The Fast­ing of Ra­madan: A Time for Thought, Ac­tion, and Change!

The Miracle - - Faith - By: Taha Ghayyur, Taha Ghaz­navi

Fast­ing in Ra­madan de­vel­ops in a per­son the real spirit of so­cial be­long­ing, of unity and brother­hood, and of equal­ity be­fore God. This spirit is the nat­u­ral prod­uct of the fact that when peo­ple fast they feel that they are join­ing the whole Mus­lim so­ci­ety (which makes up more than one fifth of world’s pop­u­la­tion) in ob­serv­ing the same duty, in the same man­ner, at the same time, for the same mo­tives, and for the same end. No so­ci­ol­o­gist or his­to­rian can say that there has been at any pe­riod of his­tory any­thing com­pa­ra­ble to this pow­er­ful in­sti­tu­tion of Is­lam: Fast­ing in the month of Ra­madan. Peo­ple have been cry­ing through­out the ages for ac­cept­able ‘ be­long­ing’, for unity, for brother­hood, for equal­ity, but how ec­ho­less their voices have been, and how very lit­tle suc­cess they have met...” says Ham­mu­dah Ab­dalati, in Is­lam in Fo­cus. “What is fast­ing?” “How does the fast­ing of Mus­lims in Ra­madan dif­fer from the fast­ing of other faiths?” “Why should one ‘tor­ture’ one’s body in the first place?” “What do you re­ally gain from fast­ing in the end?”...These are a few ques­tions that a num­ber of non-Mus­lim friends and col­leagues of­ten ask us, usu­ally out of fas­ci­na­tion with this spir­i­tu­ally-up­lift­ing prac­tice of Is­lamic faith, and at times out of pity and sym­pa­thy for us, thinking, why should any­one suf­fer from hunger and thirst like Mus­lims? I wouldn’t be sur­prised if many of us shared the same neg­a­tive per­cep­tion of Fast­ing. It is im­por­tant to note that Fast­ing in Ara­bic is called, “Sawm”, which lit­er­ally means ‘to be at rest’. Fast­ing in the month of Ra­madan (the 9th month of the Is­lamic lu­nar cal­en­dar) is one of the Five Pil­lars upon which the “house” of Is­lam is built. Dur­ing this month, ev­ery able-bod­ied Mus­lim, is re­quired to fast, ev­ery­day from dawn un­til dusk

De­velop Adapt­abil­ity

Fast­ing in Ra­madan en­ables us to mas­ter the art of ma­ture adapt­abil­ity and Time-Man­age­ment. We can eas­ily un­der­stand this point when we re­al­ize that fast­ing makes peo­ple change the en­tire course of their daily life. When they make the change, they nat­u­rally adapt themselves to a new sys­tem and sched­ule, and move along to sat­isfy the rules. This, in the long run, de­vel­ops in them a wise sense of adapt­abil­ity and self-cre­ated power to over­come the un­pre­dictable hard­ships of life! A per­son who val­ues con­struc­tive adapt­abil­ity, time-man­age­ment, and courage will ap­pre­ci­ate the ef­fects of Fast­ing in this re­spect as well.

Cul­ti­vates Love

It cul­ti­vates in us the prin­ci­ple of sin­cere Love, be­cause when we ob­serve Fast­ing, we do it out of deep love for God. And a per­son, who loves God, truly is a per­son who knows what love is and why ev­ery­one on this Earth should be loved and treated justly, for the sake of God.

El­e­vates the Spirit

Fast­ing el­e­vates the hu­man spirit and in­creases our aware­ness of God. It strength­ens our will-power as we learn to rise above our lower de­sires. The in­sti­tu­tion of fast­ing is both unique and a shared ex­pe­ri­ence in hu­man his­tory. From the very be­gin­ning of time, hu­mans have strug­gled to mas­ter their phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal selves: their bod­ies and their emo­tions. Hunger is one the most pow­er­ful urges that we ex­pe­ri­ence. Many, through over- or un­der-eat­ing or con­sump­tion of un­healthy foods, abuse this urge. Thus, when a per­son pur­pose­fully de­nies some­thing to their own self that it craves, they are el­e­vat­ing their mind above their body, and their rea­son and will above their car­nal pas­sions. “A fast­ing per­son emp­ties his stom­ach of all the ma­te­rial things: to fill his soul with peace and bless­ings, to fill his heart with love and sym­pa­thy, to fill his spirit with piety and Faith, to fill his mind with wis­dom and res­o­lu­tion,” says H. Ab­dalati in Is­lam in Fo­cus. The per­son who can rule their de­sires and make them work, as they like, has at­tained true moral ex­cel­lence.

De­vel­ops Clar­ity of Mind

With the clar­ity of mind and ab­sence of dis­trac­tions, also comes a greater fo­cus. As stu­dents, the pe­riod of fast­ing, es­pe­cially early dur­ing the day, serves as a tool to fo­cus our minds on our aca­demics. In the month of Ra­madan, many Mus­lims try to avoid watch­ing TV, lis­ten­ing to mu­sic, and some other lei-

sure ac­tiv­i­ties, which spares them more time and en­ergy to be spent on more pro­duc­tive ac­tiv­i­ties such as aca­demics, in­tense study of Is­lam, vol­un­tary prayers, so­cial and hu­man­i­tar­ian causes, and a qual­ity time with the fam­ily, to name a few. It is a re­minder of our duty to God, our pur­pose and higher val­ues in life, as God Him­self de­scribes the pur­pose of fast­ing as fol­lows, “O you who Be­lieve! Fast­ing has been pre­scribed for you as it was pre­scribed for those be­fore you, so that you may de­velop con­scious­ness of God” (Qu­ran 2:183).

De­vel­ops a Healthy Life­style

Fast­ing has nu­mer­ous, sci­en­tif­i­cally proven, ben­e­fits for our phys­i­cal health and mental well-be­ing. The time, length and na­ture of the Is­lamic Fast all con­trib­ute to its over­all pos­i­tive ef­fect. One of the med­i­cal ben­e­fits is a much-needed rest to the di­ges­tive sys­tem. The re­duced food in­take dur­ing the day al­lows the body to con­cen­trate on get­ting rid of harm­ful di­etary tox­ins ac­cu­mu­lated as nat­u­ral by-prod­ucts of food di­ges­tion through­out the year. The length of the Is­lamic Fast it­self (around 12-14 hours) is in

sync with the ‘tran­sit time’ of food from the mouth to the colon of the large in­tes­tine, en­sur­ing that no stim­u­lus reaches the stom­ach or di­ges­tive sys­tem while it re­mains in home­osta­sis. There­fore, for the vast ma­jor­ity of healthy in­di­vid­u­als fast­ing poses no med­i­cal risks but in fact pro­vides many health ben­e­fits, such as: an in­crease in serum Mag­ne­sium, es­sen­tial for car­dio-vas­cu­lar health and preven­tion of heart com­pli­ca­tions; im­prove­ment in the qual­ity and depth of sleep; im­prove­ment in mem­ory and slower skin ag­ing over time; in­creased pro­duc­tion of growth hor­mone, etc. Also, as a gen­eral note, it has been ob­served that un­der­fed an­i­mals live longer than their heav­ily fed coun­ter­parts and suf­fer fewer ill­nesses dur­ing their lives.

Moral Train­ing

The month of Ra­madan pro­vides us with a sort of “Boot camp.” It is a month of in­tense moral train­ing. Since we know that Fast­ing is a spe­cial duty pre­scribed by God, we learn that any sins may spoil our record of fast­ing with God, so we go through great lengths mak­ing sure we are on our best be­hav­ior. Many peo­ple who ex­pe­ri­ence fast­ing in this month, feel the im­pact that this in­tense train­ing has on their habits, and re­al­ize the power of this trans­for­ma­tive tool de­signed to make us bet­ter hu­man be­ings- the ul­ti­mate goal of any spir­i­tual ex­er­cise. The en­tire Ra­madan at­mos­phere pro­vides the driv­ing force for this pos­i­tive change.

Con­scious­ness of Life & Death

It makes us re­al­ize the re­al­ity of life and death. Fast­ing makes us re­al­ize how de­pen­dent our lives are on things that we of­ten take for granted, such as food and wa­ter. It makes us think about our de­pen­dence on God and God’s mercy and jus­tice. More­over, it re­minds us of the life af­ter death, which it­self has a great im­pact on our char­ac­ter and our world-view.

Con­nec­tion to the Qu­ran

Ra­madan is a blessed month for a spe­cial rea­son: It is ac­tu­ally the month in which God first re­vealed His fi­nal mes­sage and guid­ance for mankind to our beloved Prophet Muham­mad. This mes­sage has been per­fectly pre­served both orally and tex­tu­ally in the form of a Book, called the Qur’an (The Read­ing/Recital). There­fore, Mus­lims try to do an in­tense study of the Qu­ran in this month es­pe­cially, and eval­u­ate their lives ac­cord­ing to the stan­dards and guid­ance con­tained in it.

A time to Cel­e­brate

Af­ter the month of Ra­madan is over, Mus­lims cel­e­brate one of the two most im­por­tant hol­i­days in the Is­lamic year: EID-UL-FITR, or the Fes­ti­val of the Fast Break­ing. It is a day to thank God for the blessing and train­ing that He pro­vides us with through­out the month of Ra­madan. EID-UL-FITR is marked by pray­ing in a huge con­gre­ga­tion at an Is­lamic cen­ter or mosque, and by giv­ing a small do­na­tion to the poor in the com­mu­nity. The adults give the do­na­tion on be­half of their chil­dren as well. Din­ner par­ties, fam­ily out­ings, fairs, car­ni­vals, and great joy­ous cel­e­bra­tions fol­low the prayer and char­ity. In a nut­shell, even though the real pur­pose of the dy­namic in­sti­tu­tion of Fast­ing is to dis­ci­pline our soul and moral be­hav­ior, and to de­velop sym­pa­thy for the less for­tu­nate, it is a multi-func­tional and a com­pre­hen­sive tool of change in var­i­ous spheres of our lives, in­clud­ing: so­cial and eco­nomic, in­tel­lec­tual and hu­man­i­tar­ian, spir­i­tual and phys­i­cal, pri­vate and pub­lic, per­sonal and com­mon, in­ner and outer ---all in one! Source: The Medium http://www.is­lamicity.org

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