The month of Ramadan is a time for profound introspection.
We are beckoned to become fully ourselves, exercising our critical reasoning, challenging our internal idolatries and frozen habits of thought and action, in order to move forward in the quest of creative becoming; toward living Islam. We turn our lives into "living Islam" by actualizing Allah's intentions to become vicegerents of Divine unity, justice and peace on earth, honouring and respecting the intrinsic dignity of every human being as “someone” and not “something”. And to embrace the sacred calling as humans to be caretakers of the earth as a sacred space. We are entrusted by Allah to take care of one another.
The meaning of life is to live and act from a sense of unity, of tawhid. In order to do this, we need to relinquish our tendencies to valorise our egos and personal preferences, our own feelings and preconceived notions, as if there were the measure of all things. An obstacle to living in trust, in truth and beauty is idolatry, or, in Arabic, shirk. Idolatry does not only mean to worship other created objects, images or statues beside Allah. It also means dogmatic certainties, holding onto finite interpretations of our religion as if they were infinite, incapable of critique, modification and process. When these interpretations, or schools of thought, becomes sacralised, they function as the lords of our lives, become idolatrous. Ramadan is a time to move beyond the idolatries and live with respect and care for all people and for the earth. It is a time to reclaim our vocation to love, as Muslims and as human beings
Often we go through life without awareness of our intentions. We do not see ourselves clearly. It is as if we are in a fog. It is the fog of self-misunderstanding and self-illusion. This fog is partly conscious and partly unconscious. It is created by our own conscious decisions, but also by circumstances which lie beyond our conscious control. If we are born in a society that teaches us that we are better than others, because we belong to the right religion or culture, we dwell in a fog of self-misunderstanding. We may not have chosen the fog, but we internalized this fog through socialization. Still the fog must be lifted, and thus expand our horizons. We must understand that in the eyes and heart of Allah, all people are equal. All deserve respect. All deserve appreciation and love. When we begin to awaken to this truth, we awaken to justice, to mercy and compassion. Justice, mercy and compassion begins with an appreciation of tawhid: that is, our unity within the horizons of the Unity. Allah is the Unity.
It is in the month of Ramadan, then, that we consider our call to caretaking ever more deeply. Caretaking is a communal as well as an individual activity, economic as well as personal. Our calling is to build communities which are creative, compassionate, participatory, respectful of diversity, and ecologically wise, with no one left behind. These communities need to be centered in the unity at the heart of the universe, in Allah.
We need to turn our lives into a purely human consciousness, as the Muslim philosopher Muhammad Iqbal would have liked to remind us. A consciousness in which our self-interest is joined with our commitment to be creative partners with God in the quest for welfare and beauty for all creation, by helping others, by struggling to do good, as acts of remembering the timeless source from which we emerge, moment by moment.
This is the meaning, the holy and humanistic calling of Ramadan. It dwells within us, and within all people, however it might be named. This month is a time to remember and live into the calling, as best we can, in service to God, each human being on earth, and the whole of creation.
Let us embrace Ramadan by living into the humanizing calling, within our own immediate context, moment by moment.