The Fasting of Ramadan: A Time for Thought, Action, and Change!
12 Reasons To Fast!
Fasting is an institution for the
improvement of moral and spiritual character of human being. The
purpose of the fast is to help develop self-restraint,
self-purification, God-consciousness, compassion, the spirit of caring
and sharing, the love of humanity and the love of God. Fasting is a
universal custom and is advocated by all the religions of the world,
with more restrictions in some than in others. The Islamic Fast, as
opposed to mere starvation or self-denial, is an act of worship and
obedience to God, thanksgiving, forgiveness, spiritual training, and
Ramadan gives us a break and
provides us with a rare opportunity to think about our own selves, our
future, and our families. It is a time to give our selves a mental break
and to temporarily forget about the hundreds of worries and stresses
we are constantly bombarded with. In hectic times, such as ours, and in
places like the West, this valuable time to think about our lives, on
individual basis, is a luxury and is desperately needed! It is a unique
month of self-analysis, and of taking stock of one's moral and
spiritual 'assets and liabilities'.
Fasting indoctrinates us in
patience, unselfishness, and gratitude. When we fast we feel the pains
of deprivation and hunger, and learn how to endure it patiently. The
meaning of this powerful experience in a social and humanitarian context
is that we are much quicker than anybody else in sympathizing with the
oppressed and needy around the world, and responding to their needs.
"It is the month to visit the poor, the sick, and the needy to share
their sorrows. It is the month where the food, sustenance and the
earnings of a believing Muslim increases and they are blessed," says
the Final Prophet of God, Muhammad (peace be upon him), a man who was
known for his noble humanitarian causes, for social justice, and for
being the first to respond to other's needs, despite the fact that he
himself lived a very simple and humble life. It is only during such a
trying time as Ramadan that we can reflect on the condition of those in
this world who may not be as fortunate as us.
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.
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.
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
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 leisure
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).
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.
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.
It makes us realize the reality
of life and death. Fasting makes us realize how dependant 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.
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.
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.