Ramadan The Fasting Month
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. It is during this month that Muslims observe the Fast of Ramadan. Lasting for the entire month, Muslims fast during the daylight hours and in the evening eat small meals. Ramadan is considered as an honorable guest. A guest that visits us once a year and brings with it all sorts of goodness and happiness. A guest that brings with it the wide Mercy and Forgiveness of Allah. A guest that takes the believer closer to Allah and away from the devil and Hell Fire. We are advised in our merciful religion of Islam to be kind and generous towards the guest, so what if the guest is the best of guests over the year? It is from the immense mercy of Allah upon His slaves that He made them Muslims and believers and that He extended their lives till they reached Ramadan. It is reported that the companions of the Prophet Muhammad: (Peace and Blessing o f Allah be upon him) used to pray to Allah during the six months before Ramadan to extend their lives so, that they can fast Ramadan, and in the 6 months after Ramadan they would ask Allah to accept their fasting of Ramadan. Therefore, we have to be thankful to Allah that He allowed us to witness this Ramadan, so let us please Him during this month. Allah’s Messenger (Peace and Blessing of Allah be upon him) Used to give glad tidings to his companions of the approach of the month of Ramadan. He would inform them of it being a month, in which the gates of mercy and the gates of paradise are opened, the gates of Hell Fire are locked and the devils are chained. This huge blessing is detailed beautifully in this hadeeth.
Ramadan is the month of goodness and blessing during which Muslims become more inclined towards the worship of Allah. They pay greater attention to the recitation of the Qur’an, remembrance of Allah and seeking pardon for sins. Ramadan is distinguished from other months due to its many virtues. Amongst them is that: During the blessed month of Ramadan, Allah the Mighty sent down the Qur’an as a guide for people and a cure for the believers. Allah the Most High said: ‘the month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong)’. (Al-Baqarah,Verse: 185) The month of Ramadan is also distinguished by Lailatul Qadr (The Night of Decree). It is the most excellent night of the whole year. In this blessed night, the Mighty Qur’an was sent down.This night is a blessed night and as regards its excellence it is better than a thousand months.
Characteristics of Fasting
Fasting is another unique moral and spiritual characteristic of Islam.The Arabic word ‘sawm’ is used for fasting. The term ‘to fast’ literary means ‘to refrain’ i.e. Absolute abstention and self-restraint. Al-Qur’an uses the word generally when Mary, the mother of Jesus (Peace be upon them), has been instructed by Allah the Most High to say:
‘ Verily; 1 have vowed a fast unto the Most Beneficent (Allah) so I shall not speak to any human being this day \(Maryam,Verse: 26)
According to Shariah (Islamic legislation) fasting means abstention from drinking, eating and restraint of the sexual intercourse and the like, as a form of worship to Allah, being from dawn to sunset. Allah the Most High said:
‘Eat and drink until the white thread becomes distinct to you from the black thread of the dawn. Then strictly observe the fast until nightfalV. (Al-Baqarah,Verse: 187]
Even though from dawn to sunset, Muslims abstain from food, drink and all sensual pleasures, that doesn’t mean food or sexual relations are entirely out of the picture.Two main meals are taken each day during Ramadan.The Suhoor (pre-dawn meal taken each day) and the Iftar (i.e. main meal taken after sunset). A man can also practise sexual intercourse with his wife during the nights Of Ramadan.
Although the definition indicates restraining the stomach and private parts from whatever nullifies the fast, other body parts such as tongue, eyes, ears, etc are equally obligated to be restrained. The most significant aspect of fasting is the development of Allah-consciousness (Taqwa) in the heart and the soul of a fasting person. One must abstain from immoral behaviour and attitude as well. Refraining from food and such is essential during fast but it is not sufficient.
T he Underlying Principles of Fasting
Why do Muslims fast?
There are many reasons why people do fast, depending upon the social, cultural, religious, and economic understanding of the people or the individuals. Some of the reasons why people do fast can be: to lose weight, to lower blood pressure, to cut down on smoking, to digest food better, to learn better eating habits, to share with the hungry, to call attention to political or social issues and so on. However, Muslims fast as a religious obligation upon them, so as to gain the pleasure of Allah the Most High and to earn His blessings and rewards.
The reason Muslims fast can be found directly in the Qur’an and the Sayings of Allah’s Messenger (Peace and Blessing o f Allah be upon him) The divine purpose of fasting is to develop righteousness and to attain a spiritual state of mind where it turns towards Allah for the whole day Another purpose is to train self-discipline and an exercise in patience and endurance. A person who observes fast becomes the master of his/her desires instead of a slave to them, thus making one feel closer to Allah because He only knows whether a person is fasting or not. Therefore it is a test as to whether one wants to please Allah or not. Fasting provides a direct communication between the slaves and the Creator (Allah the Lord of the heavens and the earth and whatever exists). It is an act of worship that enriches self-worth, self-strength, self-discipline and control. It moves the believers from an unauthentic to an authentic environment that enriches their vital needs of physical and spiritual. It makes us forget about our beginning, it awakens the mind and hearts thinking and being conscious of Allah. Fasting has also social benefits. Fasting gives the Muslims a feeling of brotherhood in practice. It draws them closer together and fills their hearts with love and affection.
Fasting brings passion under control. Passion is the root of all evils, and this can be regulated by the method of fasting. Allah the Most High created man and his passion; He knows the best medicine for passion and therefore prescribed fasting. There are several sayings of the Prophet (Peace and Blessing o f Allah be upon him) relating to the virtues and merits, which a man receives from Allah by fasting in the month of Ramadan. In this month, the doors of mercy, forgiveness and kindness are specially opened and the doors of punishments are closed.
General Recommendations of Fasting
Ramadan comes with blessings to the Muslims. The reports from the Qur’an and the Sunnah (tradition reports of the Prophet) encourage an increase in action to get reward as we fast out of gratefulness to Allah. There are a number of spiritual behaviors that should be practiced during Ramadan. These are observed in accordance with the instruction of Allah the Most High and Strongly recommended by the Prophet (Peace and Blessing o f Allah be upon him) , his companions (may Allah be p leased with them ) and Muslim scholars. Practicing and applying these principles, rules and behaviors helps the person maximize the physical as well as spiritual benefits of fasting. In general, performing deeds, which are from the Sunnah carry with them extra blessings. Now, when we combine these deeds with the uniqueness of the month of Ramadan, the rewards are unimaginable. It is strongly recommended by Prophet (Peace and Blessing o f Allah be upon him) to observe these general practices especially during Ramadan:
1 Having Pre-Dawn meal (Suhoor)
Suhoor is the eating and drinking at the end of the night with the intention of fasting. It is strongly emphasized and highly recommended by the Messenger of Allah (Peace and Blessing of Allah be upon him). He (Peace and Blessing of Allah be upon him) ordered for one intending to fast, that he should partake of the Suhoor.
2 Merits/Values of Suhoor
Warning for those who do not Fast during Ramadan
Allah the Almighty has constructed the universe upon a certain balance and has likewise ordered this balance upon humanity. The great religion of Islam offers perfect guidance for every branch of our lives. It offers a programmed of action for everything that it prescribes. The primary objectives of Salah, Zakah and Fasting are to bring us closer to Allah and inculcate taqwa (piety and self restraint) within us. But the fact is that when Islam is taken as a unitary whole and its entire programmed implemented, each of its pillars reinforces the other and serves multiple purposes. Fasting in Ramadan is a part of the broader programmer that Islam prescribes for man to fulfils his moral and spiritual destiny in this world and in the Hereafter. It is a special worship designed to develop in man the ability to exercise self-restraint and patience for the pleasure of Allah the Most High.
Thus, denying or ignoring fasting excludes a person from the fold of Islam. Ibn Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that: Allah’s Messenger (Peace and Blessing of Allah be upon him) S a id :
“The roots of Islam and the foundations of the Deen (religion) are three, upon them Islam is built, whoever leaves one of them has disbelieved in them and his blood is lawful: Testifying that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah, the prescribed prayers, and fasting in Ramadan.” (AbuYa’la, Ad Daylami, and verified by Ad Dhahabi)Ad Dhahabi said: With the believers it is agreed that whoever leaves a fast in Ramadan without sickness he is worse than the adulterer and the addicted drinker. In fact the believers have doubt about his Islam.
That is not all about Ramadan