The Islamic month of fasting, Ramadan, will start soon and provide Muslims across New Zealand with a unique opportunity for spiritual renewal and rejuvenation.
It is also a period for meditation and theological contemplation.
The fasting involves abstention from food and drink during daylight hours.
But this is only a small part of the four weeks.
Above all these, is an occasion to enhance and improve our personal worship of God.
I believe that this can be best achieved by reading and reciting the Holy Quran, the sacred scriptures of Islam.
These hallowed verses are both an aural and oral experience revealed piecemeal to Prophet Mohammed over 23 years from 610 to 632 CE.
The text in its current format was arranged by the Prophet’s contemporaries within ten years of his death.
The ordinances regarding Ramadan are found in Chapter 2, Verse 185 of the Holy Quran.
“The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Quran; a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the criterion (of right and wrong). And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, a number of other days. Allah desires for your ease; He desires not hardship for you; and that you should complete the period, and that you should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that perhaps you may be thankful.”
The Quran posits many cerebral challenges to readers and reciters alike.
Looking beyond these sacrosanct scriptures, I believe that the biggest conundra revolve around issues of Historiography that are seldom voiced or examined much.
The Holy Month would involve a lot of talk about the Prophet and his Sahaba (companions), citing various historical sources such as the Hadith and the Seerah (biographies).
However there is little articulation about the study of History itself and the significance for Muslims.
We all acknowledge that History is a problematic intellectual construction of the past rather than a series of uncontested facts and absolute scientific truths like Newtonian Physics. When approaching any History text, we must always consider how scholars (religious or secular) have weighed information, evidence and elucidated their research in publication.
We must read and interpret data critically and grasp the variegated Historical discussions and arbitrary assumptions that have influenced and informed all literature on past events. Only the Quran is sacred!
In the final analysis, one might ask, ‘What can Muslims and non-Muslims learn from the experience of Ramadan in New Zealand?’
I think we can all agree that there is an urgent need for the burgeoning Muslim minority to foster a strong sense of localised Islamic identity rooted in the experience and practice of Islam in this land.
Societies or groups of people without a common sense of shared history – a meta-narrative – are essentially dysfunctional.
One of the most important features of any distinct community group identity is its History. Muslim youth should study and examine the examples of early Muslim settlers, immigrants and refugees, and learned Ulema such as the late Moulana Patel and Sheikh Khalid Hafiz.
This point is axiomatic if we are to develop our own peaceful Islamic traditions and sidestep the unhappy social isolation and frustration experienced by Muslim minorities living in other Western societies.
Ramadan is a time for peace and an occasion to contemplate a peaceful future.
Abdulla Drury is a voracious reader and writer based in Hamilton