One question I had before the first day of Ramadhan this year was: what does the word mean, Ramadhan? Well, other questions followed: Why do we (read: I) fast during Ramadhan? What is the meaning behind the fast? So I started to Google.
Understandably, there were a lot of hits on the word. Too complicated. Rather puzzling, I must admit. I read on. Let what sink in me sinks.
And what sinks was the word “fast” itself. The Arabic word for “fasting” is siyam, which means, to leave something or to avoid it. The obvious was abstinence of appetite (eating and drinking) and sexual intercourse from dawn to dusk.
A second level, the fasting for the select few, as Al Ghazzali puts it, is that of keeping the ears, eyes, tongue, hands, feet, together with all the other sense free from sin. (“sin”, now that’s another interesting word to contemplate on.)
Even ‘higher’, is the fast of the elite, which is the fast of the heart from bad thoughts, worldly worries and anything else that may divert from anything but thoughts of Allah.
At this point, I thought, “wow, now how do I do that?” An ironic question, as the answer seems to be the exact opposite: The reality of fasting, according to Ibn ‘Arabi, is non-action, rather than action. It consists of abandoning things that break it. I suppose the word “siyam” gives the obvious clue: to refrain.
That is a word that has been so attractive to me for some time: to refrain. Perhaps because I have been moving so much most of my life. And I feel that somehow there is a better way. Non-action is far more attractive to me than action. Not in a lethargic sense, but more on a stillness meaning, to simply be and to allow whatever wants to arise arises. To me, this means allowing Him to express Himself fully through me and through things around me. To fill this heart with the Light of God.
How wonderful it would be if we (read: I) could achieve this: To empty our heart from other than Him. And that is the only thing we need to do: to refrain, to empty ourselves. To refrain from everything that may divert our focus from Him. When it is empty, then God obliges Himself to fill our heart with Light.
And when that happens … I bet you, one cannot help but being grateful and praise Him (whoever Him means to you).
No wonder the Koran gives such a high value to fasting in Ramadhan, the month when the Koran was first brought down to the Prophet Muhammad as “guidance for all” (QS 2:185) and that fasting may raise our spirituality, bring us ‘closer to God’ (here’s another contemplation, what does “closer” mean?)
I am a long way from there. But I do find what Shaykh Muhammad Nazim Adil al-Haqqani says about this refraining exercise as practical tip, “Everything except Allah Almighty and His Pleasure must be put out of your heart. Every time you are by yourself, you can look into your heart to see if you are with your Lord or with someone or something else.”
It is indeed a good tip/exercise, every time I look into my heart, what do I find there?
All of my notes are more my notes for myself. And this one is no different. It is a beautiful reminder and invitation for me. As Bulent Rauf, the consultant of Beshara School, put it, an honest appraisal of self, which will lead to humility and realization of our place in this world and how to be.
To find that place in the middle and stay there, stay very still. To return.
Picture was taken from here.