Ramadan- A General Perspective

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by: Mohd. Nasir Ahmed
Ramadan (Sawm) is one of the five pillars of Islam and the ninth month ofthe Muslim calendar. The meaning of Sawm is to ‘abstain’. In this month,Allah SubhanaWaTaala (SWT) has made it compulsory that the fastingbe observed by day, and he has made the ‘Taraweeh’ (Ramadan nightlyprayer) a ‘Sunnah’. Fasting is to abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, saying, looking, listening bad things andconjugal relations from dawn till sunset. The goal of fasting is to develop self-restrain (Taqwa).

Ramadan is an annual training programme to refresh us for carrying outour duties towards Allah (SWT). Fasting develops self-control and helps usto overcome selfishness, greed, laziness and other faults. This month ofpatience gives us an opportunity to experience for ourselves what it is liketo have an empty stomach. This develops our feeling for the poor andhungry people. Fasting teaches us to control the love of comfort.

If difficulty is experienced in fasting, one should bear it cheerfully and notcomplain. Should we feel fatigued at the time of Taraweeh (Ramadan nightlyprayer), this too should be borne with fortitude.It should also be borne in mind that fasting does not aim at inflictingpunishment upon people or taking on unbearable burdens. The underlyingidea behind it is to teach moderation and spiritual discipline so that humantemptations may not become so wild and uncontrollable as to flout thecommands of the Great Master. To be a true servant of Allah (SWT), it isessential that man should be able to conform his behavior to the moral andspiritual discipline embodied in the Shari’ah of Islam. Fasting isindispensable for this moral and spiritual training.The Prophet (pbuh) said, “When the month of Ramadan starts, thegates of mercy are opened and the gates of Hell are locked and thedevils are chained”. (Sahih Muslim, Book 006, Number 2361)

The hadith (sayings of prophet) below gives some very important points regarding Ramadan:The Prophet (pbuh) said “Fasting is a shield or protection from the fireand from committing sins. If one is fasting, he should avoid sexualrelation with his wife and quarrelling, and if somebody should fight orquarrel with him, he should say, ‘I am fasting.’ There are two pleasuresfor the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and other atthe time when he will meet Allah; then he will be pleased because ofhis fasting.” (SahihBukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 128)

In this month, the rebellious ‘Shayateen’ (Satans) are chained, so as not toprovoke those evils which they normally do during months other thanRamadan. A question may arise here that, when the ‘Shayateen’ arechained, how it is that we still do see evil committed? The reply is that evilmay not necessarily be caused by the rebellious ‘Shayateen’. People havefor eleven months lived in obedience to ‘Shayateen’ whims and wishes, andso performing evil deeds instigated by them becomes second nature.Consequently, evil is being done in and out of Ramadan.Therefore the feelings and lessons we experience should stay with usthroughout the year. In Al-Qur’an, Muslims are commanded to fast so thatthey may “become pious”. This piety and devotion is especially felt duringRamadan, but we all must strive to make the feelings and attitude stay withus during our “normal” lives. That is the true goal and test of Ramadan.

Fasting is the way to piety and the fear of God. Fasting narrows the food andblood arteries. They are known to be canals of the devils, hence fastingreduces their insinuation. It further weakens carnal desires, thoughts andtemptations of disobedience.Fasting enhances bodily health. It gets rid of contaminated matter, eases thestomach, purifies the blood, eases the working of the heart, brightens thespirit, refines the soul and disciplines the character. When an individual fasts,his soul is humbled and his carnal desires are dispelled. There is a greatreward for fasting, as it shows a Muslim obeying Allah (SWT) and submittingto His command.

According Dr. Jack Goldstein author of the book “Triumph over Disease by Fasting and Natural Diet” says that “Fasting give vital organ a complete rest, promotes elimination of metabolic wastes, allows the body to adjust and normalize its bio-chemistry and also its secretion, lets the body break down and absorb swellings, deposits, diseased tissues, and abnormal growth; restores a youthful condition to cells and tissues, increases the power of digestion and assimilation and permits the conservation and re-routing of energy; it clears and strengthens the minds”.

Fasting in Ramadan is not merely physically restraining from the obvious foodand drink, but the total commitment of the servant’s body and soul to the letterand spirit of fasting.
1) The fast of the self means to be free from all carnal desires.
2) The fast of mind is avoiding thoughts about things other than Allah (SWT).
3) The fast of the hand is not touching/taking what does not belong to it.
4) The fast of the nose means not sniffing or smelling unlawful things.
5) The fast of the feet is not going places where sinful acts are propagated.
6) The fast of the eye is to prevent it from seeing forbidden things.
Allah (SWT) says in Al-Qur’an, “Tell the believing men to lower theirgaze and be mindful of their chastity; this will be most conducive totheir purity. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and bemindful of their chastity, and not display their charms (in public) beyondwhat may (decently) be apparent thereof, hence let them draw theirhead-covering over their bosoms”. (Al-Qur’an 24:30-31)
7) The fast of the tongue is guarding against lying, backbiting, slandering,reviling, abusing others, cursing, indecent conversation, swearing and falseevidence. The Prophet (pbuh) said: “A Muslim is he from whose tongue andhands other Muslims are safe”.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “”Whoever does not give up forged speechand evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink(i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)”(SahihBukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 127)
8) The fast of the ears is not to listen to idle talk, gossip, lyrics and notes thatcontain obscene and indecent things. Listening to Al-Qur’an bears the fruit offaith, guidance, light and prosperity. It fills the heart with wisdom, tranquility,intimacy and contentment. It is a source of protection from the dangerous,deviant and sinful thoughts.
9) The fast of the heart means casting out from it the love of worldly thingsand by emptying it of all corrupt material such as, false beliefs, evilsuggestions, filthy intentions and degenerate thoughts.

The Prophet (pbuh) said: “There is a piece of flesh in the body if itbecomes good (reformed) the whole body becomes good but if it getsspoilt the whole body gets spoilt and that is the heart.”(SahihBukhari, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 49)

The believer’s heart abstains from pride and egotism as these traits breaks itsfast. Egotism is when the individual sees himself as perfect as and better thanothers. The cure for this self-importance is to look at one’s faults and shortcomings,thousands of sins and misdeeds that one has committed, wrongs thatone has done and forgotten, but knowledge of which are with Allah (SWT).

Allah (SWT) says in Al-Qur’an, “do they, perchance, envy other people forwhat God has granted them out of his bounty?” (Al-Qur’an 4:54)

The heart of the believer fasts and abstains from envy as envy lowersrighteous deeds and stops its progress toward Allah (SWT).

Fasting and healing
Studies are being conducted to treat serious illnesses like osteo-or rheumatoid arthritis or asthma utilizing fasting for a short duration of a few days to medically supervised water (only fasts of 30 days) to help the body heal itself. It has been known that both children and animals refuse to eat when sick as a natural response. The severely sick have no appetite, but they take the food only at the urging of the family members.

The severely sick feel no hunger because food in severe sickness intervenes with natural response. The body is always trying to heal itself. When the patient is resting and consuming water only, the body heals itself and fasting acts as a facilitating process. One can get rid of coffee, cigarettes salty or sugary foods, which are addictive, through fasting, as fasting can help clear the taste buds and healthful foods start to taste better again. However insulin-dependent diabetics should not fast because of ketosis in patients with insulin-dependent diabetes, who cannot break down the ketones and use them as fuel. Healthy people use the ketones (by-products of fat metabolism) to maintain energy. (To conserve the glycogen stores, glucose becomes restricted to the central nervous system, mainly the brain. Instead of taking the glucose from the brain, the body begins breaking down the fatty acids in adipose (fatty) tissue). People with non-insulin-dependent diabetes (the majority of people who have diabetes) can improve their health through fasting.

Fasting helps cardiovascular disease, arthritis, asthma, non-insulin-dependent diabetes, ulcers, and digestive disorders, lupus, skin problems (including cysts, tumors and kidney stones). Even quitting smoking and obesity respond favourably to fasting.

Hence fasting during the month of Ramadan does not cause any adverse medical effects, on the other hand may have some beneficial effects on weight and lipid metabolism.

Charity in Ramadan
It is reported that “The Prophet (pbuh) was naturally the most generous of people and he used to be more generous than ever in the month of Ramadan”. (SahihBukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 126)

Allah (SWT) has given you, so Muslims should try to give generously in Ramadan, both Sadaqah (optional charity) and Zakaah (obligatory charity). Every time a servant of Allah (SWT) gives something in charity Allah (SWT) eases his physical, spiritual and mental conditions. He expands for him His sustenance. Sadaqah does not only have to be money. It can also be a good deed—such as helping another person—done for the sake of Allah (SWT) and without expecting any reward from the person. Even a smile is considered charity in Islam. Most Muslims pay their Zakaah during Ramadan because the reward is so much greater in that month. Wealth is like water, if its flow is obstructed it becomes brackish, and if it flows, it becomes sweet and fresh. The Prophet (pbuh) said “This is the month of charity in which believer’ssustenance is increased. Whosoever feeds a fasting person or gives afasting person a single date or a sip of water, to break the fast, for himthere shall be forgiveness of his sins and he will be saved from the fire ofhell, and for him shall be the same reward as for him (whom he fed)”.(Tirmidhi Hadith 1965)

In conclusion, this is what I was able to write about issues concerning fasting. I ask Allaah to help us to remember Him, thank Him and worship Him properly, and to conclude our Ramadan with forgiveness, and to save us from the Fire. May Allaah bless our Prophet Muhammad, and his family and companions, and grant them peace.

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