Significance of Ramadan
By Dr Fazlur Rahman
ALLAH is Rahman and Raheem. In Arabic usage, linguistic structure of Rahman
suggests fullness, abundance, overflow, brimming over. Thus Rahman signifies One
whose mercy knows no bounds, Who is over-brimming with compassion, kindness,
love and deep concern.
Rahman is He whose Rahmat encompasses each and everyone without any
discrimination, its spectrum is so wide, so comprehensive that no creature,
human or otherwise, falls out of its sphere. Like Allah it is applied to God
The connotation of Raheem is somewhat different. Though derived from the same
root, ie., Rahm, its structure is suggestive of continuous, repeated, frequent
occurrence. Thus Raheem denotes the Being Whose mercy and compassion is showered
continuously, without break, incessantly, ad infinitum. Taken together both the
attributes would mean that His mercy is boundless, infinite, indiscriminate,
continuous and constant.
The Quran, we are told, is the manifestation, the outcome, the expression and
the outpouring of the Divine attribute Rahman. "Ar-Rahman, He taught the Quran,"
(Q:55: 1,2). His Rahmaniyat, His limitless mercy, His unbounded compassion,
demanded that the humanity must not be left at the mercy of blind emotions and
animal instincts which continuously raid upon his intellect and his faculty of
discernment between right and wrong, thus relegating him to the status of a
'developed beast'. Human beings were not created to lead the life of animals and
At last, human history came its full round and the Divine Mercy, the Rahmaniyat,
demanded that as the time was ripe, an incorruptible everlasting final code of
conduct, an unerring book of eternal guidance, a final criterion of virtue and
vice, right and wrong, good and bad, an unequivocal and clear statement of
Truth, be made available to humanity to enable it to navigate its way to the
goal of eternal success here and in the hereafter.
"It was in the month of Ramadan that the Quran – the most sublime guidance for
entire humanity ; clear, intelligent, convincing arguments, evidences and signs;
criterion for distinguishing right from wrong, good from evil – was sent down,"
(Baqarah 2:165). It is thus the most magnanimous manifestation of God's mercy
and compassion, Rahmaniyat, towards mankind that this invaluable gift was made
available to it in the month of Ramadan.
This momentous event has bestowed a unique status upon this month and herein
lays its real significance. Fasting during this month has been made compulsory
for all, excepting for the time being only those who are unable to do so being
sick or on journey, to enable them to attain purification of soul, heart, mind
and body. "In consequence to this great Divine favour, whoever of you witnesses
this month must spend it in fasting," (Q:2:185). And let them who were
temporarily excused "make up the number later," (2:185), so that none may miss
the spiritual benefits of this auspicious month. Fasting during this month, says
Quran, has been prescribed "that you extol the glory of Allah for His providing
you the Guidance and so that you may be grateful for that," (Q:2:185).
It is for the first time that the Quran introduces itself in this Surah by its
proper name al-Quran. Apart from suggesting a strong bond of relationship
between the Quran and the month of Ramadan, it hints at something more. The word
Quran literally means that which is read over and over again, which is recited
very frequently. It signifies that this Code of Guidance is not an ordinary book
to be gone through once and then kept aside. Relationship with the Quran has to
be a life-long engagement.
The dual purpose of sending down the "Book" as evinced by the verse "this Book
which we have sent down, full of Barakah, is to be perused with particular
attention and followed in practical life by those who possess
understanding,"(Q:38:29), is that man must consume his best intellectual
capabilities to delve deep in the Quranic treasure trough and accordingly
fashion his individual and collective life. This purpose cannot be materialised
unless frequent visits to the Quran are ensured.
It must not, however, be misunderstood that simple intellectual exercise could
in any way be the exclusively aneffective tool to a genuinely correct
understanding of the Quran. This misconception has been removed by the Quran
itself. It is said in Surah al-Waqi'ah "Verily it is the Quran, most venerated,
preserved in a written document, hidden from the eyes, it would not be touched
except by the most pure, the most cleanly." The Quran does not allow itself to
be physically touched by the ritually impure, the bodily filthy and unclean .
The much needed Divine Guidance was made available to humanity. The crucial
problem, however, remained as how to attain that spiritual cleanliness, that
purity of the inner self which would elevate man and enable him to ensure his
access to the real Divine intention underlying the words of the Quran. The clue
is supplied by the Quran itself. "O, ye who believe! Fasts, for a few fixed
number of days, are prescribed upon you as they were prescribed upon those
before you, that you may attain Taqwa." These appointed days constitute, we are
informed in the following third verse, the whole month of Ramadan. Fasting
during the whole month of Ramadan is said to inculcate Taqwa in the believers.
Taqwa is that spiritual sublimity of the soul which when attained restrains the
believer from indulging in any such activity which may cause Divine displeasure
and thereby result in the loss of love and favour of the Most Compassionate One.
The Ramadan exercise to attain Taqwa and consequently be blessed with Furqan so
raises and purifies a believer spiritually, morally and intellectually as to
replenish him with the needed equipment, the required capacity, to pierce the
veil of the Quranic words and peep into the underlying Divine intentions, aims
and objectives, so to say read the "mind of God." The ultimate purpose of
Fasting during the month of Ramadan is thus to enable a believer to have a
really better, deeper understanding of the Divine Message.
A word of caution is needed here. Fasting during Ramadan, no doubt, has an
intrinsic quality of inculcating Taqwa and under normal circumstances it may be
reasonably expected to produce the desired result. What requires our attention
is that while stating the Taqwa-producing property of Fasting the Quran uses the
word La'allakum which denotes hope and fear at one and the same time instead of
using the word Kay which carries the sense of certainty. Thus the Quran instead
of saying outright that Fasting is certain to inculcate Taqwa, introduces an
element of uncertainty and ambiguity by saying that it is expected to produce
Taqwa, while there is also fear that it may fail to do so.
The Quran thus strongly suggests that there are some preconditions attached
which must be fulfilled at all cost so that Taqwa may blossom into full bloom.
These prerequisites have been explained at full length by the most authentic
interpreter of the Quran, the Prophet himself, peace be upon him. In a nutshell,
those observing Fasting have to shun and avoid all such mental and physical acts
or omissions which have the propensity of nipping the Taqwa in the bud.
Source: http:// DAWN.Com/ Editorial
2007 Friday, Ramadan 22, 1428