Ramadan Opinion
Ramadan allows a believer to transcend to a higher spiritual plane and draw lessons that shall become his way of life for the rest of the year. Image Credit: Ador Bustamante/Gulf News

Ramadan is a very special month in Islam, and it is the month in which the Qur’an was revealed. The month of Ramadan serves as an annual practice to profoundly reflect and develop a sense of gratitude towards the infinite blessings that God Almighty has bestowed upon humanity.

The Arabic term for fasting is ‘Sawm,’ meaning abstinence, and Ramadan entails abstaining from food and water from dawn to dusk. And at the level of thought, it demands training oneself to lead a life where one can actively manage desires and negative thoughts.

According to the Qur’an, fasting caters to two aspects of the intellectual development of human beings. Firstly, it is an opportunity for a believer to train himself to lead a cautious, thoughtful life. Secondly, it allows a believer to imbue deep gratitude towards his Creator within himself.

Character-building opportunity

Abstinence from even the daily necessities provides a significant character-building opportunity to a believer. When an individual takes his first sip of water after a day of fasting, it is at this moment that he can truly appreciate God’s boundless gifts.

The Prophet Muhammad {PBUH} is recorded to have said, “Many people fast and get nothing in return except hunger and thirst.” Only those who practice fasting in its genuine spirit will be the real achievers, and they are those who retain the essence of fasting throughout their life.

A believer who has fasted in all sincerity can apply the constraints laid down by God in all affairs of his life. He refrains from using hurtful language, and he stays his hand from persecution and halts in his steps towards injustice.

The period of fasting, therefore, becomes an act of disciplining oneself. A believer abstains from food and drink of free will in the daytime, and only after sunset does he satisfy his hunger and quenches his thirst. In this way, he builds up his self-control.

Apart from man, there are innumerable other things in the universe, all of which — having no free will — adhere strictly to God’s law. On the other hand, man is not in the same category as these things because God has given him a choice to choose his path. Despite this divine gift of free will, the Almighty nonetheless desires that man pursue the road of obedience of his own will.

The road of constraint

The fasting was established to prepare him to pursue the road of constraint. This training in the form of fasting, which takes place every ninth month of the Muslim calendar, is a lesson in the permanent practice of patience and tolerance throughout one’s whole life.

A man must choose the direction of his own free will, taken by the vastness of space. In leading a life of self-imposed restraints, a believer will be able to ensure that moral code prevails throughout his life. In this month of patience, a believer must therefore learn to exercise self-control over his negative emotions, which are the most significant impediment to his intellectual development.

According to a Hadith, “There is a Zakat for all things, and the Zakat of the body is fasting.” Here, the expression Zakat is used in the sense of purification. There is, indeed, a way of purifying everything. Just as bathing purifies the body, fasting purifies the soul.

According to tradition, the Prophet Muhammad {PBUH} called “the month of fasting in the month of compassion.” During this period, the followers of the Prophet would increase the efforts to support those in need manifold. Fasting for a month provides a unique opportunity to experience need and realise the true essence of divine blessings.

While a person may not have experienced the sensation arising out of hunger and thirst in his daily life, going through this experience during Ramadan can serve as a source of spiritual awakening.

A sense of well-wishing

Fasting puts everyone on the same level. Even the wealthy need to drop to a level of abstinence, common among the needy. The ensuing realisation stimulates a sense of well-wishing for humanity. Ramadan also generates a widespread awareness of the need to extend a helping hand to fellow human beings and allows the permanence of fundamental human values.

Ramadan is a month of spiritual activity where believers seek to awaken their spirituality. It becomes a means to continue to nurture the personality and intellect of a believer. In managing desires, they endure the feeling of powerlessness and letting out heartfelt prayers, fasting attempts to establish a connection between a believer and the Almighty Lord of the Universe.

The objective of the month of fasting is, therefore, two-fold: on the one hand, it paves the way for the intellectual development of a believer, and on the other hand, it promotes a sense of well-wishing, charity, and compassion in society. It allows a believer to transcend to a higher spiritual plane and draw lessons that shall become his way of life for the rest of the year.

Raamish Siddiqui is a lawyer, author and Islamic thinker. Twitter: @raamishs