Sanctification or Tazkiyyah is the pivotal dimension of the world-view of Islam as a civilization with a distinct culture based on the Oneness of the Lord of the Worlds. That is why the fourfold Da‘wah (calling humankind to God) model of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has had the sanctification of the morals of the human beings at its core. This sanctification, from the viewpoint of this world, is needed to guide the humankind in establishing a just and balanced society, and with regard to the next world, is required to help the humans to achieve the nearness of their Lord. The reason thereof being that an individual sans sanctification loses sight of the humane side of his personality and, thereby, is not able to be entered into the “sanctified threshold of the divine precincts of the Lord” which could be approached to only by those who would have sanctified themselves here in this world and who would be finally sanctified by the Lord Himself before being made the inmates of the Paradise. As we cannot think of“a bull being let loose in a china shop,” so an individual without sanctification cannot enter Paradise!
Now, this process of sanctification has always been multidimensional catering to all the spheres of human life, physical, spiritual, social, economic, intellectual, so on and so forth. However, in all these spheres although sanctification of the individual is aimed at, but the sanctification of the society is never lost sight of.This is because man is a “social being” and thus, his personality cannot groom unless it is put in a society to flourish. Moreover, man, by and large, can hardly actualize his latent potential if he decides to live aloof from the society. That is why Islam has not only discouraged monasticism (Rahbaniyyah) but has condemned it as well!No wonder then that the Qur’an has declared it (Rahbaniyyah) as an “enterprise”popularized by the Christians themselves with no sanction from the Lord. (al-Hadid: 27)
Nevertheless, the devotional-cum-sentimental aspects of human personality have not been crushed by Islam, because man has never been just an intellectual being shorn of those physic traits which compel him to approach and attach to the Lord of the Worlds in a kind of personal and “one-to-one” relationship! God being the Creator of his psychological set-up, He didn’t keep the spiritual side of man unaddressed, for there were chances of his being gone astray by resorting to the urge of and call from this front. Thus, man’s craving for secluding himself in mountains and caves has been rightly assessed and duly remedied by Islam. This has been done through the practice of A‘tikaf which is normally a ten-day term as the culminating section during the Fasting of Ramadan during the course of which an individual secludes himself in a local mosque. However, this term, although aimed at the spiritual progress of the individual concerned, is needed by the society to get a “supply” of polished individuals who return back to the society after this term.
The society which an individual forms a part of, in general, needs to be refreshed after regular intervals so as to shun and ward off boredom caused by the routine affairs of life. In this regard, humans have learned to organize and convene certain events on social and community level. These events of social or, at times, national importance are known by the name of festivals. These events help both the individual as well as the society to recreate so as to re-enter the normal course of life after being refreshed to a substantial degree.
Now, these events or festivals celebrated by human societies have had either a religious or a non-religious background.The Prophet (SAW), however, while declaring two Eid festivals with the Divine sanction, made either of these an occasion of revitalizing one of the great themes of Islam as the universal religion of God; with Eid al-Adha for commemorating the great sacrifice(s) made by Prophet Ibrahim (‘AS) to restore the monotheistic creed of Islam and Eid al-Fitrfor the “glorification of the Lord” for sending to humankind the final document of the creed of monotheism in the form of the glorious Qur’an.
As per a tradition of the Prophet (SAW), the last night of the month of Ramadan is called “laylah al-ja’izah”, that is, “the night of reward!”The believers having observed the Saum(Fasting) of Ramadan with due requirements are forgiven by their Lord on this night (of Eid), as has been reported by Musnad Ahmad, because “a labourer is paid his dues on the completion of his assignment,” read the words of the tradition. Now, this “assignment” from the beginning of Ramadan till its end, is nothing but the “glorification of the Lord” on the part of the believer through different acts of worship in which Fasting is of pivotal importance.
It is these acts of “glorification” which become the means of guidance for and “sanctification” not only of the individual concerned but the whole human situation. This “glorification” should be seen in contrast to the “arrogance” and “transgression” which human beings have resorted to throughout the history both at individual as well as at the collective level when they neglected and misunderstood the God, the Almighty and Creator of the Worlds! That is why, each Prophet of God would initiate his mission with the Oneness of the Lord by “glorifying” Him and Him alone. And, when the last Prophet (SAW) of God was assigned the mission of completing the religion of God, he was thus advised to glorify his Lord: “O thou wrapped up (in a mantle)! Arise and deliver thy warning! And thy Lord do thou glorify!” (Qur’an, 74: 1-3)
Although all the acts of worship, whether it is Salah (Namaz) which is announced by Adhan and Iqamah or Zakah or Hajj, are, in essence, for the “glorification” of the Lord, but Saum, or Fasting, in unequivocal terms, has been declared to be a special worship for this “glorification” as says the Qur’an: “He (Allah) does not want to put you to difficulties (through Fasting). Instead,(He wants you) to complete the prescribed period (of Fasting), and to glorify Him in that He has guided you (through the Qur’an).” (Qur’an, 2: 185). As such, this special glorification of the Lord continues throughout the month of Ramadan and when this period comes to a close, then a grand festival (of Eid) is announced, to celebrate the completion of the period of “Fasting and Guidance” but again through the “glorification” of the Lord.
Right from the announcement of the completion of Ramadan, the special remarks of “glorification” of the Lord, that is, Allahuakbar, Allahuakbar, la ilahailla Allah; waAllahuakbar, Allahuakbar; wa li Allah-i al-hamd, reverberate through the length and breadth of every Muslim society. These remarks, on the one hand, connect this occasion of happiness with the monotheistic worldview of Islam and, on the other hand, multiply and magnify the happinessso that it percolates deep down the psyche of the believers. This helps to sanctify the great occasion of entertainment which Muslims enjoy in the form of Eid. This process of sanctification indeed connects the mundane with the religious, the physical with the spiritual, the devotional with the intellectual, the terrestrial with the celestial and, above all, the life with the afterlife.
This is how this grand occasion of a unique festivity has been highlighted in a tradition of the Prophet (SAW):
“Allah highly praises his servants before His angels on the occasion of Eid; and he enquires from them (angels): O My angels! What should be the reward of such a servant (labourer) who has completed his assignment? The angels reply, that: O our Lord! His reward is that he should be given fair wages (as per the service). Allah replies: O My angels! My servants, male and female, accomplished the obligation which had been assigned to them by Me! Now, they have came out of their homes (for the Eid worship) to pray before Me and invoke My blessings with humility! And, by My Honour and Majesty; and by My Bounty and Exaltedness; and by My Sublimity and Grandeur, that I shall accept their prayers and invocations. Then, Allah turns to His servants and says: Go, I have forgiven you and replaced your lapses with virtues! The Prophet (SAW) says that the servants of the Lord return to their homes forgiven (with sins obliterated completely)!” (Baihaqi)
(The author is Assistant Professor, Islamic Studies at GDC Kokernag. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)