The blessed month of Ramadan is once again upon us and Muslims are obligated to fast from dawn to dusk for the entire month, except those who are old, travelling, ill or unable to fast. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and compulsory for every believing Muslim.
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.” (Quran 2: 183)
According to the Quran, fasting has been commanded to us as it was commanded to all other communities of faith before Islam so that we become God conscious. The purpose of fasting is to make you aware of the Lord and spirituality. There is no other experience like fasting. It not only recharges the spiritual batteries that get depleted through the year but also detoxifies the physical body. Ramadhan also teaches compassion for the poor and less- fortunate who do not have enough to eat.
But Ramadan is not only about giving up from food and water. It involves fasting of appetite, senses, mind, and heart. It includes abstaining from sexual activities, immoral acts and irresponsible acts like lying or hurting others. The ability to control one’s desire gives a person the willpower to resist temptation and remain disciplined by submitting one’s will to Allah. It requires a person to remain focused on Allah and spiritual matters. Ramadan is the perfect time to come close to Allah and to reconnect with Him.
[Also Read: Why to Perform Umrah in the Month of Ramadan]
The Relationship between Ramadan and Spirituality
The essence of Fasting in Ramadhan is summed up in the Quran in one word ‘Taqwa’ but, what is taqwa and how is it related to the physical act of fasting? It is a recurring theme in the Quran and of paramount importance in Islam. It is the attitude of human towards the divine and a process that is continuously evolving. ‘Taqwa’ denotes love and devotion to Allah and a fear of His wrath. Love is for the beauty and goodness that He has blessed on humankind; devotion to Allah’s boundless majesty and wisdom; and fear of failing to understand the divine message or maintaining the spiritual connection.
“It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards East or West: But it is righteousness to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, the Book, and the Messengers; to give out of the things you hold dear to your kin, the orphans, the needy, the wayfarer, the one who asks, and to free the slave. And to be steadfast in prayer and to give for charity. To fulfill the covenants you have made, and to be firm and patient in times of pain, adversity, and panic. Such are the people of truth, and such are the God-conscious.” (Qur’an 2:177)
Taqwa is not limited to the human spirit but reveals a person’s true character in the form of steadfastness to tell the difference between right and wrong, and in pursuing what is true and right. Quran reminds us again and again that religious practices should not be reduced to mere blind rituals but always be mindful that the aim of religious practices like praying and fasting is the ultimate moral and spiritual upliftment. Ramadan not only helps us in moral development but also reminds the plight of people who are underprivileged and live in hunger and deprivation. The holy book stresses the fact that religious practices are futile and meaningless if it does not lead believers to care for fellow humans.
“Have you seen one who belies judgment; it is the one who repulses the orphan, and does not insist on feeding the needy. So woe to those who pray but are neglectful of their prayers. Those who are guilty of duplicity and refuse to provide for the ones in need.” (Qur’an 107:1-7)
Importance of the Holy Month of Ramadan
Fasting in Ramadan like any other religious rituals in Islam is an occasion for pursuing moral uplifting and spiritual excellence. It is the time to remember Allah and renew your commitment to the divine message that He revealed to mankind. Only through introspecting and self-criticism, a believer can discover the inner depth and make positive changes.
Nafs is the root of all evil faculties like lust, anger, grudge, and ill-will toward a fellow human being. There is a continuous relationship between spirit and body. Whenever a person succumbs to his carnal desires and indulges in the worldly pleasures forbidden by the Allah Almighty, he exposes his heart and mind to sadness. Only by submitting one’s will to Allah through acts of worship and obedience to His commandments, can a person achieve true happiness and satisfaction. Human Nafs can be disciplined by fasting. Believers train their Nafs by forsaking food and water according to Allah’s will and obey Islamic teachings. If a person can give up halal things for Allah while fasting, he can easily refrain from the forbidden during the rest of the year.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) narrates that Allah says, “The Fast is for Me and I will give the reward for it, as he (the one who observes the fast) leaves his sexual desire, food, and drink for My Sake. Fasting is a screen (from Hell) and there are two pleasures for a fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord. And the smell of the mouth of a fasting person is better in God’s sight than the smell of musk.” (Bukhari, Sahih, Tawhid, 35).
Ramadan offers us an opportunity to exercise moral restraint for a positive spiritual growth. It helps us to realize that nothing could give us a sense of spiritual fulfilment than taqwa which can only be achieved by understanding the divine message and following it in day-to-day life. It provides us with an opportunity to stop and think, reflect back on our actions and make amendments. It is the perfect time to contemplate our lives in light of Islamic teachings, see this world and our purpose with a better understanding and clearer objectives. Some of the small sacrifices that we make on this journey will definitely allow us to come closer to Allah and reap greater rewards in the Hereafter. Aameen!