Tag archive for ‘ramadan spirituality’

5 Ways to Reconnect with the Spirituality of Ramadan

Ramadan mubarak - Quran and spirituality in Ramadan

Ramadan in the West: How to reconnect with spirituality

By Dilshad D. Ali for Beliefnet.com

Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, is special to millions of Muslims worldwide as a holy period dedicated to fasting, self-purification, and spiritual attainment. Every year the world’s Muslims redesign their life to focus on the goals of Ramadan: A whole-body awareness of God and a humble thankfulness for whatever blessings He has granted.

But Ramadan in non-Muslim countries can be more challenging, as Muslims try to navigate the requirements and recommendations of Ramadan–fasting from sunrise to sunset, fitting in the five daily prayers at their appointed times, attending special evening tarawih prayers at the mosque, and reading the Qur’an each day for an entire month–while juggling the demands of work, school, and family.

While I passed lunchtime in my junior high school guidance counselor’s office during Ramadan, or sneaked a date and water to break fast during an evening class in college, or grabbed five minutes in my editor’s office to pray at my first job, my cousins in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and in Pakistan enjoyed half-days at school and work and a week’s vacation for Eid-ul-Fitr, the holiday at the end of Ramadan.

But I figure, though it’s harder to fast and heighten spirituality when everyone around you isn’t joining in, it sure makes the inner striving more special. And 18 years of fasting in this country have taught me some valuable strategies for living a Muslim life in a non-Muslim society while enjoying both.

Here are five practices I’ve found helpful in simplifying and spiritualizing my Ramadan experience. And if you’re not a Muslim, these tips can be adapted to make your daily life a little more spiritual and uncomplicated.

1. Take the Remembrance of God Inward

Dhikr beads

Do as much dhikr as you can during Ramadan

Do dhikr (reciting short du’as, or supplications) silently while you’re driving, waiting in line somewhere, or doing endless household tasks. Keep a thasbi (the equivalent of a Muslim rosary) in your purse or pocket and use it to count off du’as.

Not Muslim? Spending whatever downtime you have to remember God or peacefully meditate is a great idea for everyone. Thousands of hours go by every year in our work commutes, in chauffeuring our kids around, in keeping the house going. Why not try to use that time to quiet our minds, remind ourselves of a higher being, and appreciate what we’ve been given?

2. Appreciate Technology, and Then Tune It Out

In past Ramadans I always went on a sort of technology crash diet–television, music, inane web surfing, and movies were all self-banned for 30 days. All the extra time was designated for reading Qur’an, praying, and reconnecting with my family. Well, crash diets never work in the long term, and technology does keep the world connected.

So the better thing to do is to use technology wisely: Use your email to stay in contact with friends and family and see how their month is going, get the news from television and the Internet, watch one favorite TV show to wind down, and use your ipod to listen to Muslim books or Qur’anic prayers. And then, when basic needs have been met, turn the technology off and take the extra time to pray and reconnect.

Not Muslim? The same rule can apply. Use the technology to do what you need to do for work and family. But then, instead of spending hours surfing the web or TV channels, fight the urge and tune out. Discover your family, and discover meditation and prayer. You can start slow–cut out an hour of web surfing (or one TV program) every week and build up.

The Al-Zaim family of Duxbury, Massachusetts sits, gathered together for their dinner after 7pm on September 14th, 2008, to break their Ramadan Fast. (Justine Hunt/Globe Staff Photo) #

The Al-Zaim family of Duxbury, Massachusetts sits, gathered together for their dinner after 7pm on September 14th, 2008, to break their Ramadan Fast. (Justine Hunt/Globe Staff Photo) #

3. Iftar as a Family

Having iftar as a family more often should be easier this Ramadan. Muslims follow a lunar calendar, which moves Ramadan back 10 days earlier each year. This year nearly half of the month will progress with iftar time being around 7 p.m.–late enough for the family to be home together. Breaking fast with the family is a great opportunity to appreciate one another’s holy efforts and discuss spiritual topics.

Not Muslim? The family dinner is a concept hammered home by family and social organizations. Even some television stations, like Nickelodeon, show promos advising us to “Make time for the family table.” A weekly or bi-weekly family dinner is a great time to reconnect, to learn about each other, and to discuss a designated list of topics that are of interest to your family.

4. Experiment with Sadaqa

Do new types of sadaqa (acts of goodness and charity), and take comfort that what you already do for family and friends is sadaqa as well. I used to get discouraged each Ramadan (especially once I was a parent), that I couldn’t properly do those things recommended to Muslims during Ramadan: Go for tarawih prayers in the evening, or read the entire Qur’an. But my mom and mother-in-law gave me sound insight: Everything you do for the comfort of your family is sadaqa and a way of worshipping God.

That being said, Ramadan is still a great time to try new acts of charity and goodness: Put aside a can of food a day and donate it all when the month is up; Cook a few dishes and take them to your mosque for those come there to have iftar; Volunteer at your child’s school for the month and offer to do a Ramadan presentation to explain why your child is fasting.

Not Muslim? Recognizing the things you do for family and friends as acts of goodness that are acknowledged by God is a great step toward achieving inner spirituality. But take a step out of your comfort zone to tackle one small charitable project each month, whether it’s donating a little money each day to your favorite charity or taking charge of your office’s annual volunteer project.

5. Reconnect with Your Community

For many Muslim Americans, about the only time they can find to go to the mosque is for Friday prayers, or on Sunday when scores of kids take part in Muslim Sunday school. During Ramadan, why not make the mosque an integral part of worship? Go there for as many tarawih prayers as you can, especially the end ones when the Qur’an is being completed. Pick one day a week and go to your mosque for iftar. It’s amazing how good we feel to see others fasting and striving as much as we are, and it can renew our strength to face the next week of fasting with vigor and joy.

Not Muslim? If you are religious, try visiting your church, synagogue, or temple outside of worship services. You may meet different people and partake in different experiences that can replenish your spiritual well. If you don’t favor any particular house of worship, designate some spot–a park or your backyard at sunset–where you feel some calm and visit it with family or friends, free of mental distractions, and with a focus on each other.

Tagged as: , , , , , ,

About Ramadan

Dr. Tariq Ramadan

Dr. Tariq Ramadan

Dr. Tariq Ramadan is a well-respected professor of philosophy at the College of Geneva and Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Fribourg. He is a leading Islamic thinker and was Named by Time magazine one of the 100 most important innovators of the 21st century.

Ramadan has written more than twenty books including Western Muslims and the Future of Islam (Oxford University Press, 2003), Islam, the West, and the Challenges of Modernity (The Islamic Foundation, 2000), To Be a European Muslim (The Islamic Foundation, 1998), and Jihad, Violence, War and Peace in Islam (in French only, Tawhid, 2002).


A Profound Faith Married to a Profound Critical Intelligence

by Tariq Ramadan

Athaan in Brunei

An officer of Brunei`s Islamic authority leads a call for prayer or Athaan during the sighting of the new moon for Ramadan over the sky of Bukit Agok outside Bandar Seri Begawan August 31, 2008.

Most of the classical religious teachings regarding the month of Ramadan insist on the rules being respected as well as the deep spiritual dimension of this month of fast, privations, worship and meditation.

While thinking about it more closely, one realizes that this month marries apparently contradictory requirements which, nevertheless, together constitute the universe of faith. To ponder over these different dimensions is the responsibility of each conscience, each woman, each man and each community of faith, wherever they are.

We can never emphasise enough the importance of this “return to oneself” required during this period of fast. Ramadan is a month of abrupt changes; this is true here more than anywhere else. At the heart of our consumer society, where we are used to easy access to goods and possessions and where we are driven by the marked individualism of our daily lives, this month requires from everyone that we come back to the centre and the meaning of our life.

At the Centre there is God and one’s heart, as the Qur’an reminds us: “…and know that [the knowledge of] God lies between the human being and his heart.” At the Centre, everyone is asked to take up again a dialogue with The Most-High and The Most-Close.. a dialogue of intimacy, of sincerity, of love. To fast is to seek.. with lucidity, patience and confidence.. justice and peace with oneself. The month of Ramadan is the “month of the Meaning”.. why this life? What about God in my life? What about my mother and my father.. still alive or already gone? What about my children? My family? My spiritual community? Why this universe and this humanity? What meaning have I given to my daily life? What meaning am I able to be consistent with?

The Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) had warned “Some people only gain from their fast the fact that they are hungry and thirsty.” He was speaking of those who fast as mechanically as they eat. They deprive themselves from eating with the same unawareness and the same thoughtlessness as they are used to eating and drinking. In fact, they transform it into a cultural tradition, a fashionable celebration, even a month of banquets and “Ramadan nights”. A fast of extreme alienation.. a fast of counter-Meaning.

As this month invites us towards the deep horizons of introspection and meaning, it reminds us of the importance of detail, precision and discipline in our practice. The precise starting day of Ramadan that must be rigorously found; the precise hour before dawn on which one must stop eating; the prayers to be performed “at determined moments”; the exact time of the break of fast. At the very time of our profound meditation with God and in our own self, one could have thought that it was possible to immerse oneself into one’s feelings because this quest for meaning is so deep that it should be allowed to bypass the details of rules and schedules. But the actual experience of Ramadan teaches us the opposite: no profound spirituality, no true quest of meaning without discipline and rigor as to the management of rules to be respected and time to be mastered.

The month of Ramadan marries the depth of the meaning and the precision of the form. There exists an “intelligence of the fast” that arises from the very reality of this marriage between the content and the form: to fast with one.s body is a school for the exercise of the mind. The abrupt changes implied by the fast is an invitation to a transformation and a profound reform of oneself and one.s life that can only occur through a rigorous intellectual introspection (muraqaba). To achieve the ultimate goal of the fast our faith requires a demanding, lucid, sincere, and honest mind capable of sane self-criticism. Everyone should be able to do that for oneself, before God, within one.s solitude as well as within one.s commitment among one.s fellow human beings. It is a question of mastering one’s emotions, to face up to oneself and to take the right decisions as to the transformation of one.s life in order to come closer to the Centre and the Meaning.

Muslims of today need more than ever to reconcile themselves with the school of profound spirituality along with the exercise of rigorous and critical intelligence. Particularly in the West. At a time where fear is all around, where suspicion is widespread, where the Muslims are tempted by the obsession to have to defend themselves and to prove constantly their innocence, the month of Ramadan calls them to their dignity as well as to their responsibilities. It is urgent that they learn to master their emotions, to go beyond their fears and doubts and come back to the essential with confidence and assurance. It is imperative too that they make it a rule for themselves to be rigorous and upright in the assessment of their conduct, individually and collectively: self-criticism and collective introspection are of the essence at every step, to achieve a true transformation within Muslim communities and societies.

Instead of blaming “those who dominate”, “the Other”, “the West”, etc. it is necessary to make ours the teaching of the month of Ramadan: you are, indeed, what you do of yourself. What are we doing of ourselves today? What are our contributions within the fields of education, social justice and liberty? What are we doing to promote the dignity of women, children or to protect the rights of the poor and the marginalised people in our societies?

What kind of models of profound, intelligent and active spirituality do we offer today to the people around us? What have we done with our universal message of justice and peace? What have we done with our message of individual responsibility, of human brotherhood and love? All these questions are in our hearts and minds.. and there is only one response inspired by the Qur.an and nurtured by the month of Ramadan: God will change nothing for the good if you change nothing.

Tagged as: , ,