To perform ritual for the sake of ritual is like preparing for a photo show session, wearing costumes of someone else and pretending piousness and punctuality. Every prayer has to be goal-oriented, lest we pass the exercise test but fail the life’s test.
“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that ye may (learn) taqwa (self-restraint)”.(2:183)
So we are in the shadow of that month long course to re-orient ourselves on the path of faith: that is servitude to our beloved Lord – our Creator. A rigorous exercise which tests our patience, our hunger, our thirst, our fatigue, our sleep, our schedule — nay our attitude, our behavior, our dealings, our activities, our charity, our compassion, our devotion, our sincerity — all at once. Failing in any one can nullify the whole edifice of the sacred exercise. The reason is simple. Islam as a complete way of life aims at total development of the human self. A perfect religion cannot afford to lose sight of a single, seemingly unimportant, faculty of life, which can create imbalance and render the whole development lopsided, thus leaving a window for the devil to sneak. Hence it is not only abstaining from eating and drinking but any activity, whether physical, verbal, emotional or psychological, not approved by Islam, can render the fasting worthless. In spite of the fact that one has strictly abstained from eating and drinking
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ISLAM AND OTHER RELIGIONS
One basic difference between Islam and other religions or life systems is that it is the most comprehensive guidance and does not overemphasize one aspect at the cost of the other. Whether it allows or disallows, prescribes or prohibits it does all in a measured quantity, as Quran says about the Muslim fasting itself while granting leave to those who cannot keep fasts due to sickness or journey that “Allah intends every facility for you. He does not want to put you to difficulties” (2:185). Thus, while some religions claim to be all-love, some to be all-meditation, some to be all non-violence, some to be all-aggression, some to be all austerity and some all pleasure, Islam is a perfect coordination of all these elements. Its meditation does not ignore the body and its spirituality does not ignore the matter. Any first time observer of the salat finds it difficult to determine whether it is a physical or a spiritual act. It says in the same breath “establish the prayer, pay the poor due”(2:43). It is meditation and matter combined.
THE MOST WELL DEFINED SET OF RITUAL-PRAYER
Islam has the most well defined set of ritual-prayer, but it is not ritual-oriented but man-oriented. There is ritual for man not man for the ritual. As the holy Quran says : ”For prayer restrains from shameful and evil deeds”(29:45). That means prayer is a means to abstain from shameful and evil deeds. Worship is means to an end, and the end is taqwa,: total servitude. The Ramadan drills to taqwa to prepare us to control our baser self and reorient and redirect us towards the creator. Therefore to measure the success or otherwise of the prayer, is to see how far it has molded our life and build our character as per the demands of the Quran. To perform ritual for the sake of ritual is like preparing for a photo show session, wearing costumes of someone else and pretending piousness and punctuality. Every prayer has to be goal-oriented, lest we pass the exercise test but fail the life’s test. However, to pass the life’s test we have to prepare for the test so we must establish the prayer.
By: Nasir Jalali
Still got a festering wound from the fight with your friend last year? Still upset about something your spouse said during a heated argument? Or are you still bitter about the way your parents sometimes treated you as a kid? Let go the anger and pain this Ramadan and forgive those who have hurt you.