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Ramadan - The Month of Fasting

Publishing Date : 15 May, 2018

IQBAL EBRAHIM
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM


‘O you who believe, Fasting is prescribed to you as it was for those before you, that you may learn self-restraint. Fasting for a fixed number of days……. and it is better for you that you fast, if you only knew’. (Quran 2: 183-184)

Within the next few days depending on the sighting of the new moon that heralds new month of Ramadan, over one billion Muslims throughout the world will begin their fasting from dawn to sunset, and in addition the will offer extra prayers at during the night.

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars upon which the structure of Islam is built - fasting during the month of Ramadan is Third Pillar of Islam. The other four are: the declaration of one’s belief in Allah’s oneness and in the message of Muhammad (PBUH); regular attendance to prayer; payment of zakaat (obligatory charity); and the pilgrimage to Mecca.


The month of Ramadan can best be described as a “season of worship.” Fasting is the main aspect of worship in this month, because people are more attentive to their prayers, read the Qur’an more frequently and also strive to improve on their inner and outer self and character. Thus, their devotion is more complete and they feel much happier in Ramadan because they feel themselves to be closer to their Creator.


Also for a Muslim this month is a very auspicious in that they are given the 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. 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, all this from sunrise to sunset. While fasting may appear to some as difficult Muslims see it as an opportunity for a serious believer to remould, reshape, reform, and renew his/her physical and spiritual nature and behaviour.


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 full service. This ‘service’ 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 ‘rest’ through fasting.  


As the Qur’an says: ‘0 you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was a prescribed to those before you that you may (learn) self-restraint and piety (Taqwa).” (2:183). Further Allah says: "…..that He wants you to complete the prescribed period (of fasting) so that you are able to magnify the greatness of Allah for His having guided you, and so that – perchance – you may be thankful" (2: 185).


Taqwa (God consciousness, self-restraint and piety) can be generated and realized through the opportunities provided for us by the fast because what it does is:  The disciplining of the will; the purification of the self; the purification of the soul; Further Ramadan is the month of instilling patience. A person who is ready to be patient, not to eat  while he is hungry, not to drink while he is thirsty, not to lean to his lusts, such a person is a noble individual.  Such a person will be given paradise by Allah (SWT) as a gift, as a merit of award.


Fasting is also part of Christianity I recall when many of my Christian colleagues fasted during Lent. The Bible says:  ‘As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted ……………and when they had fasted and prayed….’ (Acts 13: 2-3). ‘And they said unto him. Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers….’ (Luke 5: 33). ‘Then was Jesus was led up of the Spirit…..and when he had fasted for forty days and forty nights…. (Matthew 4: 1-2)


Fasting helps us to train us to abstain from some the things we take for granted in this life. It needs a strong will to have self-control, self-discipline and self-restraint. Fasting develops self-control and helps Muslims overcome selfishness, greed, laziness and other faults. It is an annual training program to refresh us for carrying out our duties towards Allah. A person who can restrain himself, for the love and pleasure of Allah, deserves a reward from the Creator Himself.


Fasting not only means abstaining from food and drink, but also refraining from all vices and evils committed by us consciously or unconsciously. It also builds the strength to bear difficulties and hardship and instils in us the character of perseverance. The fasting person by depriving himself from food and drink and other necessities of life throughout the daylight hours becomes capable of controlling his desires, urges, and temptations. The purpose of fasting is to enable a Muslim to control his passions, so that he becomes a person of good deeds and intentions.


A fasting person is also required to guard his tongue from vain talk and obscenities. We are also required to suppress a common human weakness of anger which should also be brought under control by fasting. 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: “On 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: ‘I am fasting!’” The spirit of Fasting is not observed as only an exercise in starvation but also an exercise of restraint in every manner. The Prophet (pubh) said “whosoever does not give up telling lies, or acting in a false manner, Allah has no need for his giving up his eating or drinking.”  


Another lesson that fasting person is taught is that it engenders feelings of sympathy for the poor. Fasting has another special aspect because it is a practical means that develops within us the compassion for other people’s sufferings. Whilst fasting, it makes us share in the feelings of hunger and thirst of the poor and needy.


In normal circumstances, people with decent income may go from one year’s 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 conscience of those of us who are blessed, nearer to needs of the poor. A Muslim is encouraged to be more charitable and learns to give generously for a good cause.


The Prophet (pbuh) said, “O people!  The month of Ramadan has come with His mercy, blessing and forgiveness.  Allah has decreed this month the best of all months. Its days are the best among days, its nights the best among nights, and its hours the best among hours.  This is a month in which you have been invited by Him to fast and pray.  Allah has honoured you in it.  Every breath you take in this month has the reward of praise of Allah. Your sleep in worship your good deeds are accepted and your invocations answered.”  

Therefore we must invoke our Lord in earnest, with hearts that are free from sin and evil, and pray that Allah helps us through this Ramadan in the true spirit and manner that we are required to.
Ramadan Mubarak (Ramadan Blessings) to all Muslims.

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