This message is only for Muslims, millions of them, about to secretly embark on a flight. They will fly from all different parts of the world to a single destination. I know. When Muslims fly, some Americans get nervous. Some may be anxious to know the destination of this flight. But you'll have to read the whole article to find that out.
On second thought though, if you are not a Muslim, please don't read any further. After all this secret message is for millions of Muslims... getting on a flight... wink, wink.
To my Muslim family, you know Ramadan starts on June 18 this year. Many in the West believe it's a month when we abstain from food and drink during daytime. That's true. But in reality, Ramadan is about abstaining from all carnal desires, not just food. It's a spiritual flight requiring us to follow certain protocols. And that's the flight millions of us are about to take.
Final check: My non-Muslim readers have left the page? Right? OK, let's proceed with our "secrets."
First, print your "boarding pass to heaven." These calendars list the prayer timings for over 50 cities in the U.S., including a checklist of virtuous acts. Thousands of these calendars have been downloaded previously. Go ahead. Visit spiritualfitness.us for more flight details.
But people, don't forget to bring your spiritual ID: A daily fast. Besides allowing you a fast check-in, it entitles you to in-flight rewards like, "Whoever fasts in Ramadan out of faith and in the hope of reward, his previous sins will be forgiven..." (Bukhari).
Want an upgrade to First class? Talk to your boss now and take the last ten days of Ramadan off for Itekaaf; the ritual of living in the mosque, disconnecting oneself from the material world, and going deep in prayer. It is reported that, "With the start of the last ten days of Ramadan, the Prophet (pbuh) used to tighten his waist belt and used to pray all night..." (Bukhari).
Travel light. Just bring along a Quran. It was Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)'s practice to complete one full reading of the Holy Quran during the month of Ramadan. Try emulating him. If you can't read Arabic, read it in English or your native language. But don't miss this in-flight inspiration. Find over 50 translations of the Holy Quran by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community here.
"Flying as Muslims" has its own perks. No, I didn't mean the special treatment we receive for requesting an unopened soda can. I meant the Rewards Program by Allah where Muslims get up in the wee hours of the night and present their supplications to Allah during -- shall we say -- the off-peak hours. The program is called Tahajjud. The perks? "Whoever prayed at night in (the month of Ramadan) out of sincere faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven." (Bukhari)
Want to buy extra leg room? The rules of this flight are different. You pay while the poor, the sick, the neglected -- crammed into the cycle of misfortune -- get to enjoy. Give extra charity like the Prophet who in Ramadan, used to be more generous than a mother.
And here's the best part. Forgive! Forgive Delta for allowing harassment of a Muslim woman in hijab. Forgive Southwest for removing a Muslim woman from the plane after a flight attendant heard her say to someone on cell phone "It's a go." Forgive Atlantic Southeast Airlines for booting off two Muslims because of the way they looked. Forgive Airtran for ordering a Muslim family off the plane for a lighthearted conversation. Just forgive every predictable "random" airport screening.
But don't forget the purpose of this flight. Fasting is not mere starvation; People go on hunger strikes lasting longer than a fast. The real purpose of this flight is spiritual growth through self-control. Practice to control your anger, lust, lying, greed, selfishness.
And our destination is our God who says, "Their reward is with their Lord -- Gardens of Eternity, through which streams flow; they will abide therein forever. Allah is well pleased with them, and they are well pleased with Him..." (98:9)
What a marvelous destination it is!
Faheem Younus is the President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Men Association USA and a Senior Fellow at the Hoffberger Center for Ethics at the University of Baltimore. Follow him @FaheemYounus