A Radiant Month in A Darkening World
The world is undergoing a series of depressions, one within the other. Humanity is restless and living with nightmares. Yet, Ramadan is once more on the way, appearing on the horizon like the silent full moon. Its light has started to diffuse the darkness of our horizon, and although it is only a temporary light, we feel relief in our souls.
No matter how much people are contaminated in thought and feeling, almost every Ramadan offers them, in some way, a bouquet of its charming holy light, purifying their hearts from dust and corrosion, illuminating them to their capacity and imbuing them with its own color. It removes all that befogs our horizons and flows into our hearts with its heavenly flavor and joy. Its light showers upon us like fireworks from the sky; it calms our unease and softens our harsh and aggressive thoughts. Almost every time Ramadan comes like tranquility descending from the sky, it comes among us with its heavenly color, allure, and dialect, making its magic felt in our souls. Each time we play host to Ramadan, this blessed month is so charming that it remains as fresh as the first time it came; its departure leaves us with longing…. We wait for a whole year for the days when it will return. Nevertheless, with the fasting, with the iftar and sahur meals, and the tarawih prayers,38 there is always a feeling of familiarity. In this respect, neither does its arrival cause astonishment, nor its departure surprise; rather it has a heavenly side which can only be felt by our conscience. It is thanks to this aspect that Ramadan is able to distil our selves, purify our hearts, make our feelings keen, and tell us brand new things in a fresh language. Thanks to this aspect Ramadan never fades, loses color, or becomes dull; it does not tire its hosts either. On the contrary, it always comes like the spring and enwraps us gently, and then it goes away and leaves us with the feeling that autumn has arrived.
Almost every year, as it showers down upon our heads a mystery and an enchantment from the heavens, Ramadan makes itself felt with a new depth, each time with a new difference. Each and every time we find Ramadan to be different and more charming; we cherish a fervent love for it.
As a matter of fact when Ramadan comes, it plays through months and days, jumps through the seasons, and always arrives in a different manner; it embraces our hearts with the weather, the hue, and the patterns of the seasons: sometimes Ramadan pours its heavenly warmth into the bosom of the cold winter; sometimes it unites with the heat of summer and reminds us to use our will, playing on our determination, and directing our insights toward the horizon of spiritual life. Sometimes Ramadan lands like dew upon spring flowers and recites to us poems of revival. And sometimes it pierces through the gloom of the autumn with its heavenly joy; it takes us from the narrowness of worldliness to the spacious and relaxing climate of other worldliness.
Like the rising and setting of the sun and the moon, we know when Ramadan will come by astronomic calculations. However, with each visit, Ramadan meets us with a variety of surprises and changes our lives completely. It reschedules the time we eat, drink, go to bed, and get up. It transforms us into spiritual beings in proportion to our capacity. And with its every aspect it speaks to our hearts about the faithfulness that is from beyond the heavens.
Almost every year when Ramadan comes, the heavens virtually descend upon the earth: the lights on the streets, the lamps surrounding the minarets and the Ramadan messages hanging between them, the fireworks flashing up here or there remind us of the stars and the meteors in the sky; the deep spiritual state of the believers in the mosque, who become finer and purer, who become innocent like angels, their vigilance, the way they start and break the fast all inspire us with the feeling that we are walking side by side with spiritual beings. This is true to such a degree that believers who are open to the horizon of the heart and spirituality experience a new feast with every pre-dawn meal; they overflow with a new exhilaration at every meal to break the fast, they observe every tarawih prayer with a new spiritual delight, and they frequently feel as if they are in a world of dreams. This blessed month is constantly enwrapped with divine forgiveness; it promises the same to those who live in its atmosphere and it has a different influence on every person who has some degree of religious belief: it changes the limits of a believer’s heart with its own peculiar charm, reflecting its own hue in their nature, and openly or not, it makes those who believe with all their heart aware of the mystery of the realms beyond, paving the way for people to surpass their corporeality and to become almost different beings.
With the coming of Ramadan, otherworldly whispers are heard to emanate from human emotions. The sense of the realms beyond spreads throughout everything, like the most beautiful of scents. Through an entire month this blessed piece of time presents us with its deepest silent poems; faith and worship are the basic components of these silent poems, and they go hand in hand, presenting us with magical horizons that transcend the fields of the sciences; we never have enough of gazing at them.
Just as the sun reaches everything on earth to a certain degree and its rays reflect on every object at different frequencies, so too in the month of Ramadan are the worlds beyond the heavens presented in different interactions with the earth and its inhabitants, particularly with the hearts of the believers. Pure spiritual realms everywhere emanate a spirit, a meaning, a spell that far overshadow sunlight; it manifests its own depths in those hearts which are open to the divine and inspires them with depth of faith. In this way, this world and the other almost come together, side by side; worship flows from this world to the other, whereas goodness and blessings flow from the other one to this. This state triggers profound dreams and feelings in us, making us realize that nothing in the world can be so beautiful or fascinating. Sometimes, as the sounds in the mosques intermingle with the lights, and pour down our heads, everyone feels in such a state that we never desire to leave that magical atmosphere. Even if we leave, our hearts always remain in rhythm with what goes on there.
In Ramadan we feel the joy of a celebration every day. We are aware of its warmth on our journeys between work, home, and mosque. We feel it when we plunge into the dreams that open up to other worldliness. Sometimes we run to the mosque, striving to overcome our distance from our Lord. We strengthen our wishes for goodness by praying, and we try to be cleansed from spiritual dirt by repentance and taking refuge in God. Day and night we value our place in the divine presence as yet another chance of purification, and we change the color of life. In this way our life ceases to be an unsolved riddle; it turns into a beauty of which we can never have enough. It is inhaled, felt, and becomes a pleasure that pours into us.
And the call to prayer resounding throughout the neighborhood and the sound of the glorification of God from the mosques, the fascinating spiritual aura there, the special language of the tarawih prayers, observed by both men and women, young and old, by all Muslims; all these elevate Ramadan to such an inimitable level that those who feel and observe Ramadan thoroughly savor all the different thoughts as if they were all side by side with the inhabitants of heavens; they are enraptured. Sometimes in Ramadan— the ability to sense it depends on the spiritual depth of the indiviual—such a deep other worldliness enwraps one that, while listening to the voices rising from the minarets one feels as if it is Bilal, the Prophet’s muezzin, calling; the imam is seen as a privileged person who has the title of God’s vicegerent, and the people around one are perceived as the blessed Companions who were honored with seeing the Prophet. The excitement completely penetrates people who feel like this, they cannot hold back their tears, and they feel as if they are just one step away from the gates of Paradise.
By M. Fethullah Gulen
38 Iftar is the fast-breaking meal at the sunset and sahur is the pre-dawn meal. Tarawih is a prayer special for Ramadan, which is observed voluntarily in the evening after isha prayer.