By Zakarya Mitiche, ISNA Development Foundation Summer Intern
The Prophet, peace be upon him, described the month of Ramadan as a month that “has come to give you shade,” evoking sentiments of taking pause and reflection.
In that vein, the 20th century thinker Malik Bennabi gave us a parable for Ramadan likening it to the cave of Hira’. He noted that when Muhammad ibn Abdullah went on retreat to Hira’, he was not seeking revelation. Rather, he sought to take pause from the perversions of society that he saw around him- of shirk
(associations with Allah), of economic exploitation, warmongering, oppression of women, racism, and alcoholism, among others. These social ills likely resonate with us today (think global nuclear stock piles, the destruction of the natural environment, war and support for oppressive regimes abroad, the exposure of sexual violence and harassment via the #MeToo movement, daily assaults on black and brown bodies and communities through police violence, ICE raids, attacks on undocumented communities, racist Countering Violence Extremism surveillance programs… etc.)
That is, the Prophet sought to be put under the shade of the cave from the abrasive glare of the world around him. He knew in his heart that his society was off track, and so he retreated to nature where he must have felt he would find guidance.
The Prophetic gesture of temporary seclusion is a profound one. And for Bennabi, Ramadan should be our cave of Hira’ as well.
Primarily, in following the Prophetic model, the retreat should be a spiritual exercise of attempting to disconnect from the capitalistic materialism that often engulfs us, and to re-connect with a natural, living source (al-Hayy
) to be found in the living world around us. It is like self-care, but not quite. Whereas self-care is taking care of mind, body, and soul through centering the self, Prophetic retreat is about centering the Divine, and understanding our place in the Cosmic tapestry.
Secondly, the Prophetic retreat is a worldly exercise. That is, the disconnection/reconnection must not be escapist. It must be a purposeful one, for developing a Godly grounding from which to prepare worldly repair (islah
). During this period we should, at both the individual and communal level, take audit, reflect, and commit to radically transforming the disorder we may find within ourselves or in the society around us.
Thank you to Dr. Farid of Indianapolis for the inspiration for parts of this Ramadan Reflection.