What does Ramadhan mean to us?

Ramadhan is the fasting month for those who observe it among the muslim communities. The word fasting in Arabic is Shawm, which means “to refrain.”

According to Al Ghazali, ordinary fasting is observed as abstaining from food, drinks and sex from sunrise to sunset. Special fasting is observed as abstaining [the ears, eyes, tongue, hands, feet and all other organs] from what is considered as sinful deeds. Extra-special fasting is observed as abstaining from unworthy concerns and worldly thoughts, in total disregard of everything but God.

The month is a valuable momentum to see where we are with this, and what fasting mean to us at this point of life. A timely reminder for Indonesia, as the nation is facing its most enthusiastic yet presidential election campaign period.

Ibn ‘Arabi once said that fasting is the only non-doing act of worship (among the five pillars of Islam). In other forms of worship, such as the daily prayers, alms giving, and haj pilgrimage, we are asked to do something. In fasting, we are asked to not do something that will invalidate one’s fasting. In such act of non-doing, we negate the doing, in order to make space for something else to come forward, i.e. the Being.

Like the words Laa illaaha illallaah – no god, but the God, fasting feels like that. We make the intention to empty ourselves, to refrain from things that take our consciousness away from God. We are clearing out to prepare this vessel called human being as a recipient of whatever God is giving us: His Beautiful Names,our blueprint. Truth.

Islam (literally means “to surrender”) is of similar manner. Our facing is to God, the Truth. We make the intention to stay still, refraining from moving and opting to be moved in accordance with our true nature, which is the nature of The Compassionate, The Merciful. We empty ourselves for Being to take over. Much like fasting in principle. Much like life.

This year’s fasting poses a great challenge for some of us. There are times when the world feels slightly more chaotic, tense, complicated, and constricting. Conflicts, uncertainties, and doubts come and go. We get caught up with our daily details, thinking this has nothing to do with spirituality. — What’s going on outside is what is going on inside. Imagine our inner world. Be kind.

Then comes Ramadhan: A compassionate invitation to pause, refrain, and return. Or as my friend once said, to stop, turn, and prostrate. Ramadhan may come with various bells and whistles – the feasts, the annual social gatherings with friends and relatives, the street light festivals, the nightmarkets, so on and so forth. Let those not stop us from seeing its essence and its invitation, as the word suggested.

To refrain. To stay still. To let go.

To witness what is unfolding. And be what we are here for — praise to God and blessing to the universe.

Let’s spend a moment to read this with our heart:
“We empty our hearts of reflective thinking, and we sit together with God (Al Haqq)on the carpet of adab and spiritual attentiveness (murâqaba) and presence and readiness to receive whatever comes to us from Him- so that it is God who takes care of teaching us by means of unveiling and spiritual realization. So when they have focused their hearts and their spiritual aspirations (himam) on God and have truly taken refuge with Him – giving up any reliance on the claims of reflection and investigation and intellectual results – then their hearts are purified and open. Once they have this inner receptivity, God manifests Himself to them, teaching them and informing them through the direct vision of the inner meanings of those (obscure scriptural) words and reports, in a single instant.”
-Ibn Arabi

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