“Some who fast obtain nothing from it but hunger and thirst.”
he blessed month of Ramadan, which we are in the midst of now, is a time in which 1.5 billion Muslims around the world strive to reflect upon their actions and improve in character, nurturing a deeper sense of consciousness. It is true that Muslims must abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk during this month. Yet as the opening Hadith quote demonstrates — and this is a common misconception — if Ramadan is reduced to simply an exercise in hunger, then this completely misses the point of this blessed occasion.
One of the most important qualities fasting seeks to develop within an individual is humility before others — indeed, all of creation. Fasting is a humbling experience, which is an important characteristic of a righteous soul. It is a great cleanser of both the mind and the body. The health benefits of fasting have been articulated in numerous studies.
Fasting seeks to free the soul from the shackles of one’s desires by modulating the lower self — which can become a prisoner of its own passions — and raising a person’s “God-consciousness.” By depriving the soul of life’s basic necessities for some hours, one is able to practise self-restraint. The evils of anger, revenge, and lying no longer become appealing.
The act of fasting also provides the fortunate, well-off members of society a chance to experience for a time the pain and suffering which millions of people go through every day without food, water and other basic necessities of life. Muslims are encouraged especially during this month to go out and feed the hungry and to spend their money towards noble causes.
Ramadan is a celebration of God’s guidance to humanity through the noble Qur’an, which instructs on doing good and warns against evil. Fasting helps individuals come closer to their Lord and lifts souls to new heights of piety. In so doing, the entire human being is able to transform itself into an agent of positive moral and social change that seeks to replace miserliness with generosity, anger with patience, revenge with love, and war with peace — in effect, replacing evil with good in this world.
Ramadan always brings with it a strong communal atmosphere. During this month, Muslims generally break their fast together with their friends and family and offer special prayers with their community, bringing together the rich and the poor, the old and the young, and other disparate groups, leading to a sense of togetherness.
Muhammad Ashar Tariq
Masters of Engineering (ECE)