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Secrets and Mysteries of Ramathan1

یَآَیُّهَاالَّذِینَ ءَامَنُوا کُتِبَ عَلیَکُمُ الصِّیامُ کَمَا کُتِبَ عَلَی الَّذِینَ مِن قََبلِکُم لَعَلَّکُم تَتَّقُونَ

“O ye who believe! Fasting has been prescribed to you as it was
prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint,” 2

What mystery, what secret is there in abstaining from eating and drinking for a limited time? What secret is there in the month of Ramathan for realizing the blessings of this month?

Imam Ali says3:
کًمْ مِنْ صائِم لَیْسَ لَهُ مِنْ صِیامِهِ إلا ألجُوعُ وَ ألظَّمأٌ
There are many who fast only to experience hunger and thirst,

وَ کَمْ مِنْ قائِم لَیْسَ لَهُ مِن قِیامِهِ إلا َلسَّهَرُ وَ العَناء 4
there are many who wake up during the night, recite the night prayer, but they will not gain anything from this ordeal other than waking up and feeling tired during the night,

حَبَّذا نَوْمُ اَلا کْیاِس وَ إفْطارُهُم 5
happy are those who are clever in the way they break their fast.

What is recommended for the month of Ramathan is integrity and intelligence, not just abstinence from eating and drinking.

اِنّ الّلهَ جَعَلَ الطّاعَةَ غَنیمَةَ اَلاکیاس 6
God has made Salat, fasting, etc., for those who have integrity to make the most of such opportunities,

عِندَ تفریطِ العَجَزَة 7
during the time when the powerless and the feeble are negligent of such blessings.

What kind of ingenuity and intelligence is necessary for benefiting from the blessings that God has placed in the month of Ramathan?

Those who do not realize the blessings that God has placed in the month of Ramathan probably find it more profitable to indulge in some other activity or business. You have heard the phrase: “Working harder means more profit which in turn means more belongings.” But these profits and belongings will be consumed and will come to an end. They will not remain forever. Imam Ali says, “Blessed are those who spend their time and intelligence in pursuit of investments that will remain for them.” This kind of investment requires intelligence and integrity for the long term rather than for mortal things. ...والباقِیاتُ الصّالِحاتُ خََیرٌ عندَ رَبِّکَ ثواباً و خَیرٌ اَمَلا ً “ 8…the things that endure, good deeds, are best in the sight of thy Lord, as rewards, and best as (the foundation for) hopes.” Looking from a higher perspective, we see that the month of Ramathan necessitates some intelligence and integrity so that we can understand what to do, otherwise one will not gain anything other than hunger and thirst.

Let us examine the philosophy of fasting and see why this religious duty has been required of us.
Firstly, let us examine the word Siam الصِّیَام Siam means abstaining or self-control from performing an act. All the requirements and recommendations in our worship constitute affirmations, i.e., do your prayers, give Zakat, perform Jihad, perform Amr-e be Ma’roof, etc. Fasting on the other hand has a negative aspect to it. It has a dispossessive tone to it. It is true that for fasting we also say, “fast,” and this seems to have a positive tone. The word Siam is used without other verbs because the word Siam itself is a verb. It means abstaining from. It is the only precept or religious duty that has a negative tone to it; one should not do, one has to stop the things that one normally does. It does not say what to do; it says what not to do. This is the month of prevention, the month when we have to apply the breaks. This is the month of practicing the will power, the month of controlling the self.

The common belief is that we should not eat and drink and that if we do these things then our work is done. This is not the case. Ninety percent of invalidations related to fasting have to do not with controlling the desire to eat but with controlling the tongue, i.e., gossiping, cursing, swearing, etc. Therefore controlling the tongue is far more important than controlling the desire to eat and drink.

In some cases fasting is mentioned in the Qur’an as a punishment. For example:

1. If you hunt while in pilgrim clothes, you have to fast for a day9, practice self control.
2. After Tawaf, or circling around Ka’ba, if a man is not able to shave his hair he has to fast for a day10.
3. If you kill another person unintentionally you have to fast for two months11.
4. If you make a deliberate oath and then break it, God will call you to account and you have to feed or clothe ten persons, or free a slave12. If you cannot find a slave then fast for three days13.
5. Or the divorce because of Zehar14 whereby a man would liken his wife to his mother in order to divorce her. This practice was in use during the period of ignorance. God say in the Qur’an, if a man divorces his wife because of Zehar, before he can go back to her he has to free a slave, and if he cannot find a slave, he has to fast for two consecutive months, and if he cannot do that he has to feed sixty indigent persons. All this is decreed so that the person may show faith in God and his Messenger15. This is the punishment for a man who does not control his tongue. This punishment will prevent him from placing his wife in an indecisive situation.

The punishments mentioned in the Qur’an are there for those who have felt week in restraining themselves and have made errors or have sinned. Fast as a means of controlling yourself. You did not control yourself when you committed a forbidden act, so now you have to fast to gain self control. In order for this person to strengthen control of him/herself the punishments or remedies in the form of fasting have been incorporated in the Qur’an, and all of these remedies have to do with the tongue. This was the case even prior to Islam.

For example, in the Qur’an we read the story of Mother Mary, mother of Jesus, and her fasting which also was the case of fasting of the tongue. When Jesus was born, Mother Mary was worried and did not know how she could explain the situation. God instructs her to go towards the city and if she sees anyone, … فَقَولِی إِنّی نَذَرْتُ لِلرَّحْمَانِ صَوْمًا to make him/her understand that she is fasting from speaking فَلَنْ اُکَـلِّمَ الِْیَومَ إِنسِـیًّا 16 There was only fasting of the tongue. This was a very difficult thing for her to do.

Also the fasting of Zakaria, who had to fast for three days after he was given the good tidings about the birth of his son Yahya17, at a time when an ordinary person would have a hard time restraining himself. Again the emphasis is on controlling the tongue.

So we see that attention given to the tongue was very important. Only later abstinence from eating was decreed.

In Sura al-Baghara18 God says:

یَآَیُّهَاالَّذِینَ ءَامَنُوا کُتِبَ عَلیَکُمُ الصِّیامُ کَمَا کُتِبَ عَلَی الَّذِینَ مِن قََبلِکُم لَعَلَّکُم تَتَّقُونَ

“O ye who believe! Fasting has been prescribed to you as it was
prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint,”

Fasting means applying the breaks. It means to strengthen the ability to abstain from doing some of the things we take for granted. Each one of the responsibilities that the Qur’an places on the shoulders of Muslims strengthens and fortifies one or the other integral parts of our faith and belief, and will strengthen our spirit and soul. What is certain is that fasting is the most important factor in controlling the self.

Secondly, let us see how the Qur’an deals with fasting. So far we have considered the stories in the Qur’an regarding fasting, now let us examine the Ayas in the Qur’an directly related to fasting.

In the Qur’an fasting is either mentioned as a punishment for not controlling oneself or as a reminder of what has been practiced in the tribes of that time and only in one place in the Qur’an in Sura al-Baghara19, has this order been described. This comprehensive group of Ayas explains very precisely the commandments regarding fasting.

There are two points of interest here. One is the goal of what is in the Qur’an with regards to fasting, and the other is the language with which the Qur’an tell us about this religious duty. Let us discuss the second one first.

God could very simply have said: I created you, I gave you life. I give you your daily bread, I provide your sustenance and livelihood, and I give you your health and well-being. Everything you have is from me, and now I tell you that you can’t drink, and that you can’t eat. You are not allowed to eat or drink. He could have given a proclamation to this effect, and we could not object to this. But let us see what language God uses to tell us this.

یَآَیُّهَاالَّذِینَ ءَامَنُواْ This is a reminder to the faithful. کُتِبَ عَلیَکُمُ الصِّیامُ Fasting has been made a requirement upon you. He did not say: کُتِبَ اْلَّلهُ عَلیَکُمُ الصِیّامُ God made fasting a requirement for you. He has not made fasting a requirement for all of us at all. He says کُتِبَ. کُتِبَ is a passive verb. It has no doer. It has no subject maker. Fasting has been made a requirement upon you. Who made it a requirement? No one. It is required. It is like saying when you go to college and want to become a medical doctor, you are required to study and pass these courses. It is required of you to go to the biology lab and perform dissections. Why? So that you will learn the subject matter of this profession. This profession has made these requirements for those who want to graduate from this discipline. This is to say that if you choose to follow a goal, attainment of that goal requires for you to pass some courses. Requirement is different than mandation.

یَآَیُّهَاالَّذِینَ ءَامَنُواْ کُتِبَ عَلیَکُمُ الصِّیامُ کَمَا کُتِبَ عَلَی الَّذِینَ مِن قََبلِکُم لَعَلَّکُم تَتَّقُونَ

“O ye who believe! Fasting has been prescribed to you as it was
prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint,”

Let us consider a few points:

1. یَآَیُّهَاالَّذِینَ ءَامَنُواْ You who have entered the peaceful, safe, tranquil and secure environment, you who have entered the environment of faith, the requirement of entering such environment is to strengthen your will-power.

کُتِبَ عَلیَکُمُ الصِّیامُ Please pay attention to the fact that man himself has made these mandatory. God does not say, “I told you.”20 You chose this path for yourself and the goal in the faith that you have set for yourself requires this of you.

2. کَمَا کُتِبَ عَلَی الَّذِینَ مِن قََبلِکُم This is not forced upon you. This has been there throughout history. The faithful of any Shari’a and any school who wanted to strengthen and fortify themselves have complied with this religious duty. There is a track history for this.

3. For what purpose? لَعَلَّکُم تَتَّقُونَ So that your own self will be strengthened.

4. أَیَّامًا مَّعْــدُودَاتِ Don't worry. This is not forever. Before you know it, it is over. This is only for the month of Ramathan. أَیَّامًا مَّعْــدُودَاتِ It is only for a few days. It is for a limited, for a few, for a countable number of days.

5. فَمَــن کَــانَ مِنکُـــم مَّرِیضًــا If you are sick, it is not for you to do this.

6. أَوْ عَلَــی سَفَرٍ If you have to go on a trip . God did not say, سَفَرٍ فِــیَ if you are on a trip, He said أَوْ عَلَــی سَفَر If you have to go on a trip, if your work requires it of you, if you have to go to another town, if you have to go on a trip that has to do with your life and health, you don’t have to do this.

7. وَعَلَــی الَّــذِینَ یُطِیقُونَــهُ If you don’t have the endurance, the tolerance, the stamina, if you are weak, if you faint and cannot continue, if your life is in danger, if you cannot go to work, then too, it is not required of you.

Exactly as if the parents of a child are talking with the child:

1. This is what good kids do,
2. This has always been the case,
3. This is so that you will become stronger,
4. It is only for a short time, have patience,
5. If you become sick you don’t have to do this,
6. If you have to go some other place you don't have to do this,
7. If you become tired you can stop.

It is all in this kind of language that God, who has created and has given us everything we
have, tells us about this religious duty.

Then God says: یُرِیدُ اللَّــهُ بِکُـمُ الْیُسْـرَ God wants you to be at ease. He wants comfort
for you وَ لَایُرِِیدُ بِکُـمُ الْعُسْـرَ He does not want to make it difficult for you. Again, pay attention to the language God uses to tell us this. This by itself indicates the philosophy behind fasting. Some people ask, “Now that we have traveled for so many kilometers, should we break the fast?” This language came at a time when no one could travel across the burning open desert. They traveled mainly at night. Imagine one who has to go on a trip across the desert. Isn’t this a difficult task to perform? God says, I don’t want you to make a life-and-death situation out of traveling across the desert while fasting. Today we travel by cars and airplanes. By this standard, considering the large cities in which we live, traveling across cities would necessitate breaking one’s fast. Traveling today is not comparable to traveling at that time.

God says: فَمَـن تَطَوَّعَ خَیْرًا I do not determine assignments for you. One who has the inclination to do this work should not feel that I have assigned him such chores. فَهُوَ خَیْرُ لَّهُ This is for your own good.

In these Ayas God has facilitated the performance of fasting for us. Exactly the way parents of a child would give advice to the child. They don’t just say to the child, “go do this work,” such that the child is then demoralized and is afraid of doing the work. They use kind language in order to win his heart and his trust so that the child himself would want to do the work. The philosophy behind fasting is similar to that of a person who does not feel that anyone has made fasting compulsory. He understands that. This is necessary for his growth and maturity. This is necessary for his own strength and fortification and for his own self-control. All the subtleties and intricacies imbedded in these four Ayas are to encourage one, to enthuse one, to instill interest in the person so that the person will do the work with love and affection. So that the person will not think that there is any imposition on him, or any difficulty placed on him. Indeed this is the only way that it will be successful. This is an important educational point for us. When our creator who has the absolute power on everything and everyone, who has given us everything we have, talks to us in a kind language about something that is for our own good, he is paying respect to us, he is showing generosity to his creation. Exactly as if a weak person is saying something to a strong person. When God talks to us in this way, do we have the right to talk to our subordinates, to our children, and to those less fortunate than us, in any other language? If the objective is to guide and educate, is it beneficial to use force, threat and intimidation to force people to practice Shari’a21 in a society?

Now, let us go to the first point and see what the goal of fasting is according to the Qur’an.
In these four Ayas, the word لَعَلَ has been mentioned three times. لَعَلَّ means: Be as it may, In the hope that. That is the meaning of لَعَلَّ . God uses the word لَعَلَّ in the following context:

لَعَلَّهُــمْ یَرْشُـدُونَ .3      لَعَلَّکُــمْ تَشْکُرُونَ .2         لَعَلَّکُــمْ تَتَّقُونَ .1

These three لَعَلَّ point to three of the four goals of fasting during the month of Ramathan. Please note that this is an important point for fasting. The first goal of fasting is Taqwa22. The second goal is Shokr23, and the third goal is Roshd24. These are the three lessons of the month of Ramathan.

In the Qur’an it says:

کُتِبَ عَلیَکُمُ الصِّیامُ کَمَا کُتِبَ عَلَی الَّذِینَ مِن قََبلِکُم لَعَلَّکُم تَتَّقُونَ

Fasting starts with Taqwa, that is the first step. The second step is Shokr and the third step is Roshd. Let us understand this. For example: You register your six year old child in school in the first grade. Up to this point the child did anything he wanted at home, he ate and drank when he wanted, he painted, watched television, slept, etc. There would be hardly any rules with which he had to comply. The first time you place him in school, complying with a series of rules and regulations is required of him. Now he has to go to school at a certain hour, leave school at a certain hour, study a few hours a day, take a few minutes of break every hour. Everything is on a schedule. He can no longer eat or drink whenever he wants, he cannot talk to someone else whenever he wants, and at night he has to do his homework. After a while he will become used to a set of rules and regulations. So the first lesson from school is Siam or self-control, that is abstinence from doing what he used to do. It is a lesson in controlling his self, a lesson in discipline, a lesson in order and control. From now he has to observe a series of rules of discipline. A student who complies with such rules can benefit from the teacher’s class. He will appreciate and therefore follow the teacher’s instructions. This is the meaning of Shokr. Shokr means the best utilization of the thing with which we are dealing. Everything has a Shokr due. Shokr for having eyes is the utilization of eyes in the way the creator has meant for eyes to be used. Shokr for having ears, tongues, etc. Shokr means using the blessing in the way that the creator has meant for it to be used. In Arabic language the word Shokr is used for the sky which is full of rain, or for a cow which is with lots of milk, or a spring with lots of water. The meaning of Shokr is increase, growth, development, a cow which gives lots of milk, a spring with lots of water. This is a kind of welfare, blessing, abundance.


1. The first lesson for the student in school is practicing self-control, self-dominance.
2. The second lesson is the best way to utilize what is being taught at school.
3. The third lesson is the resultant growth whereby the student will graduate to a higher level.

So as you can see there are three lessons to be learnt at school. We see that these three lessons are repeated precisely in the same manner in the school of fasting. The analogy to this in fasting is:

1. Lesson one is Taqwa, or self-control.
2. Lesson two is Shokr, or the best use of the opportunities provided.
3. Lesson three is Roshd, or growth.

First God says: یَآَیُّهَاالَّذِینَ ءَامَنُوا کُتِبَ عَلیَکُمُ الصِّیامُ Those of you who have entered the peaceful and safe environment, it is required of you to fast لَعَلَّکُــمْ تَتَّقُونَ so that you may gain will-power. Then in comparison with the child who goes to school God says: Now that you are satisfied and understand that this is for your own good, you ask:

• When? شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ During His month, the month of Ramathan.
• Why the month of Ramathan? Because أُنـزِلَ فِیهِ الْقُرْءَانُ We sent down the Qur’an.
• What for? هُـدًی لِّلنَّاسِ To guide the masses of people.
• What else? وَ بَیِّنتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَی It also has a series of more advanced clear signs for the
masses, men and women, whoever wishes to be guided. But this is not all. This is not a simple book. This is not just a book that is for the few. Anyone can read and understand this book and graduate to higher levels. This is the only book in the world that has these characteristics. وَ بَیِّنتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَی Guidance that is advanced.

According to Hadith:25

• للقران عباراة ٌو اشاراة There are expressions and phrases in the Qur’an,
• و لطائف And fine and delicate details,
• و الحقائقٌ And truths and realities,
• العبارات للعوام Expressions and phrases for the masses of people,
• و الاشارات للخواص And expressions and phrases for those who think about what they read and those who realize the delicacies and intricacies of the Qur’an.
• و اَللَطائِفُ لِلاُولیاء For whom are these fine and delicate points? They are for
authorities and/or parents. To the extend that these authorities learn love they will realize the fine points of the Qur’an.
• و الحقايق لِلاَنبیاء And above all that, the Qur’an has truths.

So the Qur’an has teachings for the masses and for those who think about what they read in the Qur’an. It has intricacies and inner parts, and most importantly, it has Forghan26. Forghan means a touchstone, a yardstick by which man can measure the worth of things. A criterion by which one can tell the difference between good and bad, between halal27 and haram28. When a law is passed how can we tell if that law is good or bad if we do not have a measuring yard by which we can measure? What does ethics mean? How can one tell the difference between good ethics and bad ethics?

In the Qur’an, in Sura al-Forghan29, God says:.

تَبَارَکَ الَّـذِی نَزَّل الْفُرْقَانَ عَلَی عَبْــدِهِ لِیَکُونَ لِلْعلَمِینَ نَذِیـرًا

“Blessed is He who sent down the Criterion to His Servant,
that it may be an admonition to all creatures;”

We don’t appreciate, we don’t recognize how important it is for human beings to have a criterion with which to evaluate the worth of things. Otherwise it would not be possible to distinguish between good and bad. Otherwise ethics would become a contemporary thing and subject to the politics of the time and subject to the tastes and talents and styles of the different times in history. Ethics has divine roots and تَبَارَکَ الَّـذِی نَزَّل الْفُرْقَانَ عَلَی عَبْــدِهِ لِیَکُونَ لِلْعلَمِینَ نَذِیـرًا is full of blessings and happy messages.

So now that the readiness and alertness is in place, now you know:

• That this is the month of Ramathan,
• That this is the month in which the Qur’an was sent to man,
• That the Qur’an has intricacies for guiding the masses and the few, and
• That the Qur’an has Forghan.

Then God says, now that you have come this far: فَلْیَصُمْهُ Now practice Som30, that is self-control and self-domination. What for? لَعَلَّکُــمْ تَشْکُرُونَ So that you can give thanks to God. Thanks for what? For the guidance that you will receive during this month.

Let us repeat:
1. The first lesson is that of Taqwa, for self-control.

2. The second lesson is that of Shokr for the guidance during the month of Ramathan. Shokr for the Qur’an that was sent down during this month. Give Shokr to the extend that is possible for you. فَاقرَء و اماتَیَسَّرَ مِنَ القرآنِ To the extend that is feasible for you. Read the Qur’an, read the Qur’an at night, read the Qur’an during the day, read the Qur’an until you can feel the lessons that are for the masses and for the few, read the Qur’an until you feel the book, until you do the book. So the second لَعَلَّ that has been mentioned in these Ayas means fast with the purpose of giving Shokr.

3. And the third lesson: After this introduction, suddenly there appears an Aya that seems like
those who organized the Qur’an and placed the Ayas in their respective places, found no place for this Aya and therefore put it here. One is surprised to see this Aya in this location. Dose this Aya have anything to do with fasting? Maybe it belongs to some other Sura! In reality, it belongs exactly here. This is the most important Aya regarding Doa31.

Sura al-Baghara:32

وَ ِإذَا سَألَکَ عِبَــادِی عَنِّی فَـإنِّی قَرِیبٌ أجِیبُ دَعْوَةَ الـدَّاعِ إذَا دَعَانِ فَلْیَسْتَجِیبُواْلِی و لْیُومِنُواْبی لَعَلَّهُــمْ یَرْشُـدُونَ

“When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them):
 I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me: Let them also, with a will,
 listen to My call, and believe in Me: that they may walk in the right way.

This is only one Aya, but according to the late Alama Tabatabai, the interpreter of the Qur’an and the one who wrote the most extensive exegesis on the Qur’an, namely the al-Mizan, seven times God makes reference to himself in this single Aya. Seven times God makes reference to Himself by using the first person pronoun:.

1. وَ ِإذَا سَألَکَ عِبَــادِی If My servants ask you
2. عَنِّی of Me
3. فَـإنِّی قَرِیبٌ indeed I am extremely close
4. أجِیبُ دَعْوَةَ الـدَّاعِ I will grant to you
5. إِذَا دَعَانِ listen to My call
6. فَلْیَسْتَجِیبُواْلِی ask Me to grant to you
7. و لْیُومِنُواْبی believe Me in doing this.

Alama Tabatabai says there is no other Aya in the Qur’an where God makes reference to Wahda seven times by using the first person pronoun. We see references to the pronoun we quite often in the Qur’an. But references to the first person pronoun are very infrequent. But in this Aya God uses the pronoun I seven times33. Let us see what God is telling us in this Aya. So:

1. People practiced Taqwa, they practiced self-control, and they learnt self-domination,
2. they gave thanks for the blessings of this month, and
3. they became familiar with the book of guidance and they grew.

So what is the conclusion? When a person wakes up before the dawn to pray, and says his Doa, and recites the Qur’an, and upholds his faith in order to see the light of knowledge, gradually this will leave an impression on him. Especially if this is done together with the rest of the family, with the parents and the kids. All this will have its effect in time. Little by little, the person will raise his wishes to higher levels. If so far he was wishing for ordinary things, now he wishes for intellectual truths, for Gnostic truths.
So the goals of fasting are:

1. Practice self-control
2. give thanks for the blessings of this month, and
3. grow.

Now we reach the fourth goal of fasting. So here is the conclusion:

Now God tells the Prophet: عَنِّی وَ ِإذَا سَألَکَ عِبَــادِی If someone asks you about Me, and then God changes from talking to the Prophet and speaks directly to his creation: فَـإنِّی قَرِیبٌ I am extremely close to you. This is very significant. In the same Aya the audience is changed. First it is the Prophet: عَنِّی عِبَــادِی وَ ِإذَا سَألَکَ If someone asks you about Me, then it is the peeople: فَـإنِّی قَرِیبٌ I am extremely close to you. أجِیبُ دَعْوَةَ الـدَّاعِ I will grant to you. I will grant the Doa of he who makes Doa. Not any Doa. God has never guaranteed that He will grant whatever you want, but He has guaranteed that if you ask for Me, I will grant your Doa. What does, “If you ask for Me,” mean? What do we want God for? Do we even know God? What does it mean to say we want God? God says, ask for Me, that is, ask for my attributes: If you seek knowledge, I guarantee you will find knowledge. If you seek forgiveness, I guarantee you will learn forgiveness. This is because God is the forgiver of sins, God is pure, God is dear. These are the attributes of God. God is beneficent, He is sage. If you ask for Me, that is, if you seek wisdom, if you seek honor, I guarantee I give you that which you seek. If you want extra income, go work harder, go talk with your boss. If you want good health, go see your doctor. I have provided the circumstances for you to earn more money. I have provided the opportunities for you to have good health. إِذَا دَعَانِ But if you ask for Me, ask for that which is My attribute, that pure Doa, not selfish Doa, that I will give to you. I guarantee it. And now that I guarantee it, فَلْیَسْتَجِیبُواْلِی ask Me, ask Me and I will grant it to you.

What is interesting is that the normal process seems to have been reversed here. Usually the lover calls the beloved, but here, the beloved is telling the lover, “Why are you sleep? Why are you so feeble? Why don’t you call? Just make one call from your heart and I will come to you. Call me and say you want me and I will come to you. I promise I will come to you.” God too is talking in this kind of language. I guarantee it, He says. Why don't you call me? فَلْیَسْتَجِیبُواْلِی Why don’t you ask Me? و لْیُومِنُواْبی and believe Me when I say this.

God is not needy. He is free from wanting. He says: If all the people on earth reject the truth after knowing it and become Kafar34, it makes no difference to God35, because He is rich and praiseworthy. He does not need. He is not needy. He is praiseworthy, he holds the position for being praiseworthy, he is the absolute praised. It is not the praise and the thanks that we give to God that earns Him this status. He holds the absolute position of all these attributes.

So why does God tell us to ask for him? لَعَلَّهُــمْ یَرْشُـدُونَ So we can grow. He does not need people to praise him. Praising God is for us, we need to do it so we can grow. Why do we go after low qualities, after inferior things: selfishness, pride, racial and tribal prejudice, trying to justify our superiority over other people, fighting among ourselves, even fighting among the same people. These are low in quality. Ask for Me so that you will grow. I have excellent attributes. Seek wisdom in order to go higher, seek knowledge in order to become wiser. Seek honor so that you will not receive admonition for yourself, for your character and for your society. God is dear. God is forgiver of sins, set your sights higher, become closer to him, seek his attributes, seek forgiveness, then, you will be able to forgive others. God has forbearance, seek his attributes, seek forbearance, then you will find forbearance, then you will not loose your cool, you will not become angry. All of these are God’s attributes. When God says ask for Me and you will grow, it means that within you, you will feel the need for these values, then you will graduate to higher classes.

These three لَعَلَّ have appeared in these Ayas regarding fasting so that we will have the opportunity to find Taqwa. By being in touch with the book of guidance, with the Qur’an, you prepare yourself. The peak of such experience is imbedded in Sura al-Ghadr36, in the supplications and soothing words uttered in prayers during the nights of Ramathan. It is under such circumstances that the grace for doing Doa will be revealed to one. Doa is the essence of worship. Doa is the Me’raj37 or ascension for the Mo’men38.

The last Aya of Sura al-Forghan:39

قُل مَا یَعبَؤُبکُم رَبّی لَولا دُعآؤکُم فَقَد کَذَّبتُم فَسَوفَ یَکُونُ لِزَامَا

Say: My Lord would not care for you were it not for your prayer;
 but you have indeed rejected (the turth), so that which shall cleave shall come.

If you did not have Doa what would you have? We mistakenly attribute Doa to religion, whereas Doa means the wishes, hopes, desires, and aspirations of human beings. We all have these. If you did not have Doa what would you have? Animals do not have Doa. Animals do not pray. They are happy with what they have. It is only humans who want things. Humans develop wishes and hopes. They will go after them until they fulfill their desires. Realization of faithful Doa is the fourth and the ultimate goal of the month of Ramathan which is the result of experiencing the first three goals of Taqwa, Shokr and Roshd. The blessings of the month of Ramathan, if realized, will prepare one for performing Doa. By finding Taqwa, by giving Shokr, and by graduating through Roshd one will graduate to the level of performing Doa. That, is the secret of Ramathan.

Now let us read a little from Nahj al-Balagha to see how Imam Ali viewed the month of Ramathan. In Khotbah number 19240of Nahj al-Balagha Imam Ali introduces fasting as a jihad:41

• مجاهََدَةِ الصَّیامِ فی الایّامِ المفرُضات This self-control is a jihad, it is a difficult task. It is not just abstinence from eating and drinking.

• تَسکـیناً لِاَطرافِهِم This is a time of rest for the body, for the heart, the lungs, the stomach.

• و َتَخشیعاً لِاَبصارِهِم This is a month for your eyes to become humble. This is a way to control one’s eyes.

• و تَذلیلاً لِنُفُوسِهِم To have you control your self and change from pride and selfishness to being a servant of God.

• و تَخفیضاً لِقُلُوبِهِم So that your hearts will be willing to place others under your protection. Your hearts become kinder, become more humble, become benevolent and charitable.

• و اِذهاباً لِلخُیلاء عَنهُم You will loose your personal selfishness and imagination in the shadow of worshiping God and little by little, you will become familiar with God and his attributes.

In Sahifeh Sajjadia of Imam Sajjad we see Doa number 44 which he used to recite during the month of Ramathan. This is a beautiful Doa. He has one Doa to recite at the beginning of this month and another to recite at the end of this month. Let us read part of one of them:

Praise belongs to God who selected the month of Ramathan, His month, as a means of achieving beneficence:

• شهر رمضان 42his month, the month of Ramathan
• شهر الصیام the month of self control (fasting),
• شهر القيام the month of rising for human beings (standing for pyayer),
• شهر الاسلام the month of surrendering to God (submission),
• شهر الطهور the month of becoming pure (purification),
• شهر التمحيض the month of refinement from all impurities (putting oneself to test), one’s being has to become pure from all impurities.

Imam Sajjad says: God,

• وَ أَعِنَّا عَلَی صِیَامِهِ بِکَفّ … …help us to fast in this month by restraining our limps form acts of disobedience
• اَلجَوَارح عَن مّعَاصیِکَ وَ استِعمَالَهَا toward Thee and by employing them in ways
• فِیهِ بِمَا یُرضِیکَ حَتی which please Thee, so that
• لا نُصغِیَ بِأَسمَاعِنآ إلی لَغوٍ we lend not our ears to the idle talk and
• وَّ لا نُسرِعَ بِأَبصَارِنآ إَلی لَهوٍ hurry not with our eyes to dirversion,
• وَّ حَتَّی لا نَبسُطَ أَیدِینَآ إِلَی مَحظُور we stretch not our hands toward the forbidden and
• وَّ لا نَخطُوَ بِأقدَامِنآ إَلی مَحجُورٍ stride not with our feet toward the prohibited,
• وَّ حَتَّی لا تِعیَ بُطُو نُنَآ إِلّا مَآ أحلَلتَ our bellies hold only what Thou has made lawful and
• وَ لا تَنطِقَ أَلسِنَتُنَآ إِلاّ بِمآ مَثَّلتَ our tongues speak only what Thou has exemplified,
• وَ لا نَتَکَلَّفَ إلاّ مَا یُدنِی مِن ثَوَابِکَ we undertake nothing but what brings us close to Thy reward and
• ثُمَّ خَلِّص ذَلِکَ کُلَّهُ مِن then rid all of that from
• رِیَّآءِ المُرَآئِینَ the false show of the false showers and
• وَ سُمعَتهِ المُسمِعیِنَ the fame seeking of the fame seekers
• لا نُشرِکُ فِیهِ أَحَداً دُونَکَ lest we associate therein anything with Thee or
• وَ لا نَبتَغِی بِهِ مُرَاداً سِوَاکَ seek therein any object of desire but Thee
• أَتَمّ الطَّهُورِ وَ أَسبَغِهِ with the most complete and ample ritual purity and
• وَ أبیَنِ الخُشُوعِ وَ أَبلَغِهِ the most evident and intense humility!
• وَ وَفِقنَا فِیهِ Give us success in this month to
• لِأَن نَّصِلَ أَرحَامَنا بِالبِرِّ وَ الصِّلَةِ tighten our bonds of kin with devotion and gifts,
• وَ أَن نَّتعَاهَدَ جِرَانَنَا بِالإفضَالِ وَ العَطِیَّةِ attend to our neighbors with bestowal and giving,
• وَ اَن نُّخَلِّصَ أَموَالَنَا مِنَ التَّبِعَاتِ rid our possessions from claims,
• وَ أَن نُّطَهِّرَهَا بِإِخرَاجِ الزَّکَوَاتِ purify them through paying the alms,
• وَ أَن نُّرَاجِعَ مَن هَاجَرَنَا go back to him who has gone far from us,
• وَ أَن نُّنصِفَ مَن ظَلَمَنَا treat justly him who has wronged us,
• وَ أَن نُّسَالِم مَن عَادَانَا make peace with him who shows enmity toward us
• حَاشَا مَن عُودِیَ فِیکَ وَ لَکَ فَإنَّهُ (except him who is regarded as an enemy in Thee and for Thee, for he is
• العَدُوُّ الَّذِی لا نُوَالِیهِ the enemy whom we will not befriend,
• … وَ الحِزبُ الَّذِی لا نُصَافِیهِ the party whom we will not hold dear)...

So you see how exalted, how sublime, and how high are the requests and solicitations that Imam Sajjad is asking from God. It seems like the month of Ramathan does not have secrets and mysteries, but when we pay careful attention we see, forgoing eating and drinking, how deep and meaningful this month is and how much there is for us to discover, and how many steps one has to climb to reach every one of these deep layers.

1- Secrets and Mysteries of Ramathan is the title of the speech given by Abdolali Bazargan at Bonyad Towhid on Friday, November 8, 2002, transliterated and translated into English.
2- (2:183)
3- Nahjolbalagha, Hekmat #145
4- Ibid
5- Ibid
6- Nahjolbalagha, Hekmat #131
7- Ibid
8- (18:46)
9- (5:95)
10- (2:196)
11- (4:92)
12- “Free a slave,” put in perspective with today’s lifestyle, could be construed to mean providing independence and freedom for peoples of the world from political persecution and fighting despotism and dictatorship, or anything which would free prople from bondage.
13- (5:89)
14- During the period of ignorance a man did not need to offer convincing arguments in order to divorce his wife, since there was no government, no law and no defence for women’s rights. The reason for Zehar seems to have been succumbing to anger and rage.
15- (58:2-4)
16- (19:26)
17- (19:10)
18- (2:183)
19- (2:183-7)
20- کُتِبَ is a passive verb and its doer is not determined. It means you decided to enter this safe and secure environment and this environment requires that you strengthen your will.
21- A religion or a way of belief and pracice in respect of religion, i.e., Judaism, Christianity, Islam.
22- The power of controling the self in case of sin or offense.
23- To use the divine provisions in the way the provider has menat for them to be use.
24- To attain honor, to attain perfection.
25- Quotations from the Prophet or other religious leaders
26- A tool to distinguish between two things, i.e., a criterion between right and wrong.
27- Deeds permitted by religion.
28- Deeds prohibited by religion.
29- (25:1)
30- Fasting
31- Supplication
32- (2:186)
33- In the Qur’an God often refers to himself using the pronoun we (na – nahno,) but in this verse I (man) has been referenced seven times. We in the Qur’an referes to the entire divine system which includes God and the Angles, but "I" referes only to God.
34- Infidel
35- (14:8)
36- Sura 97
37- To ascend
38- Believer
39- (25:77) It seems that there are no good translations of this Ayat. The meaning of قُل مَا یَعبَؤُبکُم رَبّی لَولا is, “how much value, worth, merit, or weight would God allow for you if you did not have Doa?” عباء means weight. It seems as if God is using the example of a scale to weigh us,. as if one’s weight is proportional to the worth of one’s Doa. The more sublime and exalted one’s Doas are, the more is the worth of one in the eyes of God. Also the latter part of this Ayat says, “you have rejected the truth that the worth of each man is according to his Doa and soon you will realize the consequence of your action, i.e., you will attain lesser advantages. Thus it is not indicative of punishment.
40- Khotbah numbers may vary in different publications.
41- Jihad means exerting effort with all of one’s ability in upholding justice while facing difficulties and deprivations in reaching the goal.
42- رَمََضَََََ means intense sun, i.e., intense sun during the Summer months. رمضان يُرمَضُُُُ الذُّنُوب.This is the analogy between the intense heat of the sun and the way Ramathan is capable of purifying impurities.