The Most Honoured of People
Our daily lives include a host of distractions and constant information that mean our senses become overly stimulated. Any point of stillness seems impossible in a world that is constantly evolving. Being surrounded by so much information does us no favours and we lose the ability to be present in our lives. As a ritual, fasting is a symbolic act where its meaning becomes gradually apparent through each experience. Ramadan is the one month where we consciously choose to slow down and be present in our worship of Allah.
While our worldly distractions continue even in Ramadan, we try just that little bit harder to manage our wandering minds and be more present in our salah. In essence, Ramadan for a Muslim is about taqwa. “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may attain taqwa.” (Qur’an 2:183) Taqwa is both an attitude and a process. Taqwa goes beyond the human spirit it is revealed in expression, nurturing the character of a Muslim. The Quran serves as a reminder to the believers to not reduce religious acts into sets of blind rituals of religious procedures performed at a physical movement, and that a Muslim should always be mindful of religious practices.
“It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards East or West: But it is righteousness to believe in God and the Last Day, and the Angels, the Book, and the Messengers; to give out of the things you hold dear to your kin, the orphans, the needy, the wayfarer, the one who asks and to free the slave…” (Qur’an 2:177). This ayah contains many great pearls of wisdom, Allah in this ayah commanded the believers to face Bayt Al-Maqdis, and then to face the Ka`bah during the prayer. This change was difficult for some of the believers. Allah then sent a revelation that clarified the wisdom behind the change, that is, obedience to Allah, adhering to His commands, facing wherever He commands facing. This is Birr, Taqwa, and complete faith.
Cultivating mindfulness, even in a non-religious or neutral context, has been demonstrated to provide measurable health and wellness benefits. In Islam, mindfulness of Allah is rooted in our heart – the Qalb and is the virtue of muraqabah, a word which means “to watch, observe, regard attentively.” As servants of Allah, being mindful is having the constant knowledge and conviction that Allah is aware of one’s actions, inwardly and outwardly. It is a complete state of vigilant self-awareness in one’s relationship with Allah in heart, mind, and body.
It was reported in the books of Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet ﷺ was once asked: “O Messenger of God! who is the most honoured of people? He said: the one who has most taqwa…” Taqwa as a moral and spiritual quality is a significant character trait, it leads people to act with compassion and respect toward others. Practicing mindfulness is spiritual excellence (al-ihsan) as the Prophet ﷺ defined in the famous hadith of Gabriel, spiritual excellence “is to worship Allah as if you see Him, for if you do not see Him, He certainly sees you.”
When we practice mindfulness, not only are we rewarded with eternal paradise in the hereafter, but also we also attain a state of tranquillity and contentment in this life. Being mindful as Ibn Al-Qayyim concludes in his chapter on muraqabah, is to be devoted to the names of the Watcher (Al-Raqib), the Guardian (Al-Hafith), the Knowing (Al-‘Alim), the Hearing (Al-Sami’), the Seeing (Al-Basir). Therefore, whoever understands these names and is devoted to fulfilling them will acquire muraqabah.
Practicing mindfulness whenever and however allows you to become more aware of your own heart and mind. As we condition our bodes this Ramadan to forgo food and drink, let us also add training our minds so that we begin to understand ourselves. When we begin to understand the inner workings of our minds and self, we gain a deeper appreciation for Islamic creed, law, ethics, and of one’s own subtle psychological make-up.
There are many ways one can begin to be mindful. Find what works for you. Whatever variation you decide on, allow it to serve as a form of meditation, allowing the mind to be present. Here are just a few ways to practice mindfulness to get you started.
- Basic mindfulness meditation: Quietly focusing on your natural breathing. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breathing.
- Sensory: Going for a walk in nature and being aware of your surroundings, taking stoke of Allah’s creation all around you.
- Emotions: Allowing emotions to be present without judgment. Practice a steady and relaxed naming of emotions. Accept emotions as they come, acknowledge them without judgment, and then let them go.
Hamda Mohammed is a spokesperson for the Muslim Association of Britain. As a recent Law graduate, she has been widely involved in organising local and EU-wide campaigns whilst working for numerous organisations. She is passionate about youth development and societal change. She currently works in Media & Public Relations.