beyond fasting

It's well into Ramadan now and by now most of us have acclimated to the fast. The body adapts, so that the afternoon isn't a complete write-off in which we amble about like the walking dead, but instead are actually able to get some work done (distractions like blogging aside). The low-grade rumble of hunger remains omnipresent, no matter how much you stuff yourself at sehri; now to save on precious sleep we are actually eating a bit less in the predawn. The hunger comes; we accept it now and bear it without too much additional thought.

Now is the time to look beyond the fast. While the fast gets all the attention from the outside, inwardly it is the Qur'an that is the central axis of Ramadan. The most basic aspect of Ramadan piety is to read the Qur'an daily, for the religious benefit of doing so is amplified during this month. Many people set goals for how much of the Qur'an they intend to complete in this time; those with lesser skill (such as myself) might aim to finish a few chapters (juz). Completing an entire juz requires reading at least 5 pages a day or so, which in my case takes me about 15 minutes (I am quite slow). Others with more skill can even finish the entire Qur'an (one khatam), which means they read an entire juz every single day. This is a feat to be respected. It must be noted that the Qur'an is written in an archaic Arabic script, and reads like poetry, with its own internal structure. The art of recitation is called tarteel, and has very specific rules. The greatest qaris (reciters) of the Qur'an, such as Shaikh Mahmood Al Husary and Husain Saifuddin, are masters of tarteel and their recitation of the Qur'an fills my home in Ramadan (in convenient mp3 audio).

But beyond recitation of the Qur'an comes the even more obligatory function, that of memorization. Those who have memorized the entire Qur'an (hafiz al-Qur'an) often take years of dedicated study to do so. However, the 30th juz (in which most of the smaller surats reside) is one that can be readily memorized, with practice. These are the same surats often used in daily prayer so most muslims have a fraction of this juz committed to memory to begin with. The typical memorization routine begins backwards, from Surah al-Nass and then proceeds backwards towards Surah al Balad and beyond to the very end (beginning) of the juz. There are numerous publications, CDs, and online resources to assist the muslim who desires to hifz in this manner.

All of this represents a pace of commitment that is difficult to maintain during the entire year. But Ramadan is a time of renewal, and thus an opportunity, to return to basics.

No comments: