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Qur’an and Ramadan: The Road to Moral Discipline
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Qur’an and Ramadan: The Road to Moral Discipline

As per a Prophetic report: “Fasting will say: O God! I have stopped him from eating and physical desires during the day; may he be salvaged. And the Qur’an will say: I have stopped him from sleep during the night; may he be salvaged; so he is salvaged!” (Ahmad)

Post by DR. AREEF JAMAEI on Saturday, April 15, 2023

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Reasonableness in the theoretical plane and responsibility in the practical plane are the sine qua non of being human. This is because thinking or arguing without reason and rationale and behaving or acting without responsibility dismantles the very foundations of the edifice of humanity on the planet earth. Human beings possess the intrinsic capability to discover the Truth or the parts thereof by applying their reason and rationale. This truth is then uttered and made public for the benefit of all the humankind and, again, reason is applied to make this truth applicable to one and all. Now, for the management of the human behaviour this truth is applied and acted upon. Here emerges the moral code for the human society at large or for the major part thereof which has the capacity to organize and discipline the lives of humans.


Although seers from amongst the humanity or the seekers of truth across human societies, throughout the ages, have endeavoured to discover the codes of morality for the humans, but owing to the limitations of any human initiative these codes have been fraught with lacunae of multiple shapes and degrees. No wonder that the moral codes “discovered” by one community were not found attractive by and applicable to other communities. It doesn’t, however, mean that human beings never discovered universal truths which could have been applicable to one and all both at the individual as well as the practical level.


The beauty of the divinely inspired Truth is that it has incorporated in its canvas all the humanly discovered truths which could have been fruitful for the humanity at large. The Prophet Muhammad (SA‘AS) was finally inspired with the surmounting part of the divinely revealed Truth which has been preserved to posterity in the form of the glorious Qur’an. How does the Qur’an take care of the common values of goodness and virtue prevalent amid the humankind can be fathomed from different sections of the Qur’an, for example: “Hold to forgiveness; command what is right; but turn away from the ignorant.” (7:199)


This document of divine guidance, which has the capacity to eradicate the ignorance, is thus meant for the whole humanity. It was revealed (or its revelation started) to the Prophet (SA‘AS) in Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic (lunar) calendar. An elaborate and clear document that stands as a criterion to distinguish between Truth and Falsehood, the Qur’an has the capacity to guide the whole humanity. (hudda li al-nas, Qur’an, 2:185) However, it benefits those who themselves seek and strive for this guidance and are conscious of their relationship with God as subjects and servants. This God-consciousness and sense of servant-hood gets enhanced through the Fasting (saum) which has been its function(s) throughout the ages. This has been precisely highlighted by the very Qur’anic verse where the elaborate injunctions vis-à-vis the fasting of Ramadan begins. The Qur’an says: “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint.” (2:183)


Now, this self-restraint (taqwa) is the condition of the inner self or of the heart as has been precisely said by the Prophet (SA‘AS). However, this inner condition appears through the human behaviour which a person exhibits while performing different roles in the human society. It is very pertinent to note here that human society is a web of relationships where human beings give an “output” of their inner beings. A God-conscious person, however, makes a balance between the vertical relationship with God and the horizontal relationships with the human beings. Thus, tighter the “bond” with God, soberer and more reasonable becomes the conduct with the fellow humans. Moreover, the life of such a person becomes hereafter-oriented and purposeful and all “absurdities” thus disappear forthwith.


Taqwa (God-consciousness or self-restraint) thus appears in the form of human conduct or simply moral discipline. The Companions of the Prophet (SAW) were very much concerned about its practical implications. Once ‘Umar, the Second Caliph of Islam, asked Ubay ibn Ka‘ab, one of the well-known Qur’an experts, to explain the term taqwa. He said: “It is the conduct of a person who has to cross, without getting stuck, a valley with a single footpath with thorny shrubs on both sides!” Naturally, such a person would try his best to concentrate on his destiny and would squeeze himself to get through the passage. The practical implication of this example (of taqwa) is that a believer always keeps in mind the destiny (of meeting God) and the world is just a coarse road thereto. The same has been stated in the Prophetic tradition in which a believer has been advised to “(be) live in the world like a stranger or a traveler.” (Bukhari)


So, the ultimate purpose of Fasting is this self-discipline which makes a person God-conscious, reasonable and responsible. That is, through the restraint made in controlling hunger, thirst and lawful physical desires for a particular period of time daily for thirty days, a believer is taught to live a purposeful life as has been commanded by God. Naturally, if the end (taqwa, moral discipline) is not achieved the means adopted for the purpose should be declared null and void. This is the reason that the Prophet (SA‘AS) is reported to have said: “If one doesn’t abstain from lying and acting on lies, and (acts of) ignorance, God has no need of his remaining thirsty and hungry.” (Bukhari)


This moral discipline, however, never remains confined to the individual morality alone. It, in principle, affects the whole gamut of social life by making people responsible beings socially as well. It is very interesting to note, in this context, that while rounding off the argument vis-à-vis the injunctions and wisdom of Fasting, the Qur’an commands the believers “to abstain from usurping each other’s properties through unlawful means and through bribery.” (2:188)


This moral discipline (taqwa) is actually the main theme of the Qur’an itself. The Fasting (saum) of Ramadan has been ordained to enhance and polish this quality. Both the ways of achieving and attaining taqwa are approached to simultaneously during the month of Ramadan. This two-pronged attachment with the Qur’an and Ramadan would indeed result in the salvation of the believer. The Qur’an and Ramadan would thus become intercessors for the salvation of such a believer on the Day of Judgment. As per a Prophetic report: “Fasting will say: O God! I have stopped him from eating and physical desires during the day; may he be salvaged. And the Qur’an will say: I have stopped him from sleep during the night; may he be salvaged; so he is salvaged!” (Ahmad)                                  



(The author is Assistant Professor Islamic Studies, Higher Education Department, J&K. Email: alhusain5161@gmail.com)


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