Gripping the corners of my chair as I sat and watched William Wallace (Mel Gibson) bellow “FREEDOM” at the end of BraveHeart did something to my heart. After intently concentrating on all 177 minutes of the storyline of this historic fiction, I sat and wondered about the essence of this “Freedom”. Was “Freedom” the ability to live life free of another’s control? Was it “Freedom” of the soul? The character of William Wallace screams and life is seemingly swept out of him with that one last syllable. Then he is at peace.
What is the ultimate “Freedom”? Do we, as human beings on Earth, ever experience these windows that set us free? This is not to say that the only way to feel liberated is through death, but it is the unshackling of the soul that captures the audience at the end of this movie.
Exactly 1432 years ago, God gave us all the keys to the “Freedom” that we all seek. It was 1432 years ago that the message of Islam was bestowed upon us as a light and as a passport to this ethereal liberation. Every single year the opportunity for us to reach these heights of addictive “Freedom” occur in the holy month of Ramadan. As Muslims, we believe that Ramadan is the month in which the Holy Quran was gifted to Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings of God be upon him-PBUH) and to all mankind. It is a month of fasting, from sunrise to sunset. Fasting from food, water, and any other desires we might have in our self-centered souls.
I know this might sound like punishment to many people. I know it because I have actually seen people take a tiny step back and gasp a bit upon explaining what our fast entails; “How can you do that every single year, and for a MONTH at that?!” It is not about ignoring what your soul desires; it is about hearing and understanding what it needs. Just as a parent listens and understands their child, we must also dedicate the same care and understanding to our most internal being. Granted that we yearn for certain mundane enticements day-in, day-out, but the unlacing of our souls and setting it free from these things that hang over it and weigh it down, is the ultimate “Freedom”. When we die all we are left with is this soul. We no longer have a vessel of transportation.
Ramadan is the name of the ninth month of the lunar calendar. This holy month involves much more than the act of fasting; it is a month of promoting acts of goodness whenever we can, and of demoting and of abstaining from acts of evil. We get to know our true selves; we get to the core of our beings. It is a time of complete concentration on the essence of who we are, no distractions of food, water or desires to take our focus off of our self-discovery. It is a month of repentance. It is a month of “Freedom”.
Sahih Bukhari Hadith: 1.5
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: Allah's Apostle was the most generous of all the people, and he used to reach the peak in generosity in the month of Ramadan when Gabriel met him. Gabriel used to meet him every night of Ramadan to teach him the Qur'an. Allah's Apostle was the most generous person, even more generous than the strong uncontrollable wind (in readiness and haste to do charitable deeds).
When deprived of what we consider everyday essentials, you can only imagine what kind of “ugly” can come out of a person. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) used to get beyond all that muck and see the diamond hidden in the debris and hard rock. Ramadan is the month for cleaning it all out and getting down to our basics.
I have written this piece to remind myself of some of the keys of Ramadan. I have written it to remind myself of the beauty of this month so that I can pass it on to my children, and to have patience with them in this time of self-discovery. It is hard for us to keep focused on this month long journey when we have so many things to look after. The truth and key is in the attitude. The key is in really understanding the inner workings of our amazing souls. Once you find that key, you will most truly have your “EUREKA” and “FREEEEDOM” moment.
May you with every prostration feel and taste its beauty. Just remember that if you start to feel bad-tempered you are looking down the wrong path, recollect yourself and focus. May the newly born phoenix within you fly high and beautiful this Ramadan. Ramadan Kareem everyone!