if lawful. It is a time one removes the ‘creature-pleasures’ to free the soul to experience divine realities. The spiritual masters say that a too satiated body is heavy on the soul and so cannot be tuned into the call of the Creator. So then, removing those creature comforts paves the way for those heart-valves to open. In addition to this there is exoteric cleansing of course and much charity and feeling for the poor is an outcome.
One of the results of this tying between the deen ul islam and the natural phenomena was the necessitated great feats in astronomy and mathematics that were part of the Islamic golden age. Precise calculation of time became increasingly more important as the Muslim world expanded. There is divine wisdom in action.
So I went out to see if I could sight the hilal ur Ramadan (=crescent of Ramadan). It is a magical experience. Something very special about seeing that new moon during the few minutes it appears before it sets close upon the heels of the sun. I was not blessed with that sight this month though, as it was too cloudy. But I caught a mesmerizingly beautiful sunset instead.
While some Muslims rely on astronomical tables to determine the month, other opinions favour the need to sight the moon with naked eye. Some scholars hold a local sighting is necessary and others say a global sighting suffices. Two witnesses are required. I was tracking crescentwatch.org that tells when there is a chance to see the moon (as in astronomical possibility) and tracks user sightings. I felt greatly elated to hear that the moon was sighted in Sydney that morning and so waited to see if I too would catch a glimpse of her that night. Being in Western Canada we were among the last to see her, except for Hawaii which would be much later. Also for my non-Muslim readers to know – for us, the ‘day’ begins with the night. So when the hilal ur Ramadan is sighted thus marks the first ‘day’ of Ramadan. Great joy then! as mosques began the special night prayers and people gather to celebrate this most special of special times.
May her stay with us this year bring much peace and tranquility to all people, especially in those Muslim lands torn apart by bloodshed and hatred. God have mercy upon us all.
Here is a screen capture from crescentwatch tracking the crescent’s march across the globe.
And here is a image of the crescent announcement
And finally the beautifully peaceful sunset I encountered, though I did not see the hilal ur-Ramadan