Once again Ramadan is around the corner. According to my Islamic calendar, Ramadan 2018 will begin soon on the evening of Tuesday, 15 May and ends on the evening of Thursday, 14 June. Dates may vary though, but just like you, I can’t wait to see this beautiful month once again. That’s why I wrote this little article titled “why do Muslims fast during Ramadan”. It is important for the world to know why we Muslims are dying to see this blessed month, why we fast, and why it is Holy.
2018 Islamic calendar
Every year the month of Ramadan comes and goes; every year we fast, yet without proper appreciation of the potentials of character building that the fasting hold for us.
We find ourselves as spiritually backward after the fast is over. Still the same as when the month began. In fact, our lack of knowledge and understanding of the real reason of fasting often tends to produce an adverse effect in us, for, as is well known, the best of medicines could have ill effects if not taken in accordance with the physician’s directives and instructions.
Therefore it is, that the fast tends to make many of us quick-tempered, while the fast was in fact meant to mellow us into exhibiting the finer tracts of human character as illustrated by our Imams.
In the spheres of life, our attitude to fasting ought indeed to be radically changed. We ought to welcome fasting as a practical means of reforming ourselves rather than nearly consider it as an inevitable religious bondage, and eagerly waiting to free ourselves from it to resume our shabby ways of life.
Fasting, besides being a means to acquire the pleasure of Allah, for which all acts of devotion are basically meant, fasting could be used as a stepping stone to build up the various traits of character in accordance with the clear injunctions of the Qur’an.
In the hurry and bustle of the present day life, man often finds himself ill-equipped to battle through life’s odds if he is not equipped with the proper attitude to face the various problems. While we find ourselves frustrated or look to other directions in such difficulties, we have most unfortunately overlooked the character building force that the fasts provide us every year.
Ramadan is a month of fasting and prayers for the Muslims. The fast consists of total abstinence from food and drinks from dawn to dusk. There is, however, a greater significance to fasting than mere abstinence from eating and drinking.
The real objective of fasts is to inculcate in man the spirit of abstinence from sins, and cultivation of virtue. Thus the Qur’an declares that fasting has been prescribed with a view to developing piety in man.
How are the many facets of piety sought to be cultivated through fasts? This article tries to list as concisely as possible; the various benefits fasting would confer upon Muslims, these benefits should give you a reason to take it seriously.
Why Muslims fast
- To come closer to Allah
- As a tool for testing man
Creating the conditions of hunger and thirst for oneself, simply in obedience to the Divine order, measures the faith of man in Allah and helps strengthen it by putting it to a severe test.
- To recognize the bounty of Allah
Fasting enhances through the creation of artificial non-availability, the value of the bounties of Allah which man often takes for granted. This inculcates in man a spirit of gratitude and consequent devotion to Allah.
Nothing else can bring home to a man the worth of Allah’s bounties than a glass of water and a square meal after a daylong fast. This also reminds man that the real joy in enjoying Allah’s bounties lies in moderation and restraint and not in overindulging.
- To feel the condition of the poor
Fasting makes us deeply conscious of the pangs of hunger and discomfort suffered by the less fortunate among our brethren. They have to put up with difficult conditions all through their lives. It thus kindles in man a spirit of sacrifice leading to change towards his suffering brethren.
- For man to learn to endure
Fasting gives a man an unfailing training in endurance, a spirit of acceptance. This could well prepare him to put up with the unchangeable situations in life in the same spirit of resignation as cultivated during the fasts.
- To fight bad habits
Fasting develops courage, fortitude, and a fighting spirit in man to surmount the heavy odds in life with a cool and tranquil mind. It sharpens his power of concentration to overcome obstacles through a vigorous exercise all throughout the month, leading to a steeling of his willpower and resolve that could help him in challenging situations in life.
It is seen that many shabby habits which are difficult to give up, is more easily given up during the days of fasting.
- To have hope and faith in Allah
Fasting teaches man reliance on Allah, and confidence in Him. Just as the vigorous state of fasting for a whole month is undertaken with His assistance, bitter situations in life could also be surmounted with His help.
- To learn patience and perseverance
Fasting develops a spirit of patience in man, with the realization that the days of fasting, though seemingly unending, do have a successful and happy end. That is life. All bitter situations pass and come to an end.
- To develop self-control
Fasting is meant to conquer anger and develop self-control in man. The vigorous effort required to put up with hunger and thirst can well be extended to conquer other infirmities of human character that lead man into error and sin.
- For man to cultivate tolerance
Fasting inculcates a spirit of tolerance in man to face unpleasant conditions and situations without making his fellow beings the victim of his wrath. Many people, when facing discomfort and deprivation, become irritable and annoyed. This anger is then vented on those around them. Fasting helps a man become more tolerant despite his own discomfort.
- To polish once character
Fasting mellows a man and enhances his character, giving a jolt to the human instincts of pride, haughtiness, jealousy, and ambition. Fasting softens his character and clears his heart and mind of many negative emotions.
- To stay humble before Allah
Fasting exposes the weakness of man in the event of his being deprived of two basic bounties of Allah; food and drink. It infuses into him a spirit of weakness and submission, generating humility and prayer in an otherwise arrogant being.
- To soften the heart towards others
Fasting breathes the spirit of forgiveness in man towards others, as he seeks Allah’s forgiveness through fasts and prayers.
- To develop punctuality in worship
Fasting gives lessons in punctuality. Man has to adhere to a strict schedule of time in the observance of the fast.
- To develop discipline
Fasting demands a rigid sense of discipline, mental, spiritual and physical. This forms characteristics which are an essential ingredient to success in life.
- As a chance to reform
Fasting creates spiritual reformation in man, infusing him with a spirit of enthusiasm and zest to change and become a better human being in the eyes of Allah. This is an excellent opportunity, given to believers each year, to change themselves and consequently their destinies.
- For man to live a healthy life
On the physical side, fasting cleanses the human system of the accumulated impurities of uninterrupted eating throughout the year. It prepares the body to face diseases or conditions of scarcity.
The rigid abstinence of a fast regulates man’s health, sharpens his intellect and enhances the qualities of his heart. Fasting is thus a bounty in itself, encompassing within itself many bounties. It instills a spirit of reformation in man, creating a wide awakening in him to fulfill his duties towards Allah and man, and towards himself.
(Excerpted from an article by Marhum Ahmed Sheriff Dewji, published in the Light Magazine) May Allah grant us knowledge!