Ramadan -- Month of Humility
وَاسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلَّا عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ
“Seek assistance in patience and prayer...truly this is hard indeed except for those who have been humbled.”
Surah al-Baqarah 2:45
Many times we speak of the beauty of Ramadan. Certainly Ramadan is a miracle. That a person can go without the most basic necessities of life for long summer daylight hours is something most people might not predict. That so many would then follow that with long standing in prayer is amazing. This is especially true in our time when commitment to strenuous religious practice seems rare and the attempt to maintain a consistent working lifestyle without regard to the cycles and events of nature is pervasive and key to the mindset of modern individualism and capitalism, most especially but by no means only in the wealthiest countries on earth. That one sees whole communities not only holding fast to the practices of Ramadan, but that it in fact it remains one of the most commonly practiced of Muslim worship contains many lessons.
Let us talk a little bit about something that we perhaps don’t discuss as often, especially in talks which are meant to be inspirational. Fasting in Ramadan is difficult. Maybe not for everyone, but for many of us. Much of the month we can spend hungry, tired, with our emotions close to the surface. Mental focus and concentration can be difficult. When we only hear people speak of the spiritual highs and communal joys of Ramadan, we can feel at times that we are missing out on what everyone else is experiencing, that we must not be “doing it right.” For so many others who are unable to fast for a variety of reasons either some of the month, or all of the month, it can feel very alienating to only hear of the beauty of fasting when the month is described.
The month of Ramadan is not designed to bring us hardship, but it is designed to break us down. The process of being humbled is not always enjoyable, yet it is an essential part of anything that involves learning and growth. Over and over again Allah describes the dominant characteristic of those who turn away from Him and who oppress others to be arrogance -- a feeling that they are self-sufficient. Ramadan is a program designed to break us of such notions. Yet it does not leave us broken. Many of us feel we are not experiencing the spiritual highs that others describe, in Ramadan and in other times. I tend to think that many times that is because we are not understanding what they are describing. The key is to acknowledge our brokenness and seek help. Seek help in companionship. Perhaps nothing bonds humans together as much as shared hardship, as long as they don’t turn on each other. But mainly, seek help in Allah. Turn to God and pour out your hearts. Proclaim His greatness. Bear witness to your own weakness and utter dependence. Glory in what you can accomplish with His help. Let the tears come.
If we deny our weakness, we will not experience what Ramadan has to offer. If we stay trapped only in our weakness, paralyzed and discouraged, we will not benefit either. We will not reap the harvest of taqwa and shukr for which the month has been prescribed. It is only in acknowledging our weakness and dependence then finding guidance and help in God that the fruits of our worship can be enjoyed. The sweetness of faith is not tasted in never feeling lost but in knowing how lost one was but now feeling found, of how scared one was but now feeling secure. “Truly, this is hard indeed except for those who have been humbled.”