Center for Interfaith Cooperation

Hoosiers of Many Faiths in Community

Faryal is on her way to Istanbul, and leaves us thoughts about Ramadan

Bismilliah. Starting this journey with God’s name. Grateful to Him for this opportunity. Asking Him for His protection, guidance, and mercy.
Istanbul during Ramadan

Greetings everyone! Thanks for joining on my trip to Istanbul, Turkey where I’ll begin the holy month of Ramadan. It’s my first-time experiencing Ramadan in a Muslim-majority country and I’m so excited to share it with you.

To prepare for my trip and for Ramadan, I want to take a moment to reflect on the importance of this beloved month. Remembering the meaning, significance, and benefits of Ramadan is a great way to prepare. If we enter this month as if it were just another month, as if it were business as usual, we would be losing a great deal in terms of spiritual growth and nourishment.

I want to begin with gratitude that we are, God-willing, alive to experience Ramadan once again. Since last Ramadan, there are many whom God has called back to Him — our beloved brother Mustafa Ayoubi, the victims of the New Zealand shootings, and many other loved ones. May God grant them all the highest station in Paradise. Before the start of Ramadan, the companions of Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Upon Him) would supplicate to God “Oh Allah (God), help us reach and benefit from Ramadan.”

Often, the first thing that comes to mind when someone hears Ramadan is fasting. Yes, Ramadan is the month when we fast (abstaining from food, drink – yes, even water (and intimacy) from sunrise to sunset. However, that’s not the meaning of Ramadan. In the Qu’ran, God says:

“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may attain righteousness.”

Qu’ran 2:183

The key is to attain righteousness. The word is in Arabic is ‘taqwa’. Although often translated as righteousness or God-fearing, the word taqwa means restraint or to hold yourself back. A person who is engaged in a state of taqwa is trying to guard themselves from sin. Omar ibn Khattab (God be pleased with him), a companion of Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Upon Him), explained that

taqwa is like a man walking among thorny bushes and he is holding himself tight to make sure he doesn’t get pricked by any one of those thorns. When you get pricked, you hold yourself tighter to prevent getting hurt in a more severe way.”

Taqwa is awareness of the sight of God upon you and so you hold ‘yourself tight’ because you know and feel that sight upon you and want to prevent being pricked by sins and transgression.

Ramadan is also the month the Qur’an was revealed. The Qur’an is a source of guidance to help us understand our faith, a source of hope and tranquility by helping us understand God and all His attributes. The Qur’an is a way of helping us foster our taqwatic personalities to uplift our communities. I’m always reminded of what my mentor once said – the Qur’an tell us that a cornerstone of a society is the family and that is what we celebrate, and that justice is another cornerstone of a society and so we increase our awareness of injustices so that we may bring change.

Put simply, Ramadan is a time for us to go through rigorous spiritual training to help us develop and foster a taqwatic personality, one that is rooted in taqwa, that we can then carry with us throughout the year until the next Ramadan. At the end of the month, we should see a measurable change in our relationship with God and our relationships with our families and communities. We see growth on 3 levels — personal, familial, and societal — and each of those levels brings us closer to God by attaining a heightened state of taqwa.

I’m looking forward to fostering my conviction and developing a taqwatic personality during my stay in Istanbul as well as exploring the city’s culture and history.

Last thing, before I depart — I want to invite you to celebrate Ramadan with the Indianapolis Muslim community by joining us for iftar, the meal ending the day of fasting. You can find a calendar of community iftars here on the CIC website.

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