In the Name of God, the Subtle, the Loving
Ramadan is now done and over, and we can all go back to our daily routines: our breakfasts, our lunches, our dinners, our morning coffees. Frequently, we go back to "business as usual," and this is truly a shame. The purpose of Ramadan is not so that we are "angels in Ramadan and devils afterward." No. We are supposed to take the spiritual lessons of Ramadan to heart and move forward a better person, fulfilling the purpose of the fast: to make us more conscious of God.
This year, I was reflecting over how nice it would be to have a direct experience of the Divine, just as the Prophets did before us. How nice it would be to see and feel God's presence, I thought to myself. Now, I should have understood right then and there that God is all around me: in the sky, in the earth, in the unusually warm breeze of an October afternoon, in the shine of my daughter's smile, and yes, in the frustrating location of the golf ball in the middle of tall oak trees.
I should have understood that, if I simply look and feel and experience the world around me, I will find God there. Yet, in my small human mind, I wanted more than that already profound experience, and I was longing for it and wondering where it could be.
Then it hit me: I had been experiencing the Divine directly (almost) every single day during Ramadan, and it was literally right underneath my nose. It was the Qur'an. I had tried to read as much Qur'an as possible, and in my recitation of the words, I was entering into a direct experience and conversation with God Almighty.
It is truly amazing that I had never seen that before. It is truly amazing that I had never seen that our Prophet (pbuh) had left us a gift that was more significant, more powerful, more invigorating than any worldly power that so many Muslims seek in this day and age: the Qur'an. He left us with a living miracle: the word of God and an opportunity to enter into a direct experience of God.
It is the Prophet's living legacy, and we fail to see it. Whenever we read the words of the Qur'an, we are talking to God, and He is talking back to us. We are reading Divine Speech, and we are being enveloped and embraced by it. We are entering into the Divine Presence, and it has truly transformative powers. It is a miracle which we can experience each and every day at the time of our choosing, yet we fail to take advantage once the fasts are over, the taraweeh prayers are finished, and the mosques have long gone empty.
Whenever the Prophet would argue with the pagans about the divine nature of his message, he would read to them the Qur'an. And they would be transfixed, and they immediately knew that this message could not have possibly come from an illiterate man. Yet, they were arrogant and refused to believe in him. We have that miracle right before our eyes, and under our noses, and in our homes; yet, we don't take advantage and leave the book to collect dust for another 11 months.
Let it not be so. Let this be one Ramadan lesson, even though there should be countless more that we take each and every year. Let us not abandon the Qur'an for the next 11 months. Let us take the time, each and every day, to read and engage with the Qur'an and directly experience the Lord God. It does not have to be a very long time: Lord knows we have hectic and busy lives. But, let there be some time.
Most of us are not fluent in the Arabic language: let that not be an impediment, and do not let anyone else make you feel inferior because you were not born with the Arabic tongue. Even its translated words - although not like the Arabic ones in beauty, eloquence, and power - still have blessing (even though they may not be used for ritual prayer). In fact, my experience of the Qur'an has only become stronger and richer when I read the translation in English, because my native tongue is not Arabic.
Let us not forsake the Qur'an any more. Let us take the time and walk with the word of God: it will not leave us disappointed, and soon, we will realize that, as we read and engage the words, we will be walking God as well.
Reflection on Ramadan
Monday, October 06, 2008
"3 out of 2 people have problems with fractions." (T-shirt in Colombo, Sri Lanka)
"War perpetuates itself without conscious effort because revenge and recrimination wage themselves. Waging pece, on the other hand, demands deliberate, consensual and coordinated human effort." Anu Pahari - Nepal