Sarmad Naveed, Canada
One of the best ways to understand Ramadan and its purpose is by understanding the name itself.
Ramadan comes from the root Ramada which means burning or intense heat, like the burning of the sun. Ramadan is the dual form of Ramada, thus meaning ‘two burnings’.
This means that there need to be two things burning that come together in order to have ‘Ramadan’.
What are those two burnings?
During this holy month in Islam, there is the physical struggle of abstaining from food and drink from dawn till dusk which undoubtedly brings about a physical burning of sorts within. There are also other physical aspects as well, such as sleeping less and waking up earlier to offer more voluntary prayers; standing or prostrating for longer periods of time in fervent supplication, which can also take a physical toll.
Another aspect of this month is the heightened sense of worship, an increased zeal and fervour to seek forgiveness, blessings and a closer connection with God. This develops a spiritual burning of sorts which results in traces of sin being burned away. This then develops a warmth of love in one’s heart for God and His creation.
As the Promised Messiah (as) states:
‘Since one abstains from food, drink, and all physical delights during Ramadan, then also establishes a zeal and fervor for [fulfillment of] the commandments of Allah; the spiritual and physical zeal and burning combine to make Ramadan’– Al Hakam Volume 5 Number 27, July 24, 1901, Page 2
Hence, one cannot truly benefit from Ramadan simply by fasting and paying no regard to the spiritual aspects, just as one cannot truly benefit from Ramadan by neglecting the physical aspects. Even for those who are unable to fast under the conditions allowed by Islam, there are other aspects such as Fidyawhich is a daily expiation of feeding the poor, along with the heightened worship during Ramadan.
Thus, the beauty in Ramadan is the combining of the physical with the spiritual, which certainly alludes in a broader sense to the very lives we live, which cannot find true meaning until both the physical and spiritual are in harmony, as both depend on one another.
So if we truly wish to benefit from this blessed month, we must kindle two flames and bring them together in order to establish Ramadan.
About the Author: Sarmad Naveed is an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community who graduated from the Ahmadiyya Institute for Languages and Theology in Canada. He serves on the Editorial Board of The Review of Religions and coordinates the Facts from Fiction section. He has also appeared as a panelist and host of programmes on Muslim Television Ahmadiyya (MTA) such as ‘Ahmadiyyat: Roots to Branches.’