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Published in the 16-31 Oct 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVES

Significance of fasting in Ramadan

By M. J. Mohamed Iqbal

The edifice of Islam is based on five pillars: lman (belief), Salah (prayer), Saum (fasting), Zakat (poor-due) and Haj (pilgrimage to Ka’bah). These five pillars, which constitute the fundamental principles of Islam embracing all the essential factors of ethical laws, evolve into a practical code of life for humanity. They are unique and unrivalled in their spirit and actions and redolent of a spiritual flair for mankind.

Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan is a religious obligation for all Muslims. The Holy Quran says: "O Believers, fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, so that you may attain piety" (Surah Al Baqarah:183).

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, rotates round all the seasons of the year and completes a full circle in 36 years, thus allowing the believers to observe fast ing under all climatic conditions.

Fasting means abstaining not only from eating, drinking and indulging in sexual activity with the spouse from pre-dawn to sunset, but from all kinds of evils and useless activities. In fact, it is the month of seeking Allah’s Pleasure and praying to Him for one’s Salvation.

Fasting is one of the duties not only to improve the moral and spiritual conditions of man but also to habituate him to suffer tribulations and hardship in life as well. Fasting provides the haves an opportunity to think of the haves-not. Hunger shapes man to the good side; hunger for long hours pulverises his carnal passions. And when he feels that he is refraining from the propitious at the behest of Allah Almighty, he is less and less inclined towards the appetite of the flesh and inordinate passions, making it easier for him to control the beast in him and bring his desires under the authority of reason.

During fasting, man is spiritually more refrained, enlightened and awakened towards nobler values of life. His spirit is activated and his soul is purified so much so that he can now much better understand the Glory of the Almighty, sacrifices of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) towards mankind, and the relationship between man and the Almighty.

The Holy Prophet (pbuh) said, "Verily fasting is a trust. Let each, therefore, take good care of his trust." He further said, "Fasting is a shield against sins. If one of you is fasting, he should avoid obscenity and quarrelling, and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say, “I am fasting'." The following incident will further highlight the utmost importance of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Once while mounting the mimber (pulpit) of his mosque for khutba (sermon), the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was heard saying "Aameen" on the first step of the mimber. He repeated the same act on the second and third steps. It was an unusual act for the Companions. After the Holy Prophet (pbuh) completed the khutba and prayer, the Companions requested him to explain his act so that they could also benefit from it. The Holy Prophet replied, "When I mounted the first step, Archangel Jibreel appeared and said ‘May the person be destroyed who got the month of Ramadan but did not secure forgiveness.’ Thereupon I said ‘Aameen'. When I mounted the second step, Jibreel said, 'May that person be destroyed who refrains from reciting salat (darood) when your name is mentioned in his presence'. Thereupon I said ‘Aameen'. And when I mounted the third step, Jibreel said ‘May that person be destroyed whose both parents or one parent happen to reach old age and he did not attain Allah's forgiveness (by serving them).’ Thereupon I said ‘Aameen'."

The Holy Prophet (pbuh), who has been praised by Almighty Allah as Rahmatul Lil Alameen (mercy to all the worlds) and as Raoof and Raheem (merciful and pitiful to believers) in Surah At-Taubah, has cursed those people who do not respect the sanctity of the holy month of Ramadan, respect and serve their parents and do not recite darood when the Holy Prophet's name is mentioned. It is worth-mentioning a Hadeeth here which says, "If my followers realize what Ramadan really is, they would wish that the whole year be Ramadan."

The Holy Prophet (pbuh) said: "Every good deed is rewarded from ten to seven hundred times over, but Allah says fasting is the exception; it is for Me, and my servant forgoes his eating and drinking for my sake, so I myself will reward my servant for it."

Hence people should realize the importance of this holy month and perform more prayers, do good deeds and win their salvation from Allah the Almighty. Let us receive the full benefits of this month by the grace of Almighty and the blessings of His Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
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