Dr. Abdullah Sahin, Reader in Islamic Education in the Department of Education Studies reflects on Ramadan as Embodied Spirituality and Social Solidarity: A special time discovering the sacred rhythm at the heart of life.
Bismillah Rahman Raheem
In the name of God most compassionate, most forgiving.
Muslims across the globe are preparing to mark the end of Ramadan with special celebrations. However, as in every other aspect of life, Covid-19 has impacted on the social dimension of fasting such as collective prayers and the joy of breaking fast with family and friends. These are highly significant communal activities that strengthen Muslims’ sense of belonging and affirm their shared religious identity.
For Muslims Ramadan is an annual interruption to the routine of everyday life. It is a special time to discover the sacred rhythm at the heart of the human experience of life. It signifies the embodied character of Islamic spirituality and its transformative educational ethos of self-cultivation. Abstaining from eating and drinking are meant to sharpen our competence for empathy, feel the plight of the poor and the marginalised, be attentive to the wellbeing of others. It is a month of intense transformative spiritual education for transcending our selfish tendencies and experience self-giving.
Before the month ends every Muslim, regardless of their income, are obliged to pay, on behalf of themselves and their dependents, a special type of alms called Zakat al-Fitr to the poor in their local communities and beyond. The minimum donation is calculated by the amount of money needed to buy enough food for one day which is roughly equivalent of £6 to £10. This might be a relatively small amount but considering the growing reality of food banks in our society it will make a difference to many, including students, who might find themselves in a position of dire need. The word Zakat in Arabic means purifying hence Zakat al-Fitr sanctifies the spiritual commitment of fasting. Such acts of small but significant generosity not only helps social solidarity and justice but brings the faithful nearer to the blessings of the Divine.
I would like to end this refection by highlighting that Ramadan is known as the month of the Qur’an, the sacred book of Islam. The Qur’an was first revealed to the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him during the last 10 ten days of Ramadan. That’s why in this month Muslims make a special effort to recite and reflect on the Qur’an in order to deepen their faith and spiritual awareness. The word Qur’an in Arabic literally means a special short recital and a collection made easy for reflection, hence it the indispensable part of daily Muslim prayers. For Muslims the Qur’an brings together God’s knowledge and wisdom, shared previously with many nations, into a state of perfect expression. The Qur’an can best be seen as the Divine educative communication marked by critical reflection, remembrance, wisdom and devotion that connects humanity with God. When asked to define the Qur’an, the prophet Muhamad peace be upon him famously used an educational metaphor: ‘the Qur’an is God’s invitation to a banquet meal. Humanity is invited to nourish their hearts by its wisdom’.