May 28, 2001

Holy Ramadan: A Divine Message about the Meaning of Life

  • From a Friday Speech of Master Ali Rafea (Sha'ban 25th, 1420 HC/December 3rd, 1999)
  • Translated and Prepared for publishing by: Aisha Rafea
Master Ali Rafea teaches that Ramadan, the holy month of fasting uncovers to humans many truths about the spiritual journey to real life. The authentic meaning of Ramadan, he asserts, is not experienced automatically with the mere prevention of food and drink. It is only when man is faithful in his search for a meaningful life, turns his face to God seeking His support; and when he is being attached to a higher source of guidance seeking spiritual power
We are about to start the holy month of Ramadan, which reveals to us some truthful guidance to the Path of Life. During the holy month we experience the great struggle Jihad Akbar against the lower self nafs. The meaning (of Jihad Akbar) is uncovered clearly in this holy month, so that we might learn truly that it is our means for being transformed into Servants of God: Ascending to Him and following His Path. As usual, we remind ourselves that each of the holy months carries a certain message for man, and highlights a sign or a meaning that he must experience.

The start (of the spiritual journey to Allah) is when man turns to the Unseen Al Ghaib asking Him devoutly to guide him to the righteous Way, the Direction Qibla1 to turn to, the ultimate goal to seek, and the path to follow. Man knows by his inborn nature fitra2 that there are many paths that he is prone to follow, and that is why he wonders which one to choose. This is the start of every sincere person because it is an inevitable stage of many successive ones he has to go through along his life; the similitude of which takes place within his earthly body. Every individual human being starts his own experience and follows his own path as soon as he is born here on Earth. He is most probably apt to learn from the experiences of others, but that does not suffice without going through his own experience. Religion involves adherence to some manner suluk and experiences in life. Each person has to pass through a core experience; the experience of Life.
The experience starts- as mentioned above- when a human thinks about and searches for the meaning of life. We find an example in Abraham .
"When the night covered him over, he saw a star: he said: "This is my Lord." But when it set, he said: "I love not those that set."(HQ: 6: 76).
Abraham did the same thing with the moon and the Sun to teach us the experience of contemplating everything around us until we reach the truth. The truth is that we are born not knowing lots of things beyond, and that the Unseen Al Ghayb that is not known or knowable, transcends all our reach. Abraham believed in that and realized that the Unseen is his Lord. He said then, "Unless my Lord guide me, I shall surely be among those who go astray. (HQ: 6: 77). God responded to Abraham's search, as He does with every seeker.
I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me. (HQ: 2: 186).
"Whenever a human comes an arm's length closer to Me, I shall forward to him two arms' length. If he comes to Me walking, I shall come to him running," (DH).3
As long as My Servant is seeking being close to Me through voluntary prayer, I love him. Loving him, I become his eyes with which he sees, his ears with which he hears and his hands with which he works, (DH).4
The Divine seems to be saying, "I shall become his whole existence".
God responds to human and consequently guides him to the righteous path, the Focus of all attention Qibla.5 Namely, God leads a human to the Home6 towards which he can turn his face, and possibly start out a holy journey where he circumambulates it.
We see the turning of thy face (for guidance) to the heavens: now shall We turn thee to a Qibla that shall please thee. (HQ: 2: 144)
As soon as the human is satisfied with the Qibla (the Source of all guidance), he will turn in that direction seeking spiritual power, guidance and support, with the aim of being ready to receive the Mercy of God. Concurrently, he is apt to be chosen by God, and qualified to gain some of His knowledge.
Now hath come unto you a Messenger from amongst yourselves: it grieves him that ye should perish: ardently anxious is he over you: to the Believers is he most kind and merciful. (HQ: 9: 128)
And keep thy soul content with those who call on their Lord morning and evening, seeking His Face; (HQ: 18: 28)
And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, (HQ: 17: 24)
God's answer to man's search is most expressed by His sending a Messenger who gradually reveals to people the Signs of Allah. It is the Messenger of God who uncovers to people the secret of Life and the Law of Life. He, thus, teaches them how to start their spiritual path, how to knock on the door, how to come closer to God, how to seek His support, how to make themselves ready for receiving His Grace and for being fit to be chosen by Him. The Messenger teaches them how to communicate with God, to pray to Him and be attached to Him. He guides them to purify themselves and their spirits, give their hearts the chance to live and their minds the chance to be enlightened. The Messenger shows people the way to live by their spirits, avoid worshipping their lower selves, escape believing in idle gods and reside their faith in God alone. They learn how to seek the Mercy of God ceaselessly, and turn to the Messenger of God seeking guidance constantly. They would pray to God to make of the Messenger's Blessing a means for supporting them be on the righteous path. They, accordingly, would take the Messenger as an Exemplar, grasp all that he had come up with, and trace his Path.
All these things are manifested in the holy month of Ramadan; the month of people (as Prophet Muhammad said). It is the month of Jihad, Dhikr, spirituality, and illumination. If a human made of it a month for spiritual training, he would be liable to receive Mercy, because throughout the month he was exposed to God's Graces and Emanations. If a person lived that month truly, he would be accessible to the Night of Al-Qadr,7 which is better than one thousand nights. He would be spiritually in harmony with the holy Night.
Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by Allah's permission, on every errand (HQ: 97: 4).
In the case of those who say, "Our Lord is Allah," and, further, stand straight and steadfast, the angels descend on them (from time to time):
"Fear ye not!" (they suggest), "Nor grieve! but receive the Glad Tidings of the Garden (of Bliss), that which ye were promised!( HQ: 41: 30)
The "month" in this context is not confined to a period of physical time. It is a "meaning" embedded in the Path. He who realizes the meaning of the "month", and tries to live it sincerely, is certainly apt to be totally transformed. He would be metamorphosed into a brand new creation; one who has attained life and become a Servant of Allah.
O Servants of God! Discern the holy month and revive the truths that fasting implies for each of us. It implies that we should acquire the attributes of Allah, rise above the lower aspects of material life, and live by spirit. It also signifies that we make our hearts accessible to the Graces of God and His Emanations, struggle against the lower self within, with all its darkness, and seek to be purely Servants of God. We do pray to attain the meaning of life, follow the Path of Allah and gain our life in Allah.

To sum up, we constantly reflect together on every message that God sends to us through Divine Teaching and the Hadiths of Prophet Muhammad. We have come to realize that the value of "time" is not confined to a specific physical "day" or "month". The main thing, after all, is to discern a certain "message" addressed to us. When we truly receive the message, the month for us turns to be a valuable time that affects our whole existence positively. Without discerning the authentic meaning and seeking to live it fully, this month or any other holy occasion becomes meaningless.
It is so possible that a fasting person does not get anything from his fast but hunger and thirst” (PH).8
That is what the Primordial Religion teaches us. It directs us to benefit from and read truthfully all Divine Commandments. The first guidance of the Muhammadan Revelation was:
Read In the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created, Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood: Read and thy Lord is Most Bountiful, He Who taught (the use of) the Pen, Taught man that which he knew not. (HQ: 96: 1-5)
On that account, the honor of any "time" or "place" points to the meanings that man is apt to attain at that time or that place. Reverence is not automatically gained when we just pass such holy days inattentively or visit the holy places heedlessly. It is when we attain spiritually from being in that place, and living that time that we experience their honor.
O Servants of God! The start is from man. When he follows a proper way he is elevated to Allah. Likewise, if he went through a wrong way he would be converted to the lowest of the low.
We have indeed created man in the best of moulds, Then do We abase him (to be) the lowest of the low, Except such as believe and do righteous deeds: (HQ: 95: 4-6)
  1. Quibla is an Arabic word that means the direction that one turns one’s face to. It is part of the ritual prayers of Muslims to turn their faces to the holy shrine of Ka’aba, the House of God in Mecca. However, Master Ali Rafea uses the word Quibla not as a mere physical direction, rather it is an approach to life where a human has a focus, or an ultimate goal of existence.
  2. Fitra is an Arabic word that points to the primordial nature of humans that is carrying the touch of divinity. Humans are susceptible to be heedless of that divine nature when they are ovewhelmed by the physical body.
  3. Narrated by Bukhari, Moslem and Ahmad
  4. Narrated by Bukhari
  5. Quibla is an Arabic word that means the direction that one turns one’s face to. It is part of the ritual prayers of Muslims to turn their faces to the holy shrine of Ka’aba, the House of God in Mecca. However, Master Ali Rafea uses the word Quibla not as a mere physical direction, rather it is an approach to life where a human has a focus, or an ultimate goal of existence.
  6. Master Ali Rafea uses the term "Home of God" Bayt Allah and Qibla as a symbol of the Manifestation of God's eternal Source of Light on Earth that was transmitted through Prophets and Messengers of God. So, the relation of any seeker of truth with the House of God or Qibla implies his attachment to a higher source of guidance on Earth. This is quite possible, because the spiritual power that accompanied prophets and that culminated in the existence of Prophet Muhammad has not quitted the Earth. It is always there, manifesting in pure hearts and evolved souls
  7. The Night of Al Qadr is the night during which Prophet Muhammad started receiving the Revelation. It is said to be one of the last ten days of Ramadan, where the Prophet used to be in seclusion, worshipping God and seeking His guidance. For many years before the Revelation took place, he used to spend the whole month of Ramadan in a cave near Mecca called Haraa. The Archangel Gabriel carried the Revelation to the Prophet who was at the age of forty. Al Qadr in Arabic means Power, Proportion, Degree, and Extent. Each connotation is valid because there was such a very special spiritual Power at that night, its Proportion or Extent is mentioned in the Holy Qur'an as better than a thousand months.
  8. Narrated by Ibn Maja and Ahmed