Three days into the month of Ramadhan, the initial challenge of fasting and performing additional prayers and reciting the al-Quran till late night, would already be over. But probably not for all. To some the challenge is getting even heavier. To others the
spiritual nectar of intensified prayers and subjugation to Allah's injunctions may be beginning to become more intoxicating. I begin to hear the Imams leading the prayers and the tahlil and zikir ( the chanting) breaking into a sob, indicating that they are becoming increasingly overwhelmed by 'khauf' ( fear of Allah) and 'ehsan' (feeling of Allah's presence).
How are we ordinary mortals reacting to the initial impact of Ramadhan, the month of extraordinary blessings and bounties as
promised by Allah SNWT and Prophet Muhammad SAW (pbuh)? If it's just the lethargy, hunger or thirst that dominates your concern throughout the day, then you are still grappling with the demand of your 'nafs' or your physical and biological needs. Those who begin to feel peaceful, unperturbed by the challenges of everyday routine, and contented with whatever life is dishing out to them, have already begun to conquer their 'nafs' and enter the realm of contentment (ridha) and gratitude for Allah's blessings.
Their inner senses and insights start to become more predominant than the effects and impacts of their worldly and material life.To them the fasting and prayers begin to acquire a new meaningfulness, bring a new nourishment to their life, and the nightly activities of Ramadhan especially the usual prayers, the TARAWIH and TADARUS begin to become more and more savory until their fasting does not feel complete without fulfilling those tasks.
As an average Muslim and a 'makmum' (follower) in fulfilling the obligations of Ramadhan, the three nights of prayers, TARAWIH and TADARUS ( I've yet to participate more fully in the third item) have already given me some new awareness which
were dormant before. Usually the TARAWIH also begins to take its toll on your enthusiasm and strength as Ramadhan advances, but not this time around. I'm becoming more aware of the reasons and perhaps others may benefit from my own personal awareness about it.
Firstly, the Madrasah's Working Committee has arranged for an special Imam to lead the prayers - a hafiz ( one who knows the al-Quran by heart) - whose recital of the holy book is very stimulating and awe-inspiring. Every word comes out clearly while the melody is enchanting. I must say that the Imam has a lot to do with making the TARAWIH a treat or a bore. While this Imam is reciting passages from the first surah ( chapter) of the al-Quran and will go on until the end which takes more time than reciting the shorter surahs only, you never feel any boredom or become drowsy with a monotonous mumbling.
Secongly, you've to be prepared to listen to what the Imam is going to recite for the coming night. That means you have to read and understand the meaning of the passages he might cover. Even if you already know more or less what the passages mean, you've to reread and pronounce the words aloud so that when the Imam renders the passage, it really hits home. You understand and can absorb its full meaning. No, this is not an easy task since not all the passages are easy to understand. In trying to do so through your reading, you'll realize how beautiful and concise the divine words are, some quite impossible to
unrevel in a few sentences. What irks me sometimes is that some ustaz give a long-winded explanation to the sentences whose meanings are obvious but eschew the heavily loaded ones.
Thirdly, this time around we've short 'tazkirah' ( reminders) thrown in between tahlil and prayers and between pauses in the 20
raka'at TARAWIH and 3 raka'at WITIR. These are useful reminders or revivers of old memories compared to the long khutbah on Fridays and other 'kuliahs' which tend to put people to sleep. I would think that some of the less important kuliahs should be changed to the teaching of the quranic language so that it can help one to understand the al-quran better.
In ending I should congratulate the Working Committee of our Madrasah At-Tarbiah for introducing the changes especially the Chairman Dato Amiruddin and the Head of the Dakwah Sub-Committee Uztaz Asyaari. Selamat Perpuasa dan Beramal Ibadah in this specially month of Ramadhan to all our Muslim brothers and sisters.