Jesus appears before High Priests Annas and Caiaphas
Historians, scholars, theologians, and the Christian clergy invariably assert that Jesus was tried four times. He appeared before the court of former High Priest Annas ben Seth, the court of incumbent High Priest Joseph Caiaphas, the court of Roman governor Pontius Pilate, and the court of tetrarch Herod Antipas. That, General Atiku, is totally and utterly wrong. It is as mistaken as the belief that the trials took place in Jerusalem.
As we have reiterated time and again, General, Jesus was tried at Qumran 40 km from Jerusalem. And his only trials were before Pontius Pilate and Herod Antipas. The appearances before Annas and Caiaphas (jointly, and not separately as suggested by some gospels) was not a trial before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court: it was a synod hearing. Indeed, none of the gospels categorically state that Jesus came before the Sanhedrin. He came before a synod, a joint assembly of ecclesiastical figures in the Essene governing council and the Jerusalem Temple. What this panel sought to address was not the crime against Pilate, the November 32 AD riots, or whether Jesus had committed blasphemy. It restricted itself to two issues only.
The first was his status in the Essene hierarchy, that is, whether he was deserving of being the Davidic King or the Priest-King. The second was whether he still advocated peace with the Romans or had now adopted the Zealot stance that war had to be waged against the Romans. Thus the Annas-Caiaphas panel was not a trial but a form of interrogation. It was a hearing, with a view to reviewing the political and institutional status of Jesus so that when he was sent before Pilate, Pilate knew exactly in what social capacity he was trying him.
The fact that Jesus appearance before Annas and Caiaphas was not before the Sanhedrin explains why the procedures and process to which he was subjected seem to go against every grain of Jewish jurisprudence. A whole galaxy of books have even been written about how the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin was a total travesty of justice. To the discerning, such as you, General Atiku, and me, this is understandable because it was not a trial at all: it was a hearing by an ecclesiastical panel which purely had to do with power politics and factional leanings. It is as simple as that. The synod dealt with politics; Pilate dealt with the crime.
SIMON ZELOTES DEMOTED AGAIN
The first to appear before the panel was Simon Zelotes. He took precedence because at the time of the November riots, he was the Pope and therefore was superior to Jesus, who was third in the hierarchy. Theudas Barabbas, who was one of the three accused, did not appear before the panel. He had already and martyr-like admitted his role in the insurrection and was now in remand awaiting an official plea of guilty before Pilate and onward sentencing.
Simon Zealotes was the second highest ranking Zealot after Judas Iscariot, who was the overall leader. The Zealots, who were the underground military wing of the Essenes, agitated for a forceful ouster of the Romans. They had staged a number of uprisings to date against the Romans but all had come to naught. They had a particularly fanatical following in Galilee, where most of the uprisings erupted. As a result, General, the term Galilean in Judea had come to assume the secondary meaning of Zealot.
Simon Zealotes was close to Jesus in one vein: he was his father-in-law. Simon was the foster father of Mary Magdalene, the wife of Jesus. Where it came to political philosophy, however, Jesus and Simon were poles apart and were therefore always at odds. Whereas Simon was a champion of war against the Romans, Jesus was for peaceful co-existence till Providence itself intervened. Jesus was a staunch believer in non-violence. His inalienable belief was that violence only begot violence, that those who lived by the sword always perished by the sword. Hence, when Judas Iscariot, Simon Zealotes, and Theudas Barabbas staged that mini-uprising against Pilate in November AD 32, Jesus strongly disapproved of their conduct and vociferously lashed out at them. It was therefore ironic that thanks to Judas, he too was now being associated with the bloody act.
Following the November uprising, Simon Zelotes (who also went by the titular name of Eleazer Lazarus in Greek), had been excommunicated from the Essene community altogether by Jonathan Annas, who had succeeded him as Pope. Jesus, however, had at the bidding of Mary Magdalene and her mother Helena-Salome unilaterally restored him, claiming to exercise his putative powers as Priest-King. This, General, is the event referred to in the Bible as the raising of Lazarus from the dead.
The panel ruled that as an outlaw, a man who was wanted by the Roman authorities for his role in the uprising, Simon Zealotes no longer merited membership of the Essenes’ council of the twelve. His reinstatement by Jesus was therefore invalid. Simon Zelotes was accordingly demoted to Grade 9 in the Essene hierarchy, that of a lower novice. Protocol required that he be stripped of the clothes he was wearing and remain only with a loincloth the ceremonial attire of a lower novice. In the Essene code language of Pesher, a lower novice was referred to as a young man.
When a person had been demoted to a lower novice, he was said to have been stripped naked. This fate of Simon Zelotes is vividly captured in MARK 14:51, which reads, A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him he fled naked, leaving his garment behind. This cryptic characterisation of the fate of Simon Zealotes as pronounced by a Jewish panel, General, has escaped scholars and theologians alike, who have puzzled as to its necessity and relevance. There have even been some rather fanciful intimations that the young man was actually Mark himself!
The ruling by the panel now meant that Simon Zealotes would be standing before Pilate not as a venerable member of the Essene community (which could possibly be a mitigating factor in the judgement) but as a nonentity.
JESUS LAYS CLAIM TO WHOLE TRIARCHY
The gospels, General, dwell comparatively more comprehensively on the Jesus hearing than that of Simon Zelotes because Jesus is their main subject. Jesus was heard by Annas and Caiaphas. The two were simply the joint presiding officers; otherwise, all the countrys bigwigs the Herods, Jonathan Annas, Judas Iscariot, and Jesus younger brother James were in attendance.
It was important that Annas, a former High Priest who nevertheless had retained his title just as former presidents continue to be addressed as President in our own day, be present. This was because the legitimacy of Jesus as the Davidic King was at stake here. Annas represented the Sadducees, who recognised Jesus as the Davidic King, whereas Caiaphas represented the Pharisees, who had embraced James as the Davidic King. The Davidic King was typically third in the Essene hierarchy.
Its crucial, General, that you understand some of the terminologies that are used in the gospels in regard to titles and which Christians sadly take literally and therefore superficially. I have explained this point many a time in the past but I think it bears repeating here.
The highest ranking Essene, the chief priest, had several titles. He was the Archangel Michael because he was the representative of God on Earth. Hence, he was also referred to as the Lord God, the I am, the Blessed, and the Power (that is, the Almighty). His most invoked title, however, was that of Pope, that is, Father of the Essene Community. Presently, these titles belonged to Jonathan Annas, the second-born son of the very Annas who was presiding over the proceedings.
The second-ranking Essene went by the title Angel Gabriel. As the Gabriel, he was the Lord Gods messenger to the broader human populace. His other titles were therefore Son of God and simply Man. And since it was he who bore the glory of the Lord God by representing him to the broader society (as Catholic cardinals represent the Pope in our day), he was also referred to as the Glory. The Gabriel was also known as the Prophet. Presently, this should have been Judas Iscariot but since he had not been cleared yet in his role in the November uprising, he was represented by a certain man called Eleazer.
The third-ranking Essene was the Sariel. This was always the Davidic King, also known as the Messiah or Christ in Greek. Since the Davidic King was junior to the Gabriel, who also was known as Man, his other title was Son of Man Jesus most favourite title! The term Son of in Essene jargon meant Deputy. As firstborn, Jesus was the widely recognised Davidic King but he had now been challenged by his brother James. In short, the top three were the Priest, the Prophet, and the King in that order. They were also referred to as the Power, the Glory, and the Kingdom, a setup hinted at in the so-called Lords Prayer, and the Michael, the Gabriel and the Sariel.
Now, if you recall, General, during the Last Supper Jesus had challenged Jonathan Annas for the position of chief priest, which Jonathan had meekly yielded knowing the fate that awaited Jesus. Jesus had thus become the joint Priest-King, that is, the Melchizedek. But after his arrest, he had forfeited his newly gained status. The position of chief priest had thus reverted to Jonathan Annas and that of the Davidic King had been contested by his brother James.
Annas, the joint-chair of the hearing who was pro-Jesus, expected Jesus to lay claim only to the status of the Davidic King, a pitch he was ready to endorse. Jesus, however, took Annas by surprise. Not only did he insist on his entitlement to the position of Priest-King: he also now declared that he also merited the title of Prophet. In other words, General, he was three-in-one God, Son of God, and Son of Man. In the gospels, the questions Jesus was asked by Annas and Caiaphas are a bit convoluted because of faulty translation that was not informed by the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as knowledge of the Pesher tool. Thus the responses Jesus gave are not that clear-cut and in some cases sound contradictory. But the point Jesus was trying to make, General, was that he was actually Priest, King, and Prophet rolled into one the very embodiment of the triarchy. Was he justified in this claim, General?
A DESERVING MELCHIZEDEK
In the Dead Sea Scrolls are to be found two highly instructive texts, General. These are the Prince Melchizedek Document and the Damascus Document. Both these documents make it clear that the dynastic High Priest was called the Melchizedek, meaning King of Righteousness in one vein and Priest-King in another. In the first century, the dynastic High Priests, also called the Zadokite dynasty, were Zechariah initially and his son John the Baptist subsequently.
John, however, had chosen a reclusive life and had therefore relinquished the dynastic high priesthood. He was nevertheless persuaded to accept the elective position of Pope, that is, Father of the Essene Community. To the mass of the Jewish population, however, for as long as he was alive he would be received as the Melchizedek anyway. But after his execution, the Zadokite dynasty came to a sudden end as John died childless and therefore without heirs. In truth though, General, John was not a Melchizedek proper.
Although he was of the priestly line as a descendant of Aaron, he was not of the kingly line a descendant of David. He was Priest but not King. It was Jesus who was King as he was descended from David. But Jesus was also Priest. Why, General? First, his mother Mary was a descendant of Aaron. Even more important, Enlil, the principal Anunnaki god of the Jews familiarly known as Jehovah, had told King David that, The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (PSALM 110:4), the first Melchizedek having been Abrahams father Terah, who was once the King of Jerusalem and priest of Nannar-Sin, the second-born son of Enlil. Thus if King David was Priest-King de facto (he voluntarily never exercised the priesthood, leaving it, instead, to Zadok the Aaronite), then Jesus too, General, merited the same status.
By the same token, Jesus was entitled to position of Prophet. This was because when he and John the Baptist formed the Messianic movement, he was the No. 2 in the hierarchy. John had chosen him to be his deputy, whose other title was Son of God. If the two hadnt parted company and had John been alive presently, Jesus would still be the No. 2. Jesus therefore was in order when he claimed all the top three positions. He was God, Son of God, and Son of Man. He was Priest, Prophet, and King. He was the Michael, the Gabriel, and the Sariel. He was indeed the Alpha and the Omega, the first and last plus much more besides. It was he who was the rightful successor to John though in reality he had all along being greater than him.
This claim of his being the be-all and end-all, General, outraged everybody present, including his erstwhile staunch supporter, former High Priest Annas. He was called all sorts of names and even physically roughed up. But he was unrepentant, General, because he was convinced he was right by every reckoning.
NEXT WEEK: JESUS Vs PILATE
In recent years, using personal devices in working environments has become so commonplace it now has its own acronym, BOYD (Bring Your Own Device). Â But as employees skip between corporate tools and personal applications on their own devices, their actions introduce a number of possible risks that should be managed and mitigated with careful consideration.Â Consider these examples:
Si-lwli, a small family-run business in Wales, is arguably as niche a company as you could find, producing talking toys used to promote the Welsh language. Their potential market is small, with only some 300,000 Welsh language speakers in the world and in reality the business is really more of a hobby for the husband-and-wife team, who both still have day jobs.Â Yet, despite still managing to be successful in terms of sales, theÂ business is now fighting for survival after recently falling prey to cybercriminals. Emails between Si-Iwli and their Chinese suppliers were intercepted by hackers who altered the banking details in the correspondence, causing Si-Iwli to hand over ÂŁ18,000 (around P Âź m) to the thieves. That might not sound much to a large enterprise, but to a small or medium business it can be devastating.
Another recent SMB hacking story whichÂ appeared in the Wall Street Journal concerned Innovative Higher Ed Consulting (IHED) Inc, a small New York start-up with a handful of employees. IHED didnât even have a website, but fraudsters were able to run stolen credit card numbers through the companyâs payment system and reverse the charges to the tune of $27,000, around the same loss faced by Si-Iwli. Â As the WSJ put it, the hackers completely destroyed the company, forcing its owners to fold.
And in May 2019, the city of Baltimoreâs computer system was hit by a ransomware attack, with hackers using a variant called RobinHood. The hack, which has lasted more than a month, paralysed the computer system for city employees, with the hackers demanding a payment in Bitcoin to give access back to the city.
Of course, hackers target governments or business giants Â but small and medium businesses are certainly not immune. In fact, 67% of SMBs reported that they had experienced a cyber attack across a period of 12 months, according to a 2018 survey carried out by security research firm Ponemon Institute. Additionally, Verizon issued a report in May 2019 that small businesses accounted for 43% of its reported data breaches.Â Once seen as less vulnerable than PCs, smartphone attacks are on the rise, with movements like the Dark Caracal spyware campaign underlining the allure of mobile devices to hackers. Last year, the US Federal Trade Commission released a statement calling for greater education on mobile security, coming at a time when around 42% of all Android devices are believed to not carry the latest security updates.
This is an era when employees increasingly use their smartphones for work-related purposes so is your business doing enough to protect against data breaches on their employeesâ phones? The SME Cyber Crime Survey 2018 carried out for risk management specialists AON showed that more than 80% of small businesses did not view this as a threat yet if as shown, 67% of SMBs were said to have been victims of hacking, either the stats are wrong or business owners are underestimating their vulnerability.Â A 2019 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests the latter, stating that the majority of global businesses are unprepared for cyber attacks.
Consider that a workstation no longer means a desk in an office: It can be a phone in the back of a taxi or Uber; a laptop in a coffee shop, or a tablet in an airport lounge.Â Wherever the device is used, employees can potentially install applications that could be harmful to your business, even from something as seemingly insignificant as clicking on an accidental download or opening a link on a phishing email.Â Out of the physical workplace, your employeesâ activities might not have the same protections as they would on a company-monitored PC.
Yet many businesses not only encourage their employees to work remotely, but assume working from coffee shops, bookstores, and airports can boost employeesâ productivity. Â Unfortunately, many remote hot spots do not provide secure Wi-Fi so if your employee is accessing their work account on unsecured public Wi-Fi,Â sensitive business data could be at risk. Furthermore, even if your employee uses a company smartphone or has access to company data through a personal mobile device, there is always a chance data could be in jeopardy with a lost or stolen device, even information as basic as clientsâ addresses and phone numbers.
BOYDs are also at risk from malware designed to harm and infect the host system, transmittable to smartphones when downloading malicious third-party apps.Â Then there is ransomware, a type of malware used by hackers to specifically take control of a systemâs data, blocking access or threatening to release sensitive information unless a ransom is paid such as the one which affected Baltimore.Â Ransomware attacks are on the increase, Â predicted toÂ occur every 14 seconds, potentially costing billions of dollars per year.
Lastly there is phishing â the cyber equivalent of the metaphorical fishing exercise – Â wherebyÂ cybercriminals attempt to obtain sensitive data âusernames, passwords, credit card details âusually through a phoney email designed to look legitimate which directs the user to a fraudulent website or requests the data be emailed back directly. Most of us like to think we could recognize a phishing email when we see it, but these emails have become more sophisticated and can come through other forms of communication such as messaging apps.
Bottom line is to be aware of the potential problems with BOYDs and if in doubt,Â consult your IT security consultants.Â You canât put the own-device genie back in the bottle but you can make data protection one of your three wishes!
âI Propose to Diana Tonightâ
About five days before Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed landed in Paris, General Atiku, a certain Edward Williams was taking a walk in a woods in the Welsh town of Mountain Ash. Williams, then 73, was a psychic of some renown. He had in the past foretold assassination attempts on US President Ronald Reagan, which occurred on March 30, 1981, and Pope John Paul II, which came to pass on May 13, 1981.
As he trudged the woods, Williams Â had a sudden premonition that pointed to Dianaâs imminent fate as per Christopher Andersenâs book The Day Diana Died. âWhen the vision struck me, it was as if everything around me was obscured and replaced by shadowy figures,â Williams was later to reminisce. âIn the middle was the face of Princess Diana. Her expression was sad and full of pathos. She was wearing what looked like a floral dress with a short dark cardigan. But it was vague. I went cold with fear and knew it was a sign that she was in danger.â
Williams hastily beat a retreat to his home, which he shared with his wife Mary, and related to her his presentiment, trembling like an aspen leaf as he did so. âI have never seen him so upset,â Mary recounted. âHe felt he was given a sign and when he came back from his walk he was deeply shaken.â
The following day, Williams frantically sauntered into a police station to inform the police of his premonition. The officer who attended to him would have dismissed him as no more than a crackpot but he treated him seriously in view of the accuracy of his past predictions. HeÂ took a statement and immediately passed it on to the Special Branch InvestigativeÂ Unit.
The report read as follows:
âOn 27 August, at 14:12 hrs, a man by the name of Edward Williams came to Mountain Ash police station. He said he was a psychic and predicted that Princess Diana was going to die. In previous years, he has predicted that the Pope and Ronald Reagan were going to be the victims of assassination attempts. On both occasions he was proved to be correct. Mr Williams appeared to be quite normal.â
Williams, General, was spot-on as usual: four days later, the princess was no more.
Meanwhile, General, Â even as Dodi and Diana were making their way to the Fayed-owned Ritz Hotel in central Paris, British newspapers were awash with headlines that suggested Diana was kind of deranged. Writes Andrew Morton in Diana in Pursuit of Love: âIn The Independent Diana was described as âa woman with fundamentally nothing to say about anythingâ. She was âsuffering from a form of arrested developmentâ. âIsnât it time she started using her head?â asked The Mail on Sunday. The Sunday Mirror printed a special supplement entitled âA Story of Loveâ; The News of the World claimed that William had demanded that Diana should split from Dodi: âWilliam canât help it, he just doesnât like the man.â William was reportedly âhorrifiedâ and âdoesnât think Mr Fayed is good for his motherâ â or was that just the press projecting their own prejudices? The upmarket Sunday Times newspaper, which had first serialised my biography of the princess, now put her in the psychiatristâs chair for daring to be wooed by a Muslim. The pop-psychologist Oliver James put Diana âOn the Couchâ, asking why she was so âdepressedâ and desperate for love. Other tabloids piled in with dire prognostications â about Prince Philipâs hostility to the relationship, Dianaâs prospect of exile, and the social ostracism she would face if she married Dodi.â
DIANA AND DODI AT THE RITZ
Before Diana and Dodi departed the Villa Windsor sometime after 16 hrs, General, one of Dodiâs bodyguards Trevor Rees-Jones furtively asked Diana as to what the programme for the evening was. This Trevor did out of sheer desperation as Dodi had ceased and desisted from telling members of his security detail, let alone anyone else for that matter, what his onward destination was for fear that that piece of information would be passed on to the paparazzi. Diana kindly obliged Trevor though her response was terse and scarcely revealing. âWell, eventually we will be going out to a restaurantâ, that was all Diana said. Without advance knowledge of exactly what restaurant that was, Trevor and his colleaguesâ hands were tied: they could not do a recce on it as was standard practice for the security team of a VIP principal.Â Dodi certainly, General, was being recklessly by throwing such caution to the winds.
At about 16:30, Diana and Dodi drew up at the Ritz Hotel, where they were received by acting hotel manager Claude Roulet. Â The front entrance of the hotel was already crawling with paparazzi, as a result of which the couple took the precaution of using the rear entrance, where hopefully they would make their entry unperturbed and unmolested. The first thing they did when they were ensconced in the now $10,000 a night Imperial Suite was to spend some time on their mobiles and set about touching base with friends, relations, and associates. Â Diana called at least two people, her clairvoyant friend Rita Rogers and her favourite journalist Richard Kay of The Daily Mail.
Rita, General, Â was alarmed that Diana had proceeded to venture to Paris notwithstanding the warning she had given Dodi and herself in relation to what she had seen of him Â in the crystal ball when the couple had consulted her. When quizzed as to what the hell she indeed was doing in Paris at that juncture, Diana replied that she and Dodi had simply come to do some shopping, which though partially true was not the material reason they were there. âBut Diana, remember what I told Dodi,â Rita said somewhat reprovingly. Diana a bit apprehensively replied, âYes I remember. I will be careful. I promise.â Well, Â she did not live up to her promise as we shall soon unpack General.
As for Richard Kay, Diana made known to him that, âI have decided I am going to radically change my life. I am going to complete my obligations to charities and to the anti-personnel land mines cause, but in November I want to completely withdraw from formal public life.â
Once she was done with her round of calls, Diana went down to the hair saloon by the hotel swimming pool to have her hair washed and blow-dried ahead of the scheduled evening dinner.
THE âTELL ME YESâ RING IS DELIVERED
Since the main object of their Paris trip was to pick up the âTell Me Yesâ engagement ringÂ Dodi had ordered in Monte Carlo a week earlier, Dodi decided to check on Repossi Jewellery, which was right within the Ritz prencincts, known as the Place Vendome. Â It could have taken less than a minute for Dodi to get to the store on foot but he decided to use a car to outsmart the paparazzi invasion. He was driven there by Trevor Rees-Jones, with Alexander Kez Wingfield and Claude Roulet following on foot, though he entered the shop alone.
The Repossi store had closed for the holiday season but Alberto Repossi, accompanied by his wife and brother-in-law, Â had decided to travel all the way from his home in Monaco Â and momentarily open it for the sake of the potentially highly lucrativeÂ Dodi transaction. Â Alberto, however, disappointed Dodi as the ring he had chosen was not the oneÂ he produced. The one he showed Dodi was pricier and perhaps more exquisite but DodiÂ was adamant that he wanted the exact one he had ordered as that was what Diana herself had picked. It was a ployÂ on the part of Repossi to make a real killing on the sale, his excuse to that effect being that Diana deserved a ring tha was well worthy of her social pedigree.Â With Dodi having expressed disaffection, Repossi rendered his apologies and assured Dodi he would make the right ring available shortly, whereupon Dodi repaired back to the hotel to await its delivery. But Dodi Â did insist nonetheless that the pricier ring be delivered too in case it appealed to Diana anyway.
Repossi delivered the two rings an hour later. They were collected by Roulet. On inspecting them, Dodi chose the very one he had seen in Monte Carlo, apparently at the insistence of Diana.Â There is a possibility that Diana, who was very much aware of her public image and was not comfortable with ostentatious displays of wealth, may have deliberately shown an interest in a less expensive engagement ring. It Â may have been a purely romantic as opposed to a prestigious Â choice for her.
The value of the ring, which was found on a wardrobe shelf in Dodiâs apartment after the crash, Â has been estimated to be between $20,000 and $250,000 as Repossi has always refused to be drawn into revealing how much Dodi paid for it. The sum, which enjoyed a 25 percent discount, was in truth paid for not by Dodi himself but by his father as was the usual practice.
Dodi was also shown Repossiâs sketches for a bracelet, a watch, and earrings which he proposed to create if Diana approved of them.
DIANA AND DODI GUSH OVER IMMINENT NUPTIALS
At about 7 pm, Â Dodi and Diana left the Ritz and headed for Dodiâs apartment at a place known as the Arc de Trompe. They went there to properly tog themselves out for the scheduled evening dinner. They spent two hours at the luxurious apartment. As usual, the ubiquitous paparazzi were patiently waiting for them there.
As they lingered in the apartment, Dodi beckoned over to his butler Rene DelormÂ and showed himÂ the engagement ring. âDodi came into my kitchen,â Delorm relates. âHe looked into the hallway to check that Diana couldnât hear and reached into his pocket and pulled out the box âŚ He said, âRene, Iâm going to propose to the princess tonight. Make sure that we have champagne on ice when we come back from dinnerâ.â Rene described the ring as âa spectacular diamond encrusted ring, a massive emerald surrounded by a cluster of diamonds, set on a yellow and white gold band sitting in a small light-grey velvet boxâ.
Just before 9 pm, Dodi called the brother of his step-father, Hassan Yassen, who also was staying at the Ritz Â that night, and told him that he hoped to get married to Diana by the end of the year.
Later that same evening, both Dodi and Diana would talk to Mohamed Al Fayed, Dodiâs dad, and make known to him their pre-nuptial intentions. âThey called me and said weâre coming backÂ (to London) on Sunday (August 31) and on Monday (September 1) they are
RAMADAN – The Blessed Month of Fasting
Ramadan is the fasting month for Muslims, where over one billion Muslims throughout the world fast from dawn to sunset, and pray additional prayers at night. It is a time for inner reflection, devotion to Allah, and self-control. It is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. As you read this Muslims the world over have already begun fasting as the month of Ramadan has commenced (depending on the sighting of the new moon).
âThe month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was revealed as guidance for people, in it are clear signs of guidance and Criterion, therefore whoever of you who witnesses this month, it is obligatory on him to fast it. But whoever is ill or traveling let him fast the same number of other days, God desires ease for you and not hardship, and He desires that you complete the ordained period and glorify God for His guidance to you, that you may be grateful”. Holy Qur’anÂ (2 : 185)
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars upon which the structure of Islam is built. The other four are: the declaration of oneâs belief in Allahâs oneness and in the message of Muhammad (PBUH); regular attendance to prayer; payment of zakaat (obligatory charity); and the pilgrimage to Mecca.
As explained in an earlier article, fasting includes total abstinence from eating, drinking, smoking, refraining from obscenity, avoiding getting into arguments and including abstaining from marital relations, from sunrise to sunset. While fasting may appear to some as difficult Muslims see it as an opportunity to get closer to their Lord, a chance to develop spiritually and at the same time the act of fasting builds character, discipline and self-restraint.
Just as our cars require servicing at regular intervals, so do Muslims consider Ramadan as a month in which the body and spirit undergoes as it were a âfull serviceâ. This âserviceâ includes heightened spiritual awareness both the mental and physical aspects and also the body undergoing a process of detoxification and some of the organs get to ârestâ through fasting.
Because of the intensive devotional activity fasting, Ramadan has a particularly high importance, derived from its very personal nature as an act of worship but there is nothing to stop anyone from privately violating Allahâs commandment of fasting if one chooses to do so by claiming to be fasting yet eating on the sly. This means that although fasting is obligatory, its observance is purely voluntary. If a person claims to be a Muslim, he is expected to fast in Ramadan.
The reward Allah gives for proper fasting is very generous. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) quotes Allah as saying: âAll actions done by a human being are his own except fasting, which belongs to Me and I will reward it accordingly.â We are also told by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that the reward for proper fasting is admittance into heaven.
Fasting earns great reward when it is done in a âproperâ manner. This is because every Muslim is required to make his worship perfect. For example perfection of fasting can be achieved through restraint of oneâs feelings and emotions. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that when fasting, a person should not allow himself to be drawn into a quarrel or a slanging match. He teaches us: âOn a day of fasting, let no one of you indulge in any obscenity, or enter into a slanging match. Should someone abuse or fight him, let him respond by saying: âI am fasting!ââ
This high standard of self-restraint fits in well with fasting, which is considered as an act of self-discipline. Islam requires us to couple patience with voluntary abstention from indulgence in our physical desires. The purpose of fasting helps man to attain a high degree of sublimity, discipline and self-restraint. In other words, this standard CAN BE achieved by every Muslim who knows the purpose of fasting and strives to fulfill it.
Fasting has another special aspect. It makes all people share in the feelings of hunger and thirst. In normal circumstances, people with decent income may go from one yearâs end to another without experiencing the pangs of hunger which a poor person may feel every day of his life. Such an experience helps to draw the rich oneâs conscience nearer to needs of the poor. A Muslim is encouraged to be more charitable and learns to give generously for a good cause.
Fasting also has a universal or communal aspect to it. As Muslims throughout the world share in this blessed act of worship, their sense of unity is enhanced by the fact that every Muslim individual joins willingly in the fulfillment of this divine commandment. This is a unity of action and purpose, since they all fast in order to be better human beings. As a person restrains himself from the things he desires most, in the hope that he will earn Allahâs pleasure, self-discipline and sacrifice become part of his nature.
The month of Ramadan can aptly be described as a âseason of worship.â Fasting is the main aspect of worship in this month, because people are more attentive to their prayers, read the Qurâan more frequently and also strive to improve on their inner and outer character. Thus, their devotion is more complete and they feel much happier in Ramadan because they feel themselves to be closer to their Creator.