Peace, one and all…
In one the verses dealing with Ramadan, the Quran makes explicit the purpose behind fasting:
‘O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become God-conscious’ (2:183)
This is a very revealing verse, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it connects the ritual fast of Ramadan with the rest of human sacred history. Although the details differ, the religious institution of fasting is probably as old as humankind itself. Fasting is thus part of our wider human heritage, and in that sense, Islamic teaching builds on the innate religiosity of the human being (expressed as ‘the primordial faith’, or din al-fitra, in other texts). Islam is thus part of a much longer sacred history.
Secondly, fasting is said to activate the quality of God-consciousness. Why? To answer this question, it is helpful to understand the word behind ‘God-conscious’, or taqwa. Taqwa is an essential Islamic concept, and derives from a root meaning ‘to guard against, preserve, shield and prevent’. It is often translated as ‘fear’, and refers to a cautious awareness of the presence of God, an awareness that shields one from actions that God would disapprove of. In other words, taqwa is a state of being, a state of vigilant awareness.
But why should fasting develop this quality so particularly? From the perspective of oneness, fasting reminds us in a direct, immediate manner that we are more than intellectual beings. We exist on many different levels – intellectual, physical, spiritual and emotional – and God-consciousness must be activated at each level to be made whole, to be made one. Fasting is thus a time for all-round awareness of ourselves in the presence of God, of all of those automatic behaviours that the normal course of life often serves to obscure.
Ramadan is thus a time of spiritual reflection. As such, during this Ramadan, I will be undertaking a comparative reading of two key spiritual texts, the Counsels on Discernment by Meister Eckhart and the Mevlevi Wird, arranged by Mevlana. As we shall hopefully see, these two works complement each other in very interesting ways, offering some important insights into spiritual growth in God. My basic plan is to post a passage from Meister Eckhart and then follow it with a passage from the Mevlevi Evrad-i Serif, before offering any insights that might emerge, insha Allah.