Once again, the month of Ramadan is here with us and Muslims all over the world are observing 29 – 30 day fasts to please God and to derive maximum blessings from the Almighty.
According to common belief, Fasting as is a distinct moral and spiritual characteristic of Islam and is considered one of the most important pillars of Islam. To define “Fasting” would mean to “… abstain completely from foods, drinks, sex and smoking, before the break of dawn till sunset, during the entire month of Ramadan, which is the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar year”.
In this first series of my Ramadhan Diaries, I would like to bring attention to two aspects of Fasting. The first is the Spiritual Aspect.
Allah has said in the Holy Quran; ‘O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you, that ye may ward off evil’ (Quran 2: 183).
From the above Verse, the following Spiritual explanations can be derived:
1) Fasting instills a deep sense of devotion, pure dedication and genuine closeness to God, because Fasting is done only for the sake of God.
2) It cultivates a sound conscience, because it is recommended to remain as “normal” as possible in public when Fasting. Fasting therefore promotes a faithful consciousness of ones behavior, since the Fast is being observed to please God.
3) Fasting is an act of love that we perform for God. It often entails having to give up the things that we love for a higher more sincere form of Love for God.
4) It is said that during Ramadhan, the Doors of Mercy are open wide, and the one who fasts remains hopeful of receiving God’s Mercy. Fasting therefore equips us with a sense of hope and an optimistic outlook on life, hopeful to seek God’s Grace.
5) Fasting teaches us patience and unselfishness, because when we fast, we feel the pains of deprivation, but we endure this patiently. Knowing full well that this deprivation is temporary, the experience makes one realize the severity of such effects on those who are constantly faced with hunger. This makes us more sympathetic in a social and humanitarian way, making us quick to sympathize and respond to the needs of the less fortunate.
6) Fasting is ordained on all Muslims, regardless of our social standing, race or creed. It therefore cultivates within us a spiritual sense of social belonging, unity and brotherhood and equality before God.
7) Lastly, Fasting is prescribed for self-assurance and self control, for the maintenance of human dignity and freedom, for victory and peace. When we fast in the proper manner, we are in control of ourselves, being able to discipline ourselves over our passions, desires and evil temptations.
The second aspect is the Moral Aspect of Fasting:
“The day of your fast should not be like any ordinary day. When you fast, all your senses – eyes, ears, tongue, hands and feet must fast with you” – Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq(as)
The above quote in all its simplicity states that Fasting is not just limited to the consumption of food and drink. But, it should engage all of our physical senses at the same time.
1) Fasting with the eyes means that we should avoid looking at things that are unlawful and which may void our fast. Some people are addicted to porn, other cannot help lower their gaze when in the company of the opposite sex. To fast with our eyes therefore requires us to look away from that which will cause us spiritual harm, and instead to turn towards that which will increase us in piety.
2) Fasting with the ears refers to avoiding listening to things that may again cause spiritual and moral harm to ourselves. Music (in some cultures), gossip and unlawful sounds all tend to make us stray from achieving the maximum benefits of Fasting. Keep guard on what you let enter your mind by way of your ears, for the mind is a pure place.
3) Fasting with the tongue simply means refraining from uttering things that would not be of any benefit to the one who utters them or to the one on whom they are being uttered. The most important of these is to abstain from backbiting others (likened to eating the flesh of your dead brother). If indeed you need to put your tongue to good use, then use it to utter praises of God, to alert someone who is at a risk of invalidating their fast, or simply to utter the words of the Holy Quran.
4) Fasting with the hands refers to our actions. For instance, if you are a trader, do not coax your customers by charging them more than they owe you. Do not have illegal or unlawful dealings which will generate incomes or livelihoods that are not clean or honest. Do not engage in violence of any form, but instead, use your hands in way of charity – to feed the poor, look after the needy and raise them in prayer to God.
5) Fasting with the feet ensures that we do not enter places where our fasts will be at a risk of being broken. Avoid places like discos and bars, casinos, brothels and any other places where we should not be during this Holy Month. Instead go visit the sick in the hospitals, or a relative that you may have not seen in a long time. Or simply take the opportunity to visit the mosque more frequently.
It should be noted that Allah has promised to reward the fasting Muslim manifold without measure.
May Allah grant us the courage and will power to be able to perform his obligations bestowed upon us without much difficulties.
It is my fervent hope and prayer that the spirit of Ramadan will usher in the much needed peace in all conflict areas in Syria, Yemen and the world at large.
May the Peace and Love of Allah be upon all Believers – Amen.