Ramadan: of spiders and rhythms
Shireen Pasha

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Why do Muslims pray five times a day? Why did Mohammed advise Muslims to take this on as one of the five pillars, knowing that life can be demanding? Are we Muslims just fanatics, lunatics, worthy of being robbed, mobbed, gagged, hunted, haunted, labelled, stoned and Gitmoed?

No. We honour the source of every sentient being on this planet, a force that is mind-blowingly beautiful, loving, forgiving, compassionate, infinite: Allah. It is the same force that inspired Sant Tukaram in medieval Maharashtra:

"vrikshavalli amha soyaree vanachare

pakshi susware alive"

The flowers and trees are my dear companions.

The birds sing mellifluously…

The song continues and essentially says: “The trees, creepers and animals of the forest are my dear friends, the birds sing so sweetly; in this solitude I find solace. Sitting in Nature in solitude, singing the names of the Lord, I feel spiritual ecstasy." (Jahnavi Harrison)

It is the same force that inspired Lalon in Bengal:

“O, how long will I Wait to get the union of my beloved? Like a swallow, I long for you every moment O, my darling." (Md. Hafijur Rahman, Md. Iqbal Hosain)

It is the same force that inspired Ralph Waldo Emerson in America:

"Substances at base divided,

In their summits are united.

There the holy essence rolls,

One through the separated souls."

It is the same force that connected Mohammed to the spider in Ghar Al-Thawr (Cave of the Bull). Mohammed and his companion Abu Bakr took refuge in the cave of the bull upon being pursued by the Quarishis, who wanted to assassinate Mohammed. Abu Bakr fretted. "Mohammed, we are only two." Beloved Mohammed rose in Namaz and said "Don't worry, Allah is the third," while a spider wove its intricate web across the entrance of the cave misleading the Quarishis to look elsewhere. What was the symbiosis between the spider, Mohammed and the force of energy we call God or Allah?

In an effort to connect to the rhythm of this force that regulates the Sun, Moon, stars and all the critters in between, we pray five times a day. We pray five times a day to connect to the rhythm of nature, to connect to one another, to Allah. When we connect to the rhythm of nature, when we connect to one another through breath, beat (heart beat) and movement – there is greater symbiosis and cooperation in the world. Beloved Mohammed was fully aware of the finitude quality of our bodies and the symbiosis required for its development, survival, and realization of the infinite divine in the finite.

As I mentioned in previous writings, Islam is not for textbooks, it is for daily life. Allah revealed Allah through songs to a mortal made of songs (we are all tuning forks vibrating the cosmos).

The Islamic calendar is based on the cycles of the moon. In Vedic culture, the moon was believed to control the soma, or the elixir of life for all sentient beings. Could the soma for human beings have something to do with the hormones generated by the endocrine system? According to the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, "The moon has long been thought to have major effects on the behaviour and physiology of humans as well as animals. It has been suggested that melatonin and endogenous steroids may mediate cyclic alterations seen in synchronicity with the lunar cycle. Melatonin is a peptide hormone secreted by the pineal gland. This gland is part of a photo-neuro-endocrine system which follows both a circadian and a seasonal cycle and exhibits multiple effects." (Sanjay Kalra, Tushar Bandgar, and Manisha Sahay) The pineal gland is also known as the third eye by mystics, located between two brows, the opening of which leads one to achieve greater clarity, balance, and joy. Mohammed was clearly thinking about bliss for the masses. Taking a look at the circadian rhythm diagram (biological cock), you will notice that Muslims usually pray around the time of good physical coordination or high blood circulation. The prayer cycle begins about one hour before sunrise and the last prayer is about 1.5 to two hours after sunset.

Subhan-Allah. It is a treat for the mind to search for connections, to wonder, to travel between the humanities and sciences to make sense of our experiences but faith is made of something else. Faith is without logic. It is of the heart. You have it or you don't. No science, no poetry, no revelation from a third party can force this upon you. Faith is of your own composing...

"When I open my eyes to the outer world,

I feel myself as a drop in the sea;

But when I close my eyes and look within,

I see the whole universe as a bubble

Raised in the ocean of my heart."

-Hazrat Inayat Khan

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Shireen Pasha

Shireen Pasha is a freelance contributor.