Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Why do you not eat?

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.
If you want to gain more of an insight into why a Muslim fast for a whole month, then this is the perfect place to start in gaining a better understanding. I myself will be looking to make sense of all the reasons and virtues of this Holy month. Every year without fail I am asked the same question by non-Muslims, ‘Why do you not eat? Why do you refrain from pleasures that you normally wouldn’t and for a whole entire month? Why do you do this to yourself? I understand you do it for the sake of your God, His pleasure, as it has been commanded to you but is there any goodness there for you, the one who is the believer, and the one who is going hungry?’.

I think these are more than valid questions and ones that should be answered for the sake of understanding so both sides can become more familiar with the directive of keeping Fast. I am guilty of not being able to articulate a reasonable answer with firmness and evidence to support my points, so this post should be as useful to a fellow Muslim as it is to a non-Muslim. A Muslim cannot be blind in his or her faith; we must exercise reason and logic to everything as seekers of truth in conjunction with our faith in God, His final Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Al'Mighty God be upon him). Simply put you should know why you fast! As you have read in my previous posts, it is clear that the two main advantage of fasting are highlighted, Forgiveness & Self-Restraint purely obtained through a determined and steadfast sense of both patience and perseverance. The merits of Fast are described in different parts in the Quran such as; “so that you may attain God-consciousness”. Yesterday’s post ‘Patience the Virtue' expresses the need to return to our Lord in a state of Sabr and fasting is another way to return to our natural disposition (Fitrah). Prophet Mohammed (may the peace and blessings of Al'Mighty God be upon him) simply stated in a hadith that “Fasting is a shield”. The noble prophet of Islam also characterizes that “Whosoever spends the month in self-rectification, his previous sins shall be forgiven.”

”O ye who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for people before you so that you will learn to attain piety (Taqwa)” Surah Al-Baqara - The Cow verses 183

Fasting is a means of attaining Taqwa (piety & consciousness of Al'Mighty God), and Taqwa also denotes doing that which best pleases God with all the good that He has enjoined and rejecting that which He has forbidden. Those lacking in obedience in faith for whatever reason it maybe, it is understood that fasting is the best means of assisting a person to fulfil the commandments of Islam and thus, becoming a better Muslim in general. Learned educates of Islam have written of some of the reasons why fasting has been prescribed, all of which are to enhance the characteristics of Taqwa, drawing the attention of fasting people towards it and instils in them the desire to continue to attain such beneficial rewards

Some of the benefits are as follows:

To abstain during Ramadan is a powerful means of dropping bad habits and if a person can give up haram (prohibited) things in order to please God in fear of repercussions i.e. the day of Judgement where we are taught that we will be held accountable for all our deeds. It is more likely that one will refrain from such things after the holy month has finished.

Fasting gives us to opportunity to better control our desires. When a person is full his desire for more increases however if he is hungry then his desires weaken. Hence in accordance with the words of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Al'Mighty God be upon him) was stated to of said in a hadith “O young men, whoever among you can afford it, let him get married, and whoever cannot afford it should fast, for it will be a shield for him.”

If one endures the hardships of Fasting it will no doubt make the person feel empathy towards the hungry and poor. The fasting person is able to tastes the pains of hunger for a short while. This must give the fasting person a more compassionate outlook so he/she is able to have retrospective understanding for those who are in this situation in our societies today, it will hasten the fasting person toward acts of kindness towards the needy and solidarity with the poor

Appreciation. As fasting means giving up things we rely on such as eat, drink and sexual intercourse in the case of married adults, which are the simple luxuries any human being would find difficult to go without. Giving them up for a short time surely makes us appreciate their value. In the same respect the blessings of God is not recognized, and as for those who abstain you tend to become more grateful.

As stated in the Holy Quran fasting humiliates satan; as it weakens his whispers on a person thus reducing the desires’ to sin. The prophet of Islam (may the peace and blessings of Al'Mighty God be upon him) said that the devil (shaitan) “flows through the sons' of Adam as blood” but we now understand that the act of fasting limits the effects through which shaitan can influence man. It is common scientific knowledge that blood is produced from the food and drink we consume; this creates passages by which the devil can enter our system. A fasting person is less likely to allow such an entry to the cursed one as the body is subject to cleansing which limits passages through which he can flow. The unpolluted body essentially the heart is less likely to be fascinated by evil deeds.

Muslims are encouraged to be more generous throughout the month Ramadan and are all required at the end to give Sadaqa (charity), a small donation to enable those who need it most to share in the spirit of warmth and affection.

Fasting develops a positive attitude towards the world and more awareness of ones desires, ultimately fulfilling the requirement of mankind to seek that which is with God and Him alone.

Through the spiritual rituals of prayer a Muslim familiarises themselves with acts of worship. There are different forms of worship that which is obligatory and the optional. God has given mankind a guideline and sent His last and final messenger (may the peace and blessings of Al'Mighty God be upon him) as the best of examples for mankind to follow.

Inevitably someone who fast is training themself in the reminder that God is always watching, so this makes it easy for him to be more selfless in his actions and more obedient to the command of God. The month of Ramadan is an opportunity to develop qualities of endurance and self-restraint, to control anger and a fiery or malicious tongue.

I have listed only a few benefits of fasting during Ramadan as I myself am able to see them. I am well aware there are countless health benefits however I am not in a position to be able to speak on these matters with overstanding as I have done with some of the spiritual aspects. Those of us who end the month weighing more than at the beginning have evidently missed the point. Let us be mindful of the message this sends out to others, Ensure your blessings are not lost through gluttony or idleness. Please forgive me if I have missed anything obvious out as this post has become long winded. I pray Allah (God) is able to help us reap some of these great benefits listed above which will ultimately make us more compassionate toward one another, I am confident this will gain His pleasure Inshallah (by the will of God). Although I am well aware I have made it seem to be a month filled with hardship and difficulty, it is in fact my favourite time of year and I am confident all Muslims will say the same. I truly believe that God grants us an atmosphere in order to assist us in our duty by showing us with His mercy in our home, in the mosque and in Muslim communities as a whole. We Muslims have looked forward to this month of honor that is bestowed on us and we will feel the painful sadness when it leaves. I make a prayer that we can all live another year to see Ramadan 2011 and that Allah grants the reader of this post every salvation in this world and in the Hereafter by promoting the goodness of this noble month. Alhamdulillah (All praise be to God) & Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu