Ramadan is just around the corner. It will be a great blessing for those of us who live to see it and pick its invaluable fruits. It is a time of Taqwa (piety), of Emaan (faith), and of Ihsaan (excellence). Its time for renovation of faith, for renewal of our pledge to Allah Almighty, for refueling our soul for the onslaughts the next year holds for us. Yet, it will pass by many of us without touching them. How deprived are those who will remain untouched by it! And how lucky are those whom its nights will bless with tears of love and fear, and its days with the sweet hunger and thirst of fasting!
Allah Almighty breaks the monotony of human life by appointing times and places that He, by His infinite Wisdom and Knowledge, calls special, or `Mubaarak', one that has the special touch of Allah's Barakah (benediction, blessing). This concept of Barakah is extremely important for it appears quite frequently in the Noble Quran and the Prophetic narrations.
The concept of Barakah has a kind of mystery in it. The devoted servant does not know exactly how, when and in what form will the promised increase or acceptance will descend, so he or she keeps an eye on the unknown prize and keeps going. It is hidden in some moments of the night, some morsels of food, some days of the week, some months of the year, and some cities or places in the world. No one knows but the All-Knower, Allah Almighty.
Even a cursory look at the history of various human cultures shows that humans have a timeless instinct to separate the special from the mundane and to distinguish the sacred from the profane. This very distinction has formed the essence of worship in all human societies, primitive or modern. In the true religion of Allah Almighty, all sanctity and devotion goes finally to Allah, and Allah alone. Yet to break our routine, to grab our attention, to challenge our intellect, to satiate our spiritual yearning, and finally to fill our instinctive need of worship, devotion and love, Allah Almighty has chosen, by His Wisdom, tangible symbols for us. These symbols of time and space, of sacred moments and Mubaarak (blessed) places, are an aid to our worship. Ramadan is perhaps the richest, the largest and the most loaded of these symbols.
The modern secular society has played havoc with this sense of sacredness, leaving us without symbols and their spirituality and mystery. Surrounded by man-made buildings, cars, computers, highways and gadgets, we forget the Creator of the makers of these trivialities. Emails preempt Prayer, cheap fiction strikes off the Quran, fashion magazines replace beneficial books, TV sports take care of any reflective moments you might have otherwise had.
So much so that the month of Ramadan takes many of us by surprise when our favorite news service announces that the `Muslims are celebrating Ramadan tomorrow'. Ramadan comes to many of us without arousing and ecstasy in the heart or anticipation in the mind. All the joys of its anticipation and memories of its presence are sidelined by the clutter of this busy life. A provocative email going around these days understandably spells BUSY out as: 'Being Under Satan's Yoke!'
If you are busy, but not necessarily getting much done in terms of real responsibilities of your life, that is, there is no Barakah in your time and efforts, nor have you any `spare' time for pondering Allah's Message, then be sure, the one keeping you busy is none but Satan. The solution is easy: seeking Allah's refuge. But it is being aware and ready perpetually to seek Allah's refuge that makes the toughest challenge. The times and places of special, barakah help us do just that.
Don't be too busy for Ramadan. Small things like Masjid announcements about Ramadan and other sacred days and nights, discussions with friends and relatives about your plans to read Quran and mutual encouragement to excel in piety can work wonders. Seek blessings by keeping track of the Islamic calendar and of the months and days, fasting on the recommended days, and visiting outdoors to reflect upon the creation of Allah Almighty. Learn the sayings of the Prophet about blessed moments like Ramadan, and intensify your worship, devotions and supplications during these times. Keep you tongue wet by asking for Allah's mercy and blessings. Meet the blessed Ramadan fully prepared to reap its gifts. Pray that Ramadan touches you with its incalculable blessings.