Islamic Perspectives

Ramadan is not hunger and thirst but for Achieving Righteousness

Crescent moon hails Ramadan, the ninth month in Islamic lunar calendar when fasting for the entire month is obligatory for every Muslim. Abstaining completely from foods, drinks, sex, smoking from the break of dawn till sunset during Ramadan is a test for every Muslim to win over sin and lustful desires. Holy Quran ordains, "O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those who were before you, in order that you may learn ‘taqwa’ (piety)" (Al-Baqarah2: 184).

‘Taqwa’ is a spiritual aspect in holy Quran, refers to a quality that keeps a believer aware of unseen Almighty all the time. In other word, it is attaining a state of righteousness and consciousness of Almighty. It needs utter patience to attain it. Fasting brings patience. Imam Al Ghazzali said, fasting produces a semblance of divine quality of ‘samadiyyah’ (freedom from want) in a human being.

Tarawih prayer at Great Mosque of Kairouan, Tunisia (Photo: Zied Nsir)

One of the five pillars of Islam viz.  Shahada (Faith), Salat (Prayer), Zakat (Charity), Sawm (Fasting) and Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca), fasting defines the moral and spiritual characteristic of Islam.

As a pre-Islamic tradition fasting existed in every human society and was observed basically as a symbol of sadness or atonement for the sins. In Judaism, fasting is observed on days of penitence or mourning. Roman Catholics observe fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Similarly Hindus too observe fast on Ekadasi, karwa chauth, Navaratri etc. Fasting is observed by other religions too. Islam radicalized fasting into an enlightened concept of triumph over the forces of evil by restraining oneself from human needs which are otherwise lawful for him. Emphasising the importance of fasting Bukhari hadith interprets, "When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained."

Islamic fasting is more than hunger and thirst; it is a month long holy health camp restraining oneself from evil. In other words, Ramadan is a month of self-regulation. Islamic scholar Marmaduke Pickthall said, “the fast of Ramadan, like all the rites and ceremonies of Islam, is disciplinary, not superstitious. It is absolutely meaningless without the thought which comes from our obedience, the thought of Allah”.

Fasting awakens the inner conscience of an individual and creates an inner control in the Muslim which raises him to the state of ‘ehsan’, meaning "perfection" or "excellence". It is a matter of taking one's inner faith (iman) and showing it in both deed and action. It is established in the hadith that angel Gabriel (or Jibril) asked the Prophet (PUBH): “Tell me about excellence in faith (ehsan).” He replied: “It is to worship Allah as though you see Him, and though you do not see Him, you know that He sees you.”

Apart from moral and spiritual aspects, researches have revealed that fast helps controls numerous illness like cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, asthma, digestive disorders, helps reducing thickening of blood and the formation of clots in the arteries what is medically known as ‘atheroma’. It helps to lead a healthy life.

Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) in this month, the reason why Ramadan is observed as holy month. As the Ramadan fast ends, first day of the next month of ‘Shawwal’ is “Eid-ul-Fitr”, the "festival of breaking the fast", one of the two most important Islamic celebrations. Eid is considered as reward by Allah for those who spent the entire Ramadan observing fasting and prayer. On this day people offers congregational prayer and enjoy feast with family and friends.

F. I. Choudhury is Advocate-on-Record, Supreme Court of India and can be reached at fichoudhury#gmail.com

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