Friday, April 8, 2016

Rajab: The month of the Earth Shaking Event

Rajab is the seventh month of Islamic Lunar Calendar. Muslim traditions regard this month a prelude to Ramadan, the ninth month known for the fasting. It is also one of the four sacred months besides, Zee Qada, Zil Hijja, and Muharram, the four months where all hostilities and conflicts have to come to an end or halt. Additionally, it is also the month remembered for an unusual and unbelievable event in the entire history of humanity when a human being was chosen by the Creator of the universe to visit the world reserved for the life here after only. The event known as Isra and Miraj took place on the 27 day of Rajab with its mysterious dimensions still incomprehensible to human mind.. 
Muslim scholars have often focused on acts of worship recommended during this month. This has not been free from controversy. In the opinions of some, no specific value is attached to any special act of worship in this month while in the eyes of others, certain specific acts have greater significance for everyone. For instance some scholars have presented some ahadith (sayings of the Prophet) recommending fasting at least once in the month of Rajab, while the others have rejected those ahadith declaring them weak. This has led to endless debates among the masses about the acts of worship in this month and terms as such innovations, deviations and exaggerations have been used to describe the behavior of believers in the month of Rajab. Moreover, few scholars have presented the significance of the month for a plural society as most have focused on its relevance for Muslims only. In fact, the message this month offers has far greater significance for the world as a whole.
This has shifted the focus from the real significance of the month.. 
In essence the month of Rajab and the events occurred therein highlight three important features.
1. Conflicts and hostilities must come to an end among Muslims and the people of the world if they really want to attain peace and commitment to divine guidance.
2. Human beings have the capacity to reach the peak of their existence by learning about the world that is yet to emerge on the basis of adhering to divine guidance.
3. Islam is the continuation of the divine guidance and the main objective of the faith is to revere, respect and deliberate the diversity of the divine guidance.

Path to Peace
Rajab is declared a sacred month, hence all hostilities must come to an end  in this month. It provide a month long training to people to refrain from executing their anger into unfavorable actions. It helps them to control their egos and their desire to take revenge or to cause others hurt. The idea is simple that for four months in a year, people will have self restrain and work towards peace in a committed and dedicate manner. They will not indulge in anything that can lead to conflicts either at home or in the world at large.This training would be enough to enable people to live peace throughout the year ensuring that the message of the sanctity of human life is preserved and lived.

Peak of Humanity
The experience of Isra and Miraj, journey to Jerusalem and then ascension to heavens in one night is an earth shaking event in the history of humanity. For the first time, a messenger was invited to heavens to experience the worlds that are yet to emerge and then report it back to the believers. Whether it was physical or spiritual, is besides the point. What is significant is that a human reached that peak of humanity that is still beyond human comprehension. Obviously, it is implied that only a perfect human being was allowed to experience the mysterious yet the perfect world. This gives assurance to the believers that this world is in existence and is with in the reach of every human being.

Path to Pluralism
Prophet Muhammad in his ascension to heavens was first taken to Jerusalem. Why was this one stop flight? Why was it not direct? This is a very significant issue as it emphasizes the unity of all monotheistic religions and underscores the commitment of all religious communities to respect each other. There was no Muslim place of worship in Jerusalem at that time as there was no Muslim there.. There were symbols of Jewish and Christian faiths. There were Sabians also present. The presence of the Prophet in the holy lands establishes the principle of religious pluralism and unity of monotheistic faiths. Rather than engaging in conflicts these faiths should work hand in hand to ensure that people develop a better understanding of their relations with the divine.

These were the essential messages that the month of Rajab highlights. The religious hierarchy as usual has pushed these messages aside and focused on controversial issues defeating the very purpose of the month. They debate about the validity of fasting or extra prayers in this month, yet they forget the practice of their leader, the Prophet.
1. The prophet fasted every Monday and Thursdays as documented in many authentic ahadith. What is wrong in fasting during these days or any other days in the month of Rajab if the purpose is to remember Allah and his messenger.
2. The prophet recommended zikr to Muslims, i.e. remembering Allah and reminding them constantly of his message.What is wrong if Muslims offr nawafi (supplementary prayers) in this month to live the the instructions of the prophet.
3. The prophet always asked his followers to give to the poor and the needy all the time. What is wrong in ensuring that Muslims give additional charity in this month to the poor and the needy. After all all these acts of worship prepare one to welcome the month of Ramadan, the month when Muslims undergo a rigorous and vigorous self discipline to become a better person.

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