Ramadan and the spirit of Islam: Here's why it is time for Muslims to introspect

Muslims all over the world have celebrated the arrival of the month of Ramadan. This month has a special significance for Muslims: the Holy Quran was revealed during Ramadan. The Holy Quran is the axis and pivot around which the Islamic faith revolves around. The Quran is held to be the word of God revealed through Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

 Ramadan and the spirit of Islam: Heres why it is time for Muslims to introspect

Muslims offer prayers at the shrine of sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer on Saturday. PTI

It is obligatory for Muslims to fast during Ramadan; the act of fasting is not only an exercise in piety but also an act of self-denial - all for the sake of God. It then is in the nature of self-purification. Another ancillary goal of fasting, through the act of self denial is for Muslims to empathize and sympathize with the weak and the vulnerable. There then is a humanitarian angle and dimension to fasting during Ramadan as well. Ramadan then is a compendium of self-denial, piety, generation of empathy and sympathy and an act of worship for Muslims. Most Muslims welcome it and voluntarily take recourse to fasting. I have been astounded by watching labourers sweating it out in the sweltering heat of the Middle East, Delhi and Mumbai but paying voluntary obeisance to the obligatory act of fasting. The inference that can be drawn from this is that for Muslims faith is supreme and the fact that these acts of faith have held for more than fourteen hundred years is tribute to the importance and value that Muslims attach to their faith. Faith is cardinal for Muslims. Key here is the voluntary attachment and value Muslims hold for their faith.

All this is well and good. As a Muslim I too respect and value my faith but the problem is that Muslims have developed a dichotomous self. That is, the corporate personality of Muslims admire, adore and adhere to their faith but at the same time feel compelled to stick to the affairs of the world. The affairs of the world are seen not as complementing that of faith but as something required and necessity for survival. As a result, there is both a cognitive and emotional dissonance in the emotional and psychological universe of Muslims. The consequence(s) are not benign: our emotional, moral, psychological and spiritual compass is directed outward towards other worldly concerns but our corporeal attention is only a half-heartedly aligned towards the present. This, I believe, is one major reason for the regression of Muslims across the world. The cognitive and psycho emotive dissonance that defines us leads to a split corporate personality. We remain stuck in our condition and the world moves on. There is another implication and consequence that flows from this condition: Muslims’ corporate focus is on doctrinal differences leading to sectarianism and the quest for monopoly of truth among and within Muslims. In the process, the exigent and material needs of Muslims get ignored leading to a morass which defines the contemporary Muslim condition.

Is there a way out?

I am not a Muslim scholar or theologian. But I have, like most Muslims, received basic training in the fundamentals, philosophy of Islam. The key to Muslim Renaissance (not to be confused with the West’s Renaissance) is curiosity about and over the world and engagement with the world if only to discover God’s handiwork in His Creation. This I daresay is a Quranic impulse. The Quran repeatedly enjoins Muslims to not only wonder about Creation and but also understand and explore the ‘veil’ behind Creation; it also enjoins Muslims to be engaged with the world. Hermetism or disengagement from the world is not prescribed in Islam. In fact, the Prophet’s(SAW) life is enjoined and cited as an example to follow for Muslims. The Prophet(SAW) both as an historical and a Divine figure was fully engaged with both temporal and spiritual concerns. The spirit of inquiry, discovery and even engagement is then embedded in the Quran. The times and the Muslim condition contemporarily warrant a revival of these what I would call virtues. We Muslims voluntarily abdicate and deny our corporeal selves -- fast in sweltering heat of the deserts, pray five times a day, have a certain world view -- because we love our faith and are beholden to it. Yet when it comes to redeeming our condition, we either recoil or disengage. The price we pay and have paid are detrimental to us and the world at large. It is about time to resolve this paradox and contradiction -- for the sake of ourselves, our faith and the world. We can do it. What is required is to revive and reinvigorate the spirit and essence of Islam. Let us make this pledge this Ramadan. Muslims and the world will be better for it.

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Updated Date: Jun 20, 2015 16:50:54 IST