Ramaḍān Mubārak to each and every one of you who have embarked on the month of fasting. My thanks to those friends and acquaintances who wish us well for the month. I find it both necessary to be open to the stillness and reflection Ramaḍān brings through the ritual of fasting and additional prayers and supplication. We have witnessed Ramaḍān in war and devastation and many of our fellow humans are still living under ravaged conditions. Our generosity through altruism must reach those who need our assistance in order to improve their condition. This year we are witnessing our globe and our activities being brought to a standstill in our efforts to combat the Coronavirus. Some of us are lucky to have employment but millions, tens of millions of our fellow humans have been rendered unemployed in an instant. Imagine the millions of daily wage-earners who are ravaged into greater starvation and death by the cessation of work. We have to salute all those who prepare food and share it with those who are in need, a story I am learning which is occurring in societies across the world and this shows the best in humankind. I also hear of terrifying stories of people who are felled by this virus, now this is happening across multiple continents. Another tragedy unfolding is that people who have illnesses that unrelated to the virus cannot get urgent treatment.
Yesterday, I shared a reflection with a group of people at my local mosque in South Bend, Indiana, in an online platform, meditating on the Opening chapter (Sūra Fātiḥa). I meditated on the two characteristics of Allāh/God in the Qurʾān. The Divine is identified as the Raḥmān and Raḥīm, on four occasions in that chapter. Tarif Khalidi translates Raḥmān as the Merciful to all and Raḥīm as Compassionate to each. But Muḥammad Asad for me captures it crisply, Raḥmān as the Most Gracious and the Raḥīm as the Dispenser of Grace. Muḥīyuddīn Ibn ʿArabī explains that Raḥmān is the eternal name of the Divine and it is inscribed in the very fabric of being and existence. In another explanation, he says, it is given to all, whether deserving or undeserving. Raḥīm is the active rainmaker of grace, offered to those who establish a relationship with God. “…while My mercy extends to all things; So, I will inscribe My mercy for those who are conscientious.” (Q 7: 156)
As I was reflecting on the state of the world, I realized that I have to hang on to the attribute of Raḥmān for all the undeserved gifts I have received in life. I was struggling with the character of Raḥmān because there are so many people who are dying and that the Coronavirus had exacerbated global inequality and hit the poor and the vulnerable harder than those who are affluent. My prayer was for God’s active mercy, identified in his being as Raḥīm, that the waters of his mercy flow upon us all, but especially on the destitute, the weak, the poor and the suffering—their miserable lives have been turned into a hell on earth. I am also praying that those of us who have survived and lived off the gifts of God, also find the will to give and lighten the burden of the poor by sharing and opening our hearts and giving of our time. If there is any right time to do so, now is the time. Let’s make this Ramaḍān the event that will mark our lives in significant ways, so that if we are fortunate to look back, we will see and note the transformation and impact the year of the Ramaḍān of the Coronavirus made on our hearts, souls and on our globe.