Ayyāman Maʻdudāt (specific number of days)! That exactly is the description of this glorious month in Quran 2: 184. Fasting in the month is an exercise that is suspended, as it were, between the alternating phenomena of nights and days. It is an exercise, the physical and the spiritual, that the believer undertakes for specific number of hours, of minutes and seconds. The combination of seconds makes minutes; the combination of minutes of makes hours; the combination of hours makes days. The combination of days makes months.
Ayyāman Maʻdudāt! Yes. If fasting in the month of Ramadan is only for a specific number of days, exactly what in our life is not dated and numbered and for specific number of days? I became attentive to this question couple of years ago during one of my tafsir sessions. I pondered that question when we began to prepare for the Id al-Fitr that particularly year. I was seized by the reality of the seeming short time span instituted for fasting; the short period that we have always had to fast. By referring to this month as Ayyāman Maʻdudāt, I asked myself- could it not be that this phrase is calling attention to the reality of the beginning and ending? Is it not arguable to say that by referring to fasting in the month of Ramadan as Ayyāman Maʻdudāt, we are being invited to ponder a metaphor or a signifier figured in the days of fasting for that which is beyond the days of fasting? Is the phrase Ayyāman Maʻdudāt, when subjected to extant intellectual-exegetical tools that we have inherited from our forebears, not hinting at the datedness and shortness of these whole illusion that we reference as life, this whole contraption that we understand to be the world?
Yes. Years of interaction with Islamic texts, the sacred and the profane, are instructive of the above fact- that one of the reasons Ramadan is branded by the Almighty as Ayyāman Maʻdudāt is probably to remind believers that while they can only fast while being in the world, they must constantly strive to not be of this world; while they can only fast, in line with the Quranic phrasing, for Ayyāman Maʻdudāt, the reward accruable for doing so, and conscientiously too, is for Ayyāman ghayr Maʻdudāt -days without end- eternity.
In other words, when transposed to the larger mundane and profane spheres of human life, spheres of life and living, one discovers the pertinence of this type of reading and interpretation. One discovers that the principle of Ayyāman Maʻdudāt is applicable to all realms of human conurbation and interactions; it is relevant to all spheres, be it the political, the social and the financial. These spheres are all Ayyāman Maʻdudāt. It holds true for the President, the Governor, the Senator, the Speaker and the Messenger. It is all about Ayyāman Maʻdudāt. It holds true even for locales, spaces and experiences of pleasure – of sex, of cuisines, of sports, of play and pastimes. It is all about Ayyāman Maʻdudāt. It holds true for pain and grief- for death, for loss, for deprivation, for interdictions, for oppression, for punishment. It is all about Ayyāman Maʻdudāt. It holds true for oppressors, for interdictors and for abductors. It is all about Ayyāman Maʻdudāt. Fir’awn lasted for years on the throne until he thought that his suzerainty had no expiration. He forgot that earthly life is for a specific number of days only; that it is Ayyāman Maʻdudāt. If indeed Ramadan has been for Ayyāman Maʻdudāt, I guess those counted days are therefore like tickets of mortality. We are meant to them use to purchase immortality. Thus, at the onset of Id al-Fitr festivals such as is imminent tomorrow or on Sunday, those imbued with intuition would celebrate the arrival of the ‘departing’ with caution and circumspection. I say ‘arrival’ of the ‘departing’ because that exactly is what Festivals are: they arrive in order to depart. Yes. We should be thankful to the Almighty for the uncommon privilege of being alive and living. We should equally seize and indeed must seize the moment to atone for the inadequacies and mistakes we must have made while trying to obey His commandments during the past twenty-nine days.
The atonement must be both in deeds and in words; the atonement and correction would have to be made in cash and kind through the payment of Zakat al-Fitr. This is a compulsory act of charity which becomes payable on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr. Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) says: “Acts of fasting remains suspended between the heavens and the earth until the Sadaqatul Fitr is paid.” Just before bidding bye to Ramadan 1441 A.H, pray fervently that He takes this ‘cup’ of pandemic from our world for no leaf drops from the tree but by His knowledge.