Ramadhan: The Month of The Truth [Archives:1999/50/Focus]
By: Hassan Al-Haifi
The significance of the month of Ramadhan just cannot be overestimated. It is the month of contemplation and meditation. For Moslems it signifies the time of the year that God chose to bring down the Koran Ð the eternal incorruptible words of Allah, the Almighty Ð to His final human messenger and prophet, Mohammed (Peace and Blessings of Allah be bestowed upon him, or P hereafter), some fifteen centuries ago. No one then could conceive that the arid mountains of Mecca were about to be the launching grounds of one of the most widespread religions and the fastest spreading one, despite the intense organized missionary activities of other religions that seek to compete with it.
Mohammed (P), prior to this, has been going through an ongoing contemplation period for some time towards the end of the First Decade of the Seventh Century A.D. (He was born around 570 A.D.), finding solace in leaving the city of Mecca with its commercial activity and stark reality of human oppression and exaggerated idol worship. By this period in his age he had come to despise the cutthroat sleazy mercantile society and the illogical submission of his kinsmen and fellow Arabs to an assortment of deities. In fact, Mohammed could not find himself at ease with the horrendous evil that had become symbolic of the Ignorance Period, as the times of pre-Islamic Arabia were called. He could not be impressed with the idea of seeking spiritual relief from scores of deities, which were symbolized by a multitude of stone or wooden idols, that were all housed in the Kaaba Ð the original House of Worship built by the Patriarch of the Semites and the grandfather of a long line of prophets and messengers sent down to pave the way for the Eternal Message that Mohammed would eventually be honored with delivering.
During his 40 years of life in Mecca, Mohammed (P) was developing into the kind of unique human material that was bound to go beyond the mundane, social and economic status he had been able to acquire, mostly by the ideal traits and manners that he had been characterized by and inherited from the chivalrous Hashemite code of ethics, which Mohammed had refined to provide him with the fame of being the “Truthful, Trustworthy One,” as he was nicknamed by his kinsmen. Even from his early youth Mohammed was quick to reveal a unique character that inspired the admiration and charisma that were the basic foundations of the mission he was about to embark on. His integrity, trustworthiness and insistence on upholding the truth were not matched. His mother died while he was still an infant and his father later followed in his early childhood. He was reared and raised under the guardianship of his grandfather, Abdulmuttalib and then his uncle Abu Talib.
Mohammed (P) comes from a long line of a distinguished hierarchy of notables who have lead the Tribe of Kuriesh, since anyone can recall. They were always praised for their honesty, courage and wisdom, and generally held control of the guardianship to the Holy House of God, which meant the Kaaba. Thus Mohammed, even before the call to carry the Message was already equipped with the character, the charisma and the reputation for high morals and honesty. It was these traits and characteristics that lead him to Khadija, a wealthy merchant woman who needed someone to help her manage her commerce.
This ended the poverty of Mohammed, especially after this employment opportunity turned into happy wedlock (She was fifteen years his senior). Yet, even the comfort of wealth and social prominence in the community, were not enough to fulfill the quest for the increasing inquisitiveness that was nurturing in Mohammed’s mind. The chaotic sphere, which characterized the Arabian Peninsula, was bound to contrast with the notions of good and high moral standards that have set in on Mohammed’s (P) mind. Petty tribal wars, a cutthroat mercantile establishment, a society drenched in evil Ð even the killing of infant girl children because they were not as good as boys – usury and several other social grounds for oppression and discontent among a significant proportion of the population. More than that, the idol worship of the Arabs at the time sought Mohammed to question the wisdom of such religious inclinations.
Thus, there were several matters tossing and turning in Mohammed’s mind as he saw the lack of social order plague the society and he saw the prevailing injustice, and as he saw the ignorance of preaching to dead matter. Even the Christian and Jewish communities that had grown in the region over the previous centuries were no source of comfort to the pondering that engaged Mohammed’s mind. One is bound to wonder how a generally illiterate individual should delve into the complex theological and social matters that even the high priests of the existent faiths of the time could not give the proper answers to. The many monks and rabbis, who had met Mohammed in his early pre-Mission life had been impressed by Mohammed’s character and wisdom and were quick to suggest possible spiritual sponsorship of Mohammed’s further development as well as a leading role for him in the society.
Some had even suggested that he would be the deliverer, whom Jesus Christ (P), had predicted would come after him. But to Mohammed, all the existing faiths could not appeal to Mohammed’s spiritual inclinations. He saw them as nothing more than variations of the same theme, especially with their complex clerical orders. They have all lost the one-to-One relationship between man and his Cause d’tre (the Arabs did recognize the existence of Allah, as the Supreme God, even though their polytheism had overwhelmed their spiritual conceptualizations with their numerous deities taking prominence, or being used “to get them closer to Allah”, as the Koran relates their false claims). The organized churches were not inspirational for Mohammed, as they seemed to create a self Ð centered clergy that stood in the way of belittling the significance of the Lord Almighty as the only source of direct salvation, and spiritual comfort of man.
On the other hand, the mundane manifestations of organized church orders were bound to deviate from the spiritual missions they profess and block the freedom of the mind to delve into the mysteries of life, while at the same time give themselves powers of passing judgement on the spiritual piety of men, thus infringing on one of the authorities that should only be vested with God Almighty. Moreover Church orders tend to rely on compulsory submission to religion to inure their continuity, rather than to allow men to judge for themselves, which religion appeals to the natural attractiveness of simplicity and logic to the mind (Even in the more secular orders that modern societies have evolved into, the economic holdings of Churches raises questions about the extent of accountability and transparency in the management of such awesome economic wealth), and how men should still view priests as intermediaries between them and the Divine.
Accordingly, Mohammed sought more appealing guidelines, which Mohammed suddenly realized, could not come from the existing spiritual and social orders of the day. He was led into spending more time in meditation and contemplation, and eventually seeking solitude in the mountains that surrounded the City of Mecca. What is the answer then to the question, “What is life really all about?” Who should really be in control of man’s political, economic and social orders? How are such orders to be managed? How can justice be meted out and to whom should people entrust their leadership and their public interests? These are some of the fundamental ponderings that overwhelmed Mohammed’s mind as he sought the quiet solitude of the Mecca countryside, where the darkness of night was arrayed with a star-studded view of the universe and the quiet of the lack of human and animal presence was only broken by the whistle of the desert winds as they hit the rocky peaks around him. With these surroundings, one can clearly see that for sure, the universal order was broader in scope than what men could ever conceive it to be. With this then, Mohammed (P) reached the maturity needed to carry the torch that was to shed light to all those who sought the fundamental question of what is life all about. Where is the truth to be found? We will look into the rest of this fascinating story in the issues to come.