M. Fethullah Gulen
The blessed three months are Rajab, Sha’ban, and Ramadan (the seventh, eighth, and ninth months) in the Islamic hijri calendar1; these months are distinguished from the rest of the year with a special taste and atmosphere that each possesses. Every month comes along with a beauty and appeal to the external senses that is peculiar to itself, whereas the blessed three months are experienced with lofty feelings that emanate deep from within. During this period, those who explore their inner dimensions deep in their hearts are filled with a consciousness of the everlasting heavenly gardens and feel as if they have been welcomed, observing the hidden reality revealed by the brightest light that bursts forth from their belief and insight. Each and every day, every night, every hour, and every minute pass by with an unheard-of magic, whispering blessings to everyone, each in accordance with their spiritual rank.
Time is adorned with the colors of divinity; people become more sociable, as if they were the peaceful residents of the world-to-come, and they are able to attain a profound awareness. Everyone hears an otherworldly poem, both from within themselves and from the hearts of all existence, and they travel at the sunrise and sunset of many fantasies and memories, expectations, and dreams. With associations that are sometimes sad and at other times joyful, the blessed three months remind us of the longing for a lost paradise and embrace us with a thrilling hope that we will be able to find it again. Memories and associations in these days, every minute of which is filled with bliss, happiness, motivation, and action, transform our feelings into a silent poem and our lives into mystical exquisiteness.
This illuminated time of the year presents various delights and spiritual pleasures to those who can appreciate its worth and value, and restores heavenly times as hearts are enlightened with spirituality, as the streets and minarets are adorned with the brightest of lamps, and faces glow with charm and elegance. The colorful lights of this time shine at various wave lengths, the comforting atmosphere of its delicate breeze echoes manifestations of the present time and enchants all in its direction, permeating those of us who have reached an understanding of the belief, Islam, the mosque, and the prayer, preparing us for knowledge and love of God, and spiritual pleasures.
As we live through this golden phase of the time each year, we feel as if we are once again experiencing those pleasant and joyful heavenly days, which are true life itself. Once again, spring pervades the vision of our hearts and life pours out from every location; the countryside flourishes, verdant and cheerful with a multitude of colors, flowers dance and nightingales sing . . . and our emotions burn as if enflamed by roses and tulips. The prevalent ambiance inspires us with a promise of happiness and whispers to us about these unique and exclusive emotions. Even those ill-fated individuals whose lives are locked up in cynicism and gloom benefit from this divine celebration. The days strike those hours of prayer like a plectrum on the wires of the hearts, playing the real meaning of life. A poem starts as the call to prayer is heard in as much purity as in the singing of birds and in the joy of children . . . a poem of prayers as impressive as the beauty of heaven and as complete and mature as a heart which is in love with that beauty . . . a poem of feelings overflows our bosom with praise and reflection in a mode where we are both an addressee and an addresser to God at one and the same time. And then the veils on the face of existence are removed; we are blessed with special peaceful moments of satisfaction of being near to God. Five times a day we tour around a spiral of light, go through times of heavenly ascension, and dream of being a perfected human.
The Four Holy Nights
Raghaib, Mi‘raj, Bara’a, and Qadr
The calendar may indicate the beginning of Rajab as being on a different day each year, but the blessed three months actually start on the first Thursday evening of Rajab, with a most-welcomed divine grace. Raghaib, the Most Desired, is the first night that stimulates our feelings, preparing them for holier days to come.2 Almost three weeks later, Mi‘raj, the Night of Ascension, comes along, as the creak of the heavenly doors opening wide is heard and the divine breezes for those determined souls can be felt. Bara’a, the Night of Salvation (or Record), calls out to the enthused and watchful ones with good tidings of salvation. And finally the Qadr, the Night of Power, embraces us with forgiveness, mercy, and a blissful prosperity that is beyond imagination and which can only be obtained after an effort of a thousand months.
Days and nights continue one after the other, spreading out a sweet and tempting tenderness for believing hearts. Each day comes along with a brightness and dynamism and pours down on us abundant blessings. After the sun sets at the end of the day, a fantastic morning follows . . . a new, quiet morning with every kind of beauty, a morning that weaves original motifs in the hearts of the wise.
Those of us who are on full alert with prayers, supplications, and glorifications within the month of Rajab, attain a pure pleasure of a wonderful spectacle. Everyone speaks in an elevated manner and style; a majestic look, awe for the divine, and the joy of hope is on our faces. Communication between each and every individual is established through the medium of the heart, improper behavior decreases, and people unload all their worldly burdens and rise to spiritual joy as if on an Ascension. The splendor overflowing from their souls and the colorful refinement on their faces reach such lofty levels that they can soften even the most hardened of hearts and extract elegance from them.
Nights evolve into a mystical form and inspire brilliant thoughts as Rajab begins. Each moment becomes a gateway to the divine and infuses us with hope and heavenly fancies, appealing to our desire for the infinite. Our silent feelings are awakened and remarkable thoughts of happiness are voiced in an extraordinary expression.
Sha’ban, or “Shahrullah al-Muazzam” (The Great Month), as it is frequently called, is felt with a pleasure suffused into the entire existence and our inner selves. Our hearts incline toward a hope, an expectation, and joyful beauty. Sha’ban is like a magical tune that captivates those who seek shelter across the horizons of mercy, like a mother hugging her child in a most compassionate manner. During this month it is as if time has been shattered and our feelings welcome blessings from worlds unbounded by time. In the course of the illuminated moments and profound perception of Rajab, everyone goes through a reality; it is as if they were to take one step further they would be elevated up to Heaven on a magical stair. And these moments introduce us to the exhibition of our hidden desires that pertain to infinite existence.
Ramadan appears on the horizon with its unique warmth and charm; our conscience becomes vigilant and awake. Crowds pour into the mosques and from thereon walk toward Our Lord. Ramadan strengthens spiritual connections and other-worldly desires. Believing hearts acquire greater enthusiasm with love and yearning. Ramadan is the most illuminated, intense, effective, and pleasant of times; it is the most significant dynamism of our religious life. The entire city becomes a residence of the other world . . . the breaths of the minarets echo in the hearts with a Qur’anic lament. Mosques glow with light and resonate with the prayers of worshippers. The joy and contentment of turning to God is felt everywhere. Praying hearts rise aloft, sharing with others all their beauty, and declaring their love in utmost privacy. They consider every night a shab-i arus3 (wedding night), as if commanded “Prepare for the union!”
Every sound during Ramadan resonates with a promise of a new start, just as every breath gives us a glimpse of a hope for salvation. Iftar dinners (breaking the fast) appear on our horizon with implications for the “grand meeting,” while whispering some secrets into our soul. Tarawih prayers (a sunna-an act conducted or recommended by the Prophet-prayer peculiar to Ramadan, observed at night) are each a pledge for our “realm of hope.” Nights open their harem gates like a coy bride and pour into our soul blessings that glow in lights of every hue. Dawns come along, echoing the high pitch of the ferry’s horn, or the sweeping by of a jet, or the blast of a rocket, and bring the good tidings of a night journey on the path to a reunion with the Friend. And finally, a long day embraces us with the first hours of this sweetest encounter in excitement, but cautious; exhilarated, but full of hope.
Life is so profound and meaningful during Ramadan that every word uttered and every sound heard is like a composition gushing out from its very core; exposed to the most fantastic tunes our feelings undergo refinement. The soul blooms in Ramadan, and dormant feelings embedded deep-within awake as we stroll around the most enchanting and wonderful dreams, filled to the bone with zeal and a yearning for ecstasy, filled with a need for reunion, and infusing us with the joy of true life.
Having achieved the attainment of the Ramadan provisions in full, everyone reaches a level of perception where they can see that the end of this illuminated, but slightly veiled, road upon which we are traveling opens to an eternal serenity for which they have always longed; here awaits much beyond what they have been granted here. They turn to Him with all their being. At each dawn and evening they sense a new gate of reunion opening, as well as the need and hope for a loftier and captivating meeting which is merely two steps ahead. They are filled with homesickness and loneliness, on the one hand, and with expectations and dreams on the other; they are enwrapped in a greater magic and drawn into the profundity of true love. They become intoxicated as they start feeling the love . . . the love around which every phenomenon in the infinite space takes place, as it does in the infinity of their hearts. Male and female, old and young, rich and poor, every individual experiences an important time of preparation in Ramadan; each in accordance with their level of perception, and from then on it is as if they are walking toward God on a road that has no end.
- The lunar calendar used by Muslims. The emigration of Prophet Muhammad from Makka to Madina in 622 AD marks the beginning of this calendar.
- Raghaib is celebrated on the night preceding the first Friday of Rajab.
- A metaphor by Rumi, portraying death as union with God, the most beloved.