Increasing Spiritual Nourishment in Ramadan: Remembrance and Contemplation by Khalil Abdur-Rashid
There are two main duties that we have to perform inside of Ramadan: dhikr and fikr. During these 16-17 hour days when we’re fasting, we have to busy ourselves. Everyone talks about how difficult it is going to be to not eat and drink for so long, for so many days, during the heat of July, but Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) has not given us a burden we cannot bear. While we fast and decrease our intake of food and drink, our material manifestations of nourishment, we must increase our spiritual nourishment to replace it.
The way this is done is through dhikr, the remembrance of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). While food and drink is the nourishment andrizq (sustenance) of the body, dhikr, the remembrance of Allah is the nourishment, and the rizq, of the ruh and the soul. If the soul is full, the body will be full even if it has no food in it. This is something I can attest to from personal experience, and many others can testify to that as well. If you begin a regimen where every day you are constantly remembering Allah, you will feel full despite the fact that you are going 16 hours and fasting. You have to combine this with Qur’an, and with the dhikr from the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ that are known and accepted in our collections of hadith.
These recitations must be done with the tongue, and in the mind itself. For example, reading the Qur’an as much as possible every single day should be the habit of every single Muslim. It is the habit of the Muslims to complete a juz every day. We are not supposed to be completing the juz of the Qur’an for the sake of completing the juz of the Qur’an. That’s not the purpose, to just check every day off that you’ve done it. The purpose of reading Qur’an every day is to feed your ruh, to feed your soul, while your body is fasting from food. Why? So that we can develop the habit of nurturing ourselves spiritually, and so that we don’t rely so much on material forms of rizq and nourishment. So in the morning when you wake up to go to work, there should be dhikr on your tongue and in your mind. If all you know is “La ilaha illallah”, then there should never ever be five minutes of the day when you’re fasting where you don’t say “La ilaha illallah”, either with your tongue or your heart.
Constant dhikr of Allah is what is required during long fasts, and also during short fasts. The blessed opportunity here is that the more that you remember Allah in your mind and in your tongue, the more your mind is taken off of the hunger.
Related to dhikr is fikr. Fikr means contemplation, deep thought and reflection. It’s not enough for us to constantly read the Qur’an, and not ponder and reflect on what the Qur’an is saying. What’s the purpose of reading a juz of Quran, and you have no idea what is being said? What’s the purpose of reading the Qur’an, and you’re thinking about what kind of food you’re going to eat for dinner? What’s the purpose of reading Qur’an, and you’re thinking about what movie you’re going to see after iftar with your friends?
The purpose of the Qur’an is to concentrate and contemplate on the Quran, to really digest that. Subhanallah, the Prophetic adab (manners) of eating food, as we were taught by our Shaykh Muhammad Emin, is that you ponder and do fikr of the food that you are eating. If you are eating chicken, then you ponder where the chicken came from, which farm the chicken was raised on, how it was cared for, and how it got from that farm to the grocery store, and how it got to your plate. If you’re eating lettuce, think about where in the world did that lettuce grow, how was it harvested, and put on a truck and shipped to a grocery store. You purchased that piece of lettuce that came from somebody’s farm and it’s now on your plate, and you gain nourishment from it.
If the adab of eating material food is that you contemplate and do fikr about the food, then what do you think the adab of reciting the Qur’an and taking in spiritual food is? Of course it is tadabbur, fikr and contemplation of the Quran. Whatever dhikr that comes out of your mouth, whatever form of remembrance that you choose to adopt during the month of Ramadan, you must accompany that with contemplation. What comes off of the tongue must be realized, understood and contemplated in the mind and in the heart. In that way, spiritual change is slowly produced.
Fikr is very important. This fikr should be contemplated in moments of ease and hardship throughout the fasting day. We all have times in the day when the fast is easy for us and we have moments where it is hard. During the hard times the recitation of the Qur’an should increase, and the dhikr should increase. With that, the reflection should increase, and should be deeper. We should give more attention to the deeper meanings of what we are saying. In the times of hardship, if we put more energy into recitation and contemplation we find that the pains of hunger and thirst disappear. All those physical sensations are drawn back and become less of a priority. They literally disappear into oblivion and are eviscerated while you are doing dhikr and remembering Allah. Because our hunger and thirst come from Him, He can remove it. He removes it traditionally through the remembrance of His Attributes, His Book and all the adhkaar that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ narrated in the authentic collections of hadith.
Dhikr and fikr. May we increase our spiritual nourishment and find deeper meaning in our life in this month.