Ramadan: I have seen the enemy and it’s me

Shariffa Carlo Al Andalusia

I just read a meme that said, “The scariest thing about Ramadan is that you find out that it’s you and not the jinn.” As a Muslim, this was both funny and actually scary. Why? Basically, Muslims believe that at the beginning of Ramadan, the Gates of Heaven are opened and the Jinn are chained.

We know this because The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “When the first night of Ramadan comes, the devils and the rebellious jinn are chained, the gates of Hell are locked and not one of them is opened; the gates of Paradise are opened and not one of them is locked; and a crier calls, ‘You who desire what is good, come forward, and you who desire evil, refrain.’ Some are freed from Hell by Allah, and that happens every night.” (Tirmidhi).

What does that mean? To clarify, I will give y’all a bit of background. Islam teaches that Allah Created three distinct life forms: Angels, Jinn and Humankind. Angels were Created as beings with no free will, who obey Allah without questioning. They were Created from light. Jinn and humans were given free will, allowing them the freedom to obey or disobey Allah. Jinns, were Created from smokeless fire and humans were created from clay.

Muslims believe that Satan was a jinn, not an angel, and that is why he was able to confront and disobey Allah. In the Quran, it states that Satan was Commanded to prostrate before Adam (the first man). Satan refused. He threatened humankind with misguidance. In essence, he said he would come to them from before them and behind them, from their right and from their left. His goal became leading the sons of Adam astray. (Quran: 7:16-17)
Now, how does all of this relate to Ramadan? Since the jinn (Satan and his followers from his offspring) are chained, therefore unable to tempt humans during the month of Ramadan, it means that whatever evil a person commits in this month is from his/her own choosing. Temptation is gone. That is one of the reasons that Muslims find it not just easy but pleasurable to fast all day and pray all night. It’s also one of the reasons that the same actions are so hard the rest of the year.

Ramadan is a beautiful Blessing because we are freed from the constant whisperings of Satan that tempt and cajole us into being less than stellar Muslims. When we live in a Muslim country, we can see some of the obvious changes in the people around us. People who don’t pray the rest of the year, start to pray. People who are rebellious become a bit tamer. People who are downright evil, become nice, friendly and even charitable.

But… There are those who don’t change at all. There are those who become more impatient, more irritable, meaner, or nastier. How do we account for them? How do we explain their behavior? The answer is simple. Whatever comes out from people during Ramadan is basically them. It is from their own imperfections without the aid of temptation from Satan.

Now you can see why that meme is so scary! During the year, we fool ourselves into the false idea that we disobey Allah due to temptation. During the year, we lull ourselves into the illusion that were it not for temptation, we would be better, but Ramadan rolls around, and we see the stark reality. We basically recognize, to rephrase an old saying, “I have seen the enemy, and it is me.” Now, don’t get me wrong. Islam does not teach Muslims that we are perfect, near perfect or that we can even come close to perfection. We believe that Allah is The Only Perfect One.

We are taught that we are not only imperfect, but imperfection is expected from us, and to counteract this imperfection, we repent and increase our good deeds. This is another reason Ramadan is so special. During Ramadan, it is easier to recognize our own personal (non-temptation-based) faults and it is easier to work on them by doing as many good deeds as we can manage, begging for forgiveness with every prayer, giving charity, helping people… The list is endless.

Add to this that all good deeds are multiplied countless times, and it is clearly a huge opportunity. This is one of the greatest beauties of Ramadan and it is a massive motivation and justification for all the positive attributes we see emerge in people during the month. Ramadan is a month of Good Tidings to Muslims. It is a month of renewal, hope and a chance to start over.
So, to my fellow Muslims, I say, ‘Instead of getting scared when we see which of our sins are purely from us, we should thank our Lord that He has exposed them to us and given us yet another chance to repent and return.’ For everyone spending Ramadan in Kuwait, Muslim or not, I wish y’all a Beautiful and Blessed Ramadan and I pray that the Beneficence of Ramadan fall upon us all.

Courtesy of the TIES Center: the TIES Center aims at empower Kuwait’s expats through social and educational services that promote a positive and productive role in society, and to facilitate opportunities for intra- and interfaith interactions that promote social solidarity. For more information, please call 25231015/6 or e-mail: info@tiescenter.net.

By Shariffa Carlo Al Andalusia