Bidding Farewell To The Holy Month Of Ramadan [Long Read]
Ramadan has made such an emotional bond with our mind that separation becomes extremely painful. An elderly man who was emotionally charged all through, what can possibly be the final nocturnal prayer of this year, with tears pouring down his cheeks, reminded us that those who internalised Ramadan cannot cope with its parting. Bidding adieu to Ramadan is unbearable to those who treated it with respect and consideration. Separation is agonizing, especially if someone close to our heart leaves us alone, a pang of nostalgia pricks our mind whenever we remember the good occasions we spend with him or her. But you cannot help it. Those who ventured to love and tasted its ethereal pleasure must go through separation also and swallow its bitter pills.
Love is beyond time and space
True, you loved Ramadan. You lost your heart for her beauty and richness. Like an ardent lover, who waited and prayed for the union with her well in advance. When she came in, like a sincere lover, who devoutly dedicated their days and nights for her.
Like a true lover, who found pleasure in hunger and thirst and sacrificed a lot, holding no grudge.
You adored the delight of Iftar and admired the beauty of long nocturnal prayers but our love and dedication were not unrequited. The passion for her was reciprocated with bounteous offerings of divine mercy, forgiveness, and Paradise.
Love matures only in separation. Love is incomplete if it is not tested and tried by long days of separation. A true lover is one who can still love while the beloved is absent. While making a tearful farewell to Ramadan, make a promise to her that you will keep on loving her even in her absence; that you will cherish her memories and the beautiful moments you spent together and will be etched in your mind forever; that the love will be evergreen; that your commitment to this pact will be unwavering and nothing can divert you from the adherence to the higher values that this relationship inculcated in you.
The true test of your love for Ramadan comes after the separation. You have to revive the memories of this relationship by going back very often to whatever symbolizes it, just like a lover holding the remembrance of his beloved alive in his mind by looking at her photos, revisiting the places and moments they spent together. Let your love be of timeless eternity!
The metaphor of sunset
The beauty and splendour of the setting sun have always fascinated our human imagination from time immemorial as exemplified in the great works of many litterateurs, painters and other artists irrespective of the time, continents and the schools of thought they belong to. For all its colourful magnificence and romantic appeal, the sunset has a nostalgic and melancholic aura around it which takes us into a contemplative mood. One of the most spectacular sunsets I had ever seen was in a lush and mountainous countryside, where the entire vegetation appears to be lost in a meditative silence, paying rich tribute to the departing sun as it buries itself amidst the waves in the yonder Arabian Sea. As the day receded and the night came in, we would prepare for the prayer amidst the rocks in the valley which could then have lost in a graveyard-like seclusion. Even the birds and crickets would not dare break the silence for a while.
The sunset always evokes a sense of irreversible loneliness and the fears about wildness and darkness of an impending night. Even for the townsfolk, the neon lights could save them only from the physical and material darkness while the night, and eventually the sleep, will envelop them with its deathlike shadow.
Looking at each setting sun, we grow more pensive because it brings to mind distressing images of loneliness, darkness, cessation of life, and the depletion of power.
The collapse of one of the most powerful sources of energy in the world is a symbolic reminder of the exhaustion of all our energies and the weakness of our power.
Apart from the fall of the day, the sunset symbolises the fall of everything, whether it be animate or inanimate. Each sundown is a reminder of the eventual setting of our life’s sun. It tells us that life is not all about continuous progression and unassailable power; like all other natural phenomena in the universe. It includes rise and fall and culminates in the fall followed by the frightening isolation, as signified by the night after the sunset.
As Ramadan’s sun hurries to the eastern horizon, a believer becomes more conscious of the transience of human life and everything related to it. Dawning on me is the realisation that I am not the custodians of time, but rather a silent witness standing helplessly on the shore of its ocean. Every sun has to set after completing its stipulated hours of life. However powerful and radiant it may be, the sun can never intrude to the domain of the moon.
The final days of Ramadan remind us that everything, however precious and invaluable it may be for me, has to come to an end. We eagerly waited for Ramadan well in advance, praying for it even before the two months. We were very much excited to meet it and make the best use of it. But now, I sadly come to realise that I am going to say goodbye to the spring after a few hours. No season is here to stay. The spring has to give way to the summer, winter and autumn, and vice versa. However, as the English poet famously put it, If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
We have to depart Ramadan like we have to depart the most cherished dreams of my life. The most auspicious day in my life after waiting and dreaming for it for a long time, the dearly beloved person who loved me fervently. The most favourite dishes, highly treasured tourist destinations, houses and gardens, and anything and everything that has left a lasting impression on my mind.
Before the twilight
They said the first third of Ramadan, when we desperately seek for Allah’s blessings should remind us of our childhood days, while the second third when we plead for his forgiveness stands for our youth. But the final third when we beg for deliverance from the hellfire has to bring to our mind the last and final phase of our life when nothing much of this life is left behind. What else other than the impending cessation of my life can I read into to the red light, due to spread in the horizon in the twilight soon after the last sunset of Ramadan?
The Messenger of Allah said a fasting person has two pleasures – the pleasure of breaking fast and the pleasure of meeting Allah in the hereafter. Why don’t we take this saying in a broader perspective? If Ramadan and the spirit of the fasting remain in our whole life, the moment of breakfast may resemble that of death. Therefore, the delight of the moment of death (seeing Allah) cannot be different from the delight in the moment of breakfast for a true believer.
As the Imam calls for praying the prayer of a departing person (Muwaddi’) just before the beginning of each prayer, it means that I have to perform each prayer as if it were my last and final prayer in my life. While bidding adieu to Ramadan, we have to bear in mind that it might turn out to be our last Ramadan, though my mind still craves for more fruitful springs in the coming years. However, I must goodbye to this spring, like a departing person as though it was my final breakfast (Iftar), the final night prayer (Taraweeh), the final predawn meal (Sahr) and final Fitr Zakat in my life. I wave my hand in tears as the final setting sun of Ramadan hides behind the rock-strewn Al Hajr Mountain ranges in Muscat.
The metaphor of the crescent moon
No other phenomenon has been so critical to orchestrating the rhythm of human life on the earth as the solar and lunar cycles. They are instrumental in deciding our: days and nights; months and years; seasons and topographies, daily routine and future plans. Our age is simply how many times the earth has revolved around the sun since we were born. The movements of the sun and the moon symbolize the very cycle of life on earth- appearing small, growing large and gradually disappearing into nothingness, but to be reborn again.
There is not a more powerful metaphor for our youthful vigour giving way to the frailty of old age than a full moon turning into an old shriveled palm-leaf.
Everything associated with our life has a humble and unassuming beginning and is destined to have an unsung end.
Ramadan, like all lunar months, is tied up with the sighting of the crescent moon. The Messenger of Allah said the fasting month would begin and end with the sighting of the crescent. In addition, we have all our Ibadats scheduled and distributed on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis.
We ‘time-manage’ everything and nothing in your life can slip through the gargantuan net of time. We fast for a stipulated time – from dawn to dusk – and for a stipulated number of days. We are so time and number-conscious to the extent that there are a specific time frame and a number attached to everything we do e.g the day we were born, the moment we fell in love and got married, and the period where we welcome a newborn to the family.
Our life is so meticulously ‘time-bound’ and accurately ‘numbered’ that we have to leave the earth at the exact split-second planned for your departure. No delay is permitted.
It also means we are so ingeniously cornered and bounded by time from all directions. You had a beginning at a point of time and will have an end at another junction of time. The world was here when you came here and it shall remain when you leave it. Your existence is limited to a narrow strip of time and space. Therefore, we have access neither to the beginning nor to the end of the time; neither to the exterior nor the interior of the Space. Our Lord is the First and the Last; the Manifest and the Hidden; and knows all things well.
As Ramadan draws to a close, it’s time for the believers to stand back and take stock of their experiment with this month. During this period, we have been undergoing a rigorous test of endurance which examined our resolve and commitment to live for God. It has tested both our physical and mental fortitude in many ways.
It’s also a time to do some final fine-tuning to ensure that this version of Ramadan as lived and performed by us is foolproof to the best of our conscience, like a student having a final cursory look at her answer sheets before the final bell chimes in the exam hall. There still is time left to fill in the blank spaces in our answer sheets, to check the accuracy of some answers and make necessary amendments wherever required. Those who wasted their precious time can still try to answer some easy questions to scrape through the test with the bare minimum.
It’s a time of introspection, a time which will enable us to understand how far we gained from Ramadan; to gauge the extent of change we underwent by adopting a strenuous pattern of living, not just by taming hunger, thirst, and lust during the day, but by setting aside our priorities to adapt ourselves to a superior way of existence to win over God’s love, mercy and Paradise. A believer has to make sure that they come out the crucible of Ramadan as a more refined, polished and sophisticated self, more solid in its structure, having gained the spiritual stamina and mental fortitude to fight against any challenging situation in the future.
Ramadan has imparted an opportunity to control our body and mind, making them work for us, rather than letting them have their own ways. Now we are experienced in mastering ourselves, having learned the tricks of conquering our desires and correcting our excesses, so that we can have a smoother ride ahead to achieve our lofty goals. We learned how to raise ourselves above all personal shortcomings so that we can work for fulfilling our great ambitions.
Ramadan has done to our soul what a garage does to a vehicle from a major service after having travelled a long distance. We have to make sure that our vehicle is properly fixed and repaired and is now fit for tougher off-road expeditions. Let’s make sure that we have sufficient provisions for food and fuel before we set out from Ramadan on the next leg of our journey because the next stopover seems farther afield. We can’t take chances, as we cannot afford to let our vehicle grind into an abrupt halt while negotiating a meandering slope in a desolate area.