Author: Alia Hogben
At the end of May, Ramadan will start for Muslims. This is a month of fasting from dawn to sunset and is one of the five practices of Islam, which includes belief in One God; regular prayers; charity and the pilgrimage.
We believe it was in this month that the Prophet Mohammad received the first revelation of the Quran. It is considered a holy month as Muslims try to focus of God and purify the soul with the practice of self- discipline and sacrifice. To practice restrain of both mind and body, Muslims refrain from food and more importantly from behaviour which is harmful or hurtful to the self and others. It is to control anger, to control negative thoughts and to do “good.”
The focus on God is by increasing prayers, by studying the message of the Quran and by the giving of charity. The intent is that if we do all this for a month, then the influence will last for the rest of the year.
A concept which is very appealing to me is “Taqwa” which simply means “God consciousness.” All the practices are to heighten our awareness of God who we believe is closer to us than our own jugular vein. If we truly practice taqwa then surely negative thoughts and deeds cannot exist simultaneously in our minds.
One group which concentrates on loving God are the Muslim mystics called Sufis. Many in the West know about Rumi and Omar Khayyam whose Rubaiyat was translated into English by Edward Fitzgerald. There are many wonderful stories of how Sufis lose themselves in their search to achieve closeness to God.
The Sufis speak of the fragility of this earthly life, and focus on the life hereafter when they believe they will be in the presence of God.
“When You and I behind the Veil are past,
Oh, but the long while the world shall last,
Which of our Coming and Departure heeds
As the Sea’s self should heed a pebble- cast.”
There was one Sufi mystic, Ibrahim bin Adham who lived in Balkh [part of modern Afghanistan] in the 8th century. An English poet, Leigh Hunt, wrote a poem, Abou Ben Adhem, based on this Sufi saint.
I have always loved the poem which speaks of the person’s love of God and of God`s love in return for all of humankind.
This poem is:
Abou Ben Adhem [may his tribe increase]
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom, an angel writing in a book of gold:
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said,
“What writest thou?” –The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.“
The Quran states, “And when those who believe in Our revelations come to you, say: ‘Peace be upon you.’ Your Lord has prescribed Mercy on Himself, that whoever of you does evil through ignorance and repents of it afterwards and does right, God is Forgiving, Merciful.”
So in the coming month of Ramadan, we will concentrate on God’s love for us, our love for God, and on the love of his creation by being charitable to each other.