By Yasmin Denat

I stood outside looking at the supermoon. It shone with divine luminescence and hung like a gigantic pearl in the velvet night sky; everything was draped in its celebrated radiance. I silently glorified the Almighty – Subhanallah (Glory be to God), it was the full moon of Sha’baan. A slight sadness crept into my heart. With the current lockdown everything felt so different, like we had entered some uncanny time warp.

Usually during Sha’baan we are all focused on preparing for Shab-e-Baraat and the hype and excitement is collectively heightened with the daily countdowns and spiritual reminders on Whatsapp. We eagerly await the timetables, craft and reward charts that the kids come back with from school and madrassah, but this year we have been preoccupied with sanitizers, infection rates, death statistics, Covid-19 and its web of controversies.

In the slightly cooler breeze that is typical of this time of year, I stood a moment longer contemplating the gravity of the situation before walking back inside. Ramadan was a mere two weeks away and so many things have changed. In the wave of the international pandemic, humanity is overwhelmed, the course of our lives having changed indefinitely .We, the people of earth, have lost our radar.

My gloomy mood persisted, fuelled by negative media story-telling and the daily frustration of having four children suffering from the trials of distance learning and a faint sense of ‘cabin fever’. My family and I later converged in the lounge for our newly- established routine of Taleem practice, something we had tried to implement a multitude of times before, but failed to follow through with any regularity. With the demands of our daily lives and over- crammed schedules and routines, the realization of our true priorities had abated.  Now, in a physical lockdown we are essentially free- free to work on our Imaan, Alhamdulillah. The frivolous demands of the material world had to be removed to accentuate the realm of the spiritual.

As I listened to the Hadith, the more I became enchanted by its retelling and noor (the Light of God) filled my heart. I listened to the descriptions of Jannah (paradise), how it is fragranced and how the wind, Mutheerah, blows from beneath the arsh (throne) of Allah.  The doors of the Masaajid may be temporarily closed, but the doors of Allah’s mercy are eternally open. I became mesmerised by the favours of Ramadan and fasting that was about to be bestowed upon us.  These words were not the making of a fairy tale; this was the esteemed narration of my beloved Nabi (SAW).  My heart felt lighter and my mood lifted. Light had dissipated the darkness.

Without trying to romanticise this challenging period, it has to be acknowledged that this time has coerced us all to divorce ourselves from the world – a world that so hungrily devours our personal time and emotional energy.  This pandemic has created a space for contemplation and reflection on so many levels- to re-evaluate what is essential to our being, to our faith and our belief system. It has imposed on us a very real threat as a human race, it has exposed our raw weaknesses in the face of adversity, but conversely as mu’mins (believers) it has revealed the power of our Creator and His supremacy over all things. The more I contemplate and introspect, the more I realize that the timing could not be more appropriate. The month of Ramadaan is upon us, this is the time to take stock of our level of faith and connection with the Almighty.

Ramadaan affords us a means to mend our spirituality. This year the mending can be augmented by the physical limitations that have been imposed on us socially. There is nowhere to turn except to Allah, for protection and guidance and for all our needs! We have been given time to reflect and re-evaluate the projection of our lives- a wonderful catalyst for positive transformation, Insha’allah(God-Willing).

Throughout my life I have gauged my proximity and connection to my Creator by my relationship to the Quran.  The Quran has a special relationship with Ramadan. It was in this month that The Holy book was brought from the Lowhe Mahfooz, the divine preserved tablet and it was in it that Jibraeel (AS) and Nabi (SAW) revised the Quran together every night.

Abdullah ibn `Amr reported that the Messenger of Allah (saw), said: “The fast and the Qur’an are two intercessors for the servant of Allah on the Day of Resurrection. The fast will say: ‘O Lord, I prevented him from his food and desires during the day. Let me intercede for him.’ The Qur’an will say: ‘I prevented him from sleeping at night. Let me intercede for him.’ And their intercession will be accepted.” [Imam Ahmad]

When I was newly- wed, my first Ramadaan was the most challenging. My fasting was a mere obligation and my body reflected the weakness of my soul. Fasting that summer brought nothing but gnawing hunger as I counted the hours and days waiting for it to end. I did not see or feel the spiritual loftiness and immense magnificence of the month. I had no link to its sacredness. I was merely fulfilling an obligation.

“Oh, you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn piety and righteousness” [Surah Baqarah, verse183]

My husband, a hafidh, asked me to listen to his recitation of the Quran. I had last recited from the Quran in Madrassah, save for the common surahs read in salaah and the odd Yaaseen.  He requested to read a Juz to me every day after he revised and before he led the Taraweeh prayer. I’d lose track of where he was on the page and I feared correcting him in case I pronounced the words incorrectly. Every day I silently calculated how many more pages he had left to recite, struggling to keep up. In those days my relationship with the Quran was sadly almost non-existent;  I shudder to think about it now – in hind sight I realize that at that point, my Imaan (faith) was perhaps holding on by tethers. I thank Allah for that very same Ramadaan. After all it was a small step in the right direction; a tiny seed had been planted. Ramadaan is exactly that, a seed to be planted, which will with enough care and dedication, sprout the most beautiful flower in hearts of a submitter.

Presently, the lockdown has afforded my family and I time to complete an extra recitation of the Quran before Ramadan. Not only that, but  now when I hear my husband recite the verses of the Holy Book twenty Ramadan’s later, I feel the words of Allah flow over me with deep emotion and serenity. I feel gratitude for how far we have both come.   After studying Quranic Arabic and basic tafseer, I finally recognise certain words and sometimes entire Aayats, Rabbi Zidni Ilma (My Lord, increase me in knowledge). I recognise the stories of Moosa (AS) and Ebrahim (AS) and the descriptions of Jannah.

When I read Surah Kahf on Friday and contemplate the significance of the people of the cave, I realize that perhaps this current situation we find ourselves in as Muslims around the world isn’t much different. We are in a ‘cave’ which serves as a means of protection and redirection- our watershed moment. This Ramadaan there may not be Taraweeh in congregation, or iftaar with family or visits to the Baitullah – the Kaaba- but everything is as Allah has meant it to be. This is His plan; perhaps we can look at it as an opportunity to fight our desires (our ego), a form of Jihad (striving for goodness). Perhaps this is a time to re-evaluate our intentions and remove traditions that hold us down.

Personally, I am looking forward to this Ramadan. It is the oasis in the desert, promising coolness, purity and direction. May the light of our Creator and his last messenger (SAW) and the light of the blessed month of Ramadaan illuminate our path, guiding us through the darkness of this transient world.

“The month of Ramadan (is the month) in which the Qur’an has been sent down as guidance for mankind containing clear signs which lead (to the straight road) and distinguishing (the truth from falsehood)..” (Surah Baqarah, verse185)