Are we ready to take lessons Ramadan offer us?
Ramadan, the 9th and most precious month in Arabic calendar is knocking at the door. This is the month of spiritual reflection, self-improvement, heightened devotion and worship for all the Muslims around the world. In fact, Ramadan is not merely about fasting but something beyond starving, because it opens a galaxy of avenues for us to establish a better society if we can capitalize properly. It teaches you to be nice with everyone regardless the circumstances.
During this holy month, fasting, abstaining from drinking and eating from dawn until dusk is obligatory for all Muslims. As we can see from the following verse of the Holy Quran: "O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn piety and righteousness" (Quran, 2:183). In fact, fasting also includes refraining from drinking, eating and all immoral acts. Plus, sharing foods with all others of the community and inviting guests over for iftar are all practices inspired by the Islamic faith.
Although Islam prescribes fasting for all Muslim adults because it is a religion that wishes for every Muslim to attain spiritual heights and be recipient of the Grace of God, fasting is not mandatory on those for whom it would constitute a difficulty. For instance, people who are sick or traveling can postpone their fast until their illness or journey is over. The elderly, the weak, the mentally ill and those who have a chronic illness that prevents them from fasting, are all exempted during Ramadan. They may feed a needy person for every missed day, if they can afford to do so.
This holy month and fasting offer a galaxy of priceless gifts to the entire Muslim communities. One very crucial aspect of this month is that the Holy Quran was first revealed in this month as a guide to humankind. Allah (SWT) says, "Ramadan is the (month) in which the Quran was sent down, as a guide to mankind, also Clear (Signs) for guidance and the differentiation (between right and wrong)" (Quran, 2:185). So, reciting the holy Quran is one of the best things to do in this month. It is also recommended to give Zakat (charity) in the month of Ramadan.
The Night of Decree (Laylat al- Qadr) has made this month more valuable than any other months. This night is the prized jewel of Ramadan. As Allah says, "The Night of Al-Qadr is better than a thousand months. Therein descend the angels and the Rooh [Jibreel (Gabriel)] by Allaah's Permission with all Decrees, there is peace until the appearance of dawn." --(Quan, 97:3-5)
Narrated `Aisha: Allah's Messenger (pbuh) used to practice I`tikaf in the last ten nights of Ramadan and used to say, "Look for the Night of Qadr in the last ten nights of the month of Ramadan." [Sahih al-Bukhari Book-32 Hadith-7] Muslims tend to spend this night in prayer and meditation; to make dua and to seek forgiveness for past sins. There is salvation in this night; a chance to cleansed of all sins and reborn again.
It's a month of seeking and gaining forgiveness from the Almighty Allah. Abu Hurairah said: "The Messenger of Allah said: 'Whoever fasts Ramadan out of faith and in the hope of reward, he will be forgiven his previous sins." [Sunan an-Nasa'i Book-22 Hadith-116] Beyond doubt, prudent people will be eying at winning forgiveness from God, purifying their characters so that they can make themselves unblemished.
Is fasting really essential to beautify our lives? It really is because fasting helps to attain Taqwa (righteousness). Taqwa is such a feeling by which a person learns to realize that he or she is always in front of Allah (SWT) which, in turn, helps him/her to abandon activities that are not morally right or justifiable, and things that are prohibited by the creator.
Undoubtedly, by fasting, Muslims can receive this unique lesson. For example, no matter how cranky or irritated a fasting person feels s/he will never have breakfast even if she/he is in isololation and a variety of scrumptious foods are available around. It's simply because of a fear of accountability that keeps him/her away from all immoral acts e.g. stealing, falsehood, misbehavior, backbiting, murder and usurping others' land, is known as Taqwa. Thus, fasting provides us a thorough training of establishing a better society by possessing strong ethics.
Moreover, fasting builds endurance. As the lunar year continually shifts, Muslims encounter Ramadan in varying seasons - from the sluggishly long summer days to the short, crisp wintry weeks. Muslims of all walks of life manage their work duties irrespective of the weather and the fast, although often on a shortened schedule; this includes professionals as well as manual workers such as peddlers and day laborers.
Sawm (fasting) is important for Muslims due to other vital reasons: it brings the unity among the "ummah" because Muslims go to offer Tarawih prayer after iftar at the Mosque together; it allows us to appreciate food, thank God for what we have and makes them closer to each other and the people around us. Admittedly, unity and gratitude are traits that make people achieve more and turn into better humans.
Fasting is intended to instill self-discipline, empathy and compassion in the individuals. Charity and generosity is especially urged during Ramadan. We learn to give, and not to take. Basically, it is highly recommended to give Zakat (obligatory tax/donation - 2.5% of wealth/savings/assets) and Sadaqah (voluntary charity) in the Ramadaan. Thus, the deprivation of fasting makes us sympathise with the suffering of others, and it makes us remember the blessings of life which we normally take for granted.
However, some might question the benefits of fasting apart from spiritual blessings. Science and medicine today have all but confirmed that there are numerous health benefits to fasting for a month in a year. It is a great way to cleanse the stomach and also has many health benefits for the brain. Prominant German Physician Dr. Helmut Lutjanar says, "The best and simplest way to get rid of toxic material amassed in human body throughout the year is observing fast." According to a research conducted by Harvard Medical School, "Fasting helps to lose weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and prevent diabetes and boost brain function"
As it stands now, offering tremendous benefits like righteousness, patience, generosity, equality, empathy and self-control, Ramadan has become a rewarding month for us. Notably, fasting is multidimensional - along with the physical aspects of fasting, one must nurture the social and spiritual elements as well in order to fully benefit from fasting. So, let us be committed to making the most of this month and applying the lessons learned from this priceless month to our everyday life even in subsequent months of the year to bring about self-improvement. May Allah make us capable of fasting in its true spirit. Ameen!
Mahde Hassan is pursuing B.A in
English at East West University