Islam: Change In The Mind And Life of Muslims by Ramadan Fasting!
12 June 2016
By Dr. Abdul Ruff
''In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful''
Educating Muslims on Fasting
Another month of Holy Ramadan has arrived and Muslims have already begun the
fasting from dawn to dusk maybe more as a mere routine formality than a
serious spiritual exercise to strengthen Islamic faith for life time.
Unfortunately, not many appear to be thinking in terms of
spiritual or at least religious benefits they get from the strict fasting
effort they undertake now and year after.
As we have
set in a fresh fasting now, we have to pose a question to ourselves. Do we
think we are now sufficiently purified thanks to our fasting and prayers last
year? If the answer is yes, we can be sure of reaping real benefits this year
as well and always hereafter – not necessarily in wealth or money but above
all these that make the believers dear and close to God.
Are we good humans, if not genuine Muslims now? Fasting and prayers guide the
Muslims to a higher level of human consciousness and thinking as Muslims. If
we have remained the same hollow Muslims after regular payers and fasting,
then, something is wrong with us.
Why are the Muslims
not at all serious about their rigorous fasting for about 12 hours day after
day for one full month? Conversely, why should they deliberately waste their
time in the name of fasting, not knowing why do they indeed fast all instead
of using the time for making more money, if they don't think they are fasting
to please the God almighty?
Of course, it is one of
the most embarrassing questions every Muslim has to answer with a fair amount
of honesty. When a Muslim loves hypocrisy, falsehood and mischief as the basis
of their way of life, keeps truth and honesty away from life even while
fasting, only Islamic values fall a hapless victim. In place of truth and
honesty if we try to compensate all our prayers by some other ''gifts'',
fasting etc won't be able to purify us.
day we must pose the question to ourselves: Have we purified ourselves after
the fasting for a full month? Has any change taken place in our thinking and
life after the fasting and have we ever made any conscious effort to
illuminate our lives according Islamic traditions by respecting truth and
The mosques have the responsibility to teach the importance of fasting in the
life of Muslims before the onset of the holy month of Ramadan so that Muslims,
its youth particularly understand the real value of fasting as they begin the
fasting. Knowledge of spiritual value for the fasting would help people to
welcome and observe the fasting with purpose.
Generally, only during the Holy month some lectures are arranged by the mosque
committees to tell Muslims about the virtues of holy Ramadan but such lectures
are also given before the Holy Ramadan month begins they would have some
impact on the thinking and life of Muslims which in due course would benefit
entire the Muslim community in a big and purposeful way.
Ramadan month is sacred. The ruling to observe fasting during Ramadan was sent
down 18 months after Hijra, during the month of Sha'aban in the second year of
Hijra in 624 CE. The predominant practice during Ramadan is fasting from dawn
to sunset. The pre-dawn meal before the fast is called the suhur, while the
meal at sunset that breaks the fast is the iftar. Considering the high
diversity of the global Muslim population, it is impossible to describe
typical suhur or iftar meals.
The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Quran; a guidance for
mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the criterion (of right and
wrong). And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever
of you is sick or on a journey, a number of other days. Allah desires for you
ease; He desires not hardship for you; and that you should complete the
period, and that you should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that
perhaps you may be thankful.
The Holy Quran was first
revealed to Muhammad during the month of Ramadan which has been referred to as
the ''best of times''. The first revelation was sent down on Laylat al-Qadr
(The night of Power) which is one of the five odd nights of the last ten days
of Ramadan. According to hadith, all Holy Scriptures were sent down during
Ramadan. The tablets of Ibrahim, the Torah, the Psalms, the Gospel and the
Holy Quran were sent down on 1st, 6th, 12th, 13th and 24th Ramadan
Laylat al-Qadr, which in Arabic means ''the night of power'' or ''the night of
decree'', is considered the holiest night of the year. This is the night in
which Muslims believe the first revelation of the Quran was sent down to
Muhammad stating that this night was ''better than one thousand months [of
proper worship], as stated in Chapter 97:3 of the Qu'ran. Also, generally,
Laylat al-Qadr is believed to have occurred on an odd-numbered night during
the last ten days of Ramadan, i.e., the night of the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or
29th. The Dawoodi Bohra Community believes that the 23rd night is laylat al
Holy month of Ramadan is sacred period for Muslims who would stay pure in
body, thoughts, deeds, relationships with others. Though it is not period for
extravaganza celebrations, Muslims do welcome the Holy month happily in their
ways but without making loud noises. This light celebration is meant to the
days of arrival of Holy Qu'ran to the world through the holy Prophet. Muslims
do not however overdo anything that is beyond the minimum marking that would
be making sense.
Muslims engage in increased prayer and charity during Ramadan. Ramadan is also
a month where Muslims try to practice increased self-discipline. This is
motivated by the Hadith, especially in Al-Bukhari and Muslim that When Ramadan
arrives, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of hell are locked up
and devils are put in chains.
Tarawih refers to extra prayers performed by Muslims at night in the Islamic
month of Ramadan. Contrary to popular belief, they are not compulsory, many
Muslims pray these prayers in the evening during Ramadan. Some scholars
maintain that Tarawih is neither fard' or a Sunnah, but is the preponed
Tahajjud (night prayer) prayer shifted to post-Isha' for the ease of
believers. But a majority of Sunni scholars regard the Tarawih prayers as
Sunnat al-Mu'akkadah, a salaat that was performed by the Islamic prophet
Muhammad very consistently.
What is fasting?
Ramadan is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate
the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad according to Islamic belief.[
This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The
month lasts 29–30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon,
according to numerous biographical accounts compiled in the hadiths.
Fasting the month of Ramadan was made obligatory (wājib) during
the month of Sha'aban, in the second year after the Muslims migrated from
Mecca to Medina. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and the
month in which the Quran was revealed. Fasting during the month of Ramadan is
one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The month is spent by Muslims fasting during
the daylight hours from dawn to sunset.
It is important to note that Fasting in Arabic is called, ''Sawm'', which
literally means 'to be at rest.' Fasting in the month of Ramadan (the 9th
month of the Islamic lunar calendar) is one of the Five Pillars upon which the
''house'' of Islam is built. Sawm or rest is needed from usual and routine
life of lies and mischief.
During this month, every able-bodied Muslim is required to fast, everyday from
dawn until dusk. According to the Holy Quran, fasting was also obligatory for
rich and prior nations, and is a way to attain taqwa, fear of God. God
proclaimed to prophet Muhammad (SAS) that fasting for His sake was not a new
innovation in monotheism, but rather an obligation practiced by those truly
devoted to the oneness of God. The pagans of Mecca also fasted, but only on
tenth day of Muharram to expiate sins and avoid droughts.
How does the fasting of Muslims in Ramadan differ from the
fasting of other faiths? Why should one 'torture' one's body in the first
place? What do you really gain from fasting in the end?''…These are a few
questions that a number of non-Muslim friends and colleagues often ask us,
usually out of fascination with this spiritually-uplifting practice of Islamic
faith, and at times out of pity and sympathy for us, thinking, why should
anyone suffer from hunger and thirst like Muslims? We wouldn't be surprised if
many of today's Muslims shared the same negative perception of Fasting.
In some Muslim countries today, lights are strung up in public squares, and
across city streets, to add to the festivities of the month. Lanterns have
become symbolic decorations welcoming the month of Ramadan. In a growing
number of countries, they are hung on city streets. The tradition of lanterns
as a decoration becoming associated with Ramadan is believed to have
originated during the Fatimid Caliphate primarily centered in Egypt, where
Caliph al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah was greeted by people holding lanterns to
celebrate his ruling. From that time, lanterns were used to light mosques and
houses throughout the capital city of Cairo. Shopping malls, places of
business, and people's homes can be seen with stars and crescents and various
lighting effects, as well.
The fast (sawm) begins at dawn and ends at sunset. In addition to abstaining
from eating and drinking, Muslims also increase restraint, such as abstaining
from sexual relations and generally sinful speech and behavior. In addition to
fasting, Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Quran. Some Muslims perform
the recitation of the entire Quran by means of special prayers, called Tarawih.
These voluntary prayers are held in the mosques every night of the month,
during which a whole section of the Quran (juz', which is 1/30 of the Quran)
is recited. Therefore, the entire Quran would be completed at the end of the
month. Although it is not required to read the whole Quran in the Tarawih
prayers, it is common.
The holiday of Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the
next lunar month, Shawwal. This first day of the following month is declared
after another crescent new moon has been sighted or the completion of 30 days
of fasting if no visual sighting is possible due to weather conditions. This
first day of Shawwal is called Eid al-Fitr. Eid al-Fitr may also be a
reference towards the festive nature of having endured the month of fasting
successfully and returning to the more natural disposition (fitra) of being
able to eat, drink and resume intimacy with spouses during the day. Common
greetings during Ramadan are ''Ramadan Mubarak'' or ''Ramadan Kareem'', which
wish the recipient a blessed or generous Ramadan.
the nation with the world's largest Muslim population, Indonesia has diverse
Ramadan traditions. On the island of Java, many Javanese Indonesians bathe in
holy springs to prepare for fasting, a ritual known as Padusa. The city of
Semarang marks the beginning of Ramadan with the Dugderan carnival, which
involves parading the Warak ngendog, a dragon-like creature allegedly inspired
by the Buraq. In the Chinese-influenced capital city of Jakarta, fire crackers
were traditionally used to wake people up for Morning Prayer, until the 19th
Century. Towards the end of Ramadan, most employees receive a one-month bonus
known as Tunjangan Hari Raya. Certain kinds of food are especially popular
during Ramadan, such as beef in Aceh, and snails in Central Java. The iftar
meal is announced every evening by striking the bedug, a giant drum, in the
Once the month of Ramadan is over, Muslims
celebrate one of the two most important holidays in the Islamic year:
Eid-ul-Fitr, or the Festival of the Fast Breaking. It is a day to thank God
for the blessing and training that He provides us with throughout the month of
Ramadan. Eid-ul-Fitr is marked by praying in a huge congregation at an Islamic
center or mosque, and by giving a small donation to the poor in the community.
The adults give the donation on behalf of their children as well. Dinner
parties, family outings, fairs, carnivals, and great joyous celebrations
follow the prayer and charity.
Reasons to fast
Fasting is an institution for the improvement of moral and spiritual character
of human being. The purpose of the fast is to help develop self-restraint,
self-purification, God-consciousness, compassion, the spirit of caring and
sharing, the love of humanity and the love of God. Fasting is a universal
custom and is advocated by all the religions of the world, with more
restrictions in some than in others. The Islamic Fast, as opposed to mere
starvation or self-denial, is an act of worship and obedience to God,
thanksgiving, forgiveness, spiritual training, and self-examination.
Ramadan gives us a break and provides us with a rare opportunity to think
about our own selves, our future, and our families. It is a time to give
ourselves a mental break and to temporarily forget about the hundreds of
worries and stresses we are constantly bombarded with. In hectic times, such
as ours, and in places like the West, this valuable time to think about our
lives, on individual basis, is a luxury and is desperately needed! It is a
unique month of self-analysis, and of taking stock of one's moral and
spiritual 'assets and liabilities'.
Fasting in Ramadan
enables us to master the art of mature adaptability and Time-Management. We
can easily understand this point when we realize that fasting makes people
change the entire course of their daily life. When they make the change, they
naturally adapt themselves to a new system and schedule, and move along to
satisfy the rules. This, in the long run, develops in them a wise sense of
adaptability and self-created power to overcome the unpredictable hardships of
life! A person who values constructive adaptability, time-management, and
courage will appreciate the effects of Fasting in this respect as well.
It cultivates in us the principle of sincere Love, because when
we observe Fasting, we do it out of deep love for God. And a person, who loves
God, truly is a person who knows what love is and why everyone on this Earth
should be loved and treated justly, for the sake of God.
Fasting has numerous, scientifically proven, benefits for our
physical health and mental well-being. The time, length and nature of the
Islamic Fast all contribute to its overall positive effect. One of the medical
benefits is a much-needed rest to the digestive system. The reduced food
intake during the day allows the body to concentrate on getting rid of harmful
dietary toxins accumulated as natural by-products of food digestion throughout
the year. The length of the Islamic Fast itself (around 12-14 hours) is in
sync with the 'transit time' of food from the mouth to the colon of the large
intestine, ensuring that no stimulus reaches the stomach or digestive system
while it remains in homeostasis.
Therefore, for the vast majority of healthy individuals fasting poses no
medical risks but in fact provides many health benefits, such as: an increase
in serum Magnesium, essential for cardio-vascular health and prevention of
heart complications; improvement in the quality and depth of sleep;
improvement in memory and slower skin aging over time; increased production of
growth hormone, etc. Also, as a general note, it has been observed that
underfed animals live longer than their heavily fed counterparts and suffer
fewer illnesses during their lives.
Muslims should be helped to realize the worth and significance of fasting for
their own lives and they should watch how much they have changed in their
Islamic life patterns. For instance, while fasting from dawn until sunset,
Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging
in sexual relations with one's spouse. But Muslims should also know what good
these difficult things do to their soul. Muslims need to be instructed to
refrain from sinful behavior that may negate the reward of fasting, such as
false speech (insulting, backbiting, cursing, lying, etc.) and fighting. Food
and drink is served daily, before dawn and after sunset. Spiritual rewards (thawab)
for fasting are also believed to be multiplied within the holy month of
Ramadan. Fasting for Muslims during Ramadan typically includes the increased
offering of salat (prayers) and recitation of the Holy Quran. This gives an
idea about the value of fasting.
Objective of Fasting
Heaps of articles have been written on the subject and hundreds of books have
been published to educate Muslims about the purpose of fasting during the Holy
Month but unfortunately, there has been no visible impact on the thinking and
life of Muslims who fast regularly as a formality.
Fasting is a reminder of our duty to God, our purpose and higher values in
life, as God Himself describes the purpose of fasting as follows, ''O you who
Believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those
before you, so that you may develop consciousness of God'' (Quran 2:183). ''It
is the month to visit the poor, the sick, and the needy to share their
sorrows. It is the month where the food, sustenance and the earnings of a
believing Muslim increases and they are blessed,'' says the Final Prophet of
God, Muhammad (peace be upon him), a man who was known for his noble
humanitarian causes, for social justice, and for being the first to respond to
other's needs, despite the fact that he himself lived a very simple and humble
life. It is only during such a trying time as Ramadan that we can reflect on
the condition of those in this world who may not be as fortunate as us.
Islamic fasting makes every Muslim to be responsible for the onward spiritual
march of Islam and accountable for their actions. Fasting should help Muslims
to love fellow Muslims and come forward to help them in whatever manner they
can in Islamic ways. The person who can rule their desires and make them work,
as they like, has attained true moral excellence.
Fasting indoctrinates us in patience, unselfishness, and gratitude. When we
fast we feel the pains of deprivation and hunger, and learn how to endure it
patiently. The meaning of this powerful experience in a social and
humanitarian context is that we are much quicker than anybody else in
sympathizing with the oppressed and needy around the world, and responding to
Fasting elevates the human spirit and increases our awareness of God. It
strengthens our will-power as we learn to rise above our lower desires. The
institution of fasting is both unique and a shared experience in human
history. From the very beginning of time, humans have struggled to master
their physical and psychological selves: their bodies and their emotions.
Hunger is one the most powerful urges that we experience. Many, through over-
or under-eating or consumption of unhealthy foods, abuse this urge. Thus, when
a person purposefully denies something to their own self that it craves, they
are elevating their mind above their body, and their reason and will above
their carnal passions. ''A fasting person empties his stomach of all the
material things: to fill his soul with peace and blessings, to fill his heart
with love and sympathy, to fill his spirit with piety and Faith, to fill his
mind with wisdom and resolution,'' says H. Abdalati in Islam in Focus.
With the clarity of mind and absence of distractions, also
comes a greater focus. As students, the period of fasting, especially early
during the day, serves as a tool to focus the minds. In the month of Ramadan,
many Muslims try to avoid watching TV, listening to unIslamic music, and some
other leisure activities, which spares them more time and energy to be spent
on more productive activities such as intense study of Islam, voluntary
prayers, social and humanitarian causes, and a quality time with the family,
to name a few.
Fasting in Ramadan develops in a person the real spirit of social belonging,
of unity and brotherhood, and of equality before God. This spirit is the
natural product of the fact that when people fast they feel that they are
joining the whole Muslim society (which makes up more than one fifth of
world's population) in observing the same duty, in the same manner, at the
same time, for the same motives, and for the same end. No sociologist or
historian can say that there has been at any period of history anything
comparable to this powerful institution of Islam: Fasting in the month of
Ramadan. People have been crying throughout the ages for acceptable
'belonging', for unity, for brotherhood, for equality, but how echoless their
voices have been, and how very little success they have met…'' says Hammudah
Abdalati, in Islam in Focus.
Ramadan gives us a break
in and provides us with a rare opportunity to think about our own selves, our
existence, our future, and our families. It is a time to give ourselves a
mental break and to temporarily forget about the hundreds of worries and
stresses we are constantly bombarded with. In hectic times, such as ours, and
in places like the West, this valuable time to think about our lives, on
individual basis, is a luxury and is desperately needed! It is a unique month
of self-analysis, and of taking stock of one's moral and spiritual 'assets and
In a nutshell, even though the real purpose of the dynamic institution of
Fasting is to discipline our soul and moral behavior, and to develop sympathy
for the less fortunate, it is a multi-functional and a comprehensive tool of
change in various spheres of our lives, including: social and economic,
intellectual and humanitarian, spiritual and physical, private and public,
personal and common, inner and outer — all in one!
Muslims should not be like match fixers in cricket or international frauds
with bats while the state cum military cum media backing them to mint money
and purchase awards and honors in the country and abroad.
Muslims are with a spiritual goal and Holy Ramadan only helps
them. Let us ask ourselves if there is any change taking place in the life of
Muslims after the Ramadan fasting. We have keep asking this question to
ourselves until we find credible change in our lives for the better!
When they embark on the holy month fasting they should know the difference
between Islamic fasting routine fasting for hours once in a while in other
religions but they drink but don't take 'hard food'. Muslims should know why
they are fasting at all. Is it just for merely practicing life without food
and drinks or the fasting has got something more than that?
In fact, one can call the fasting as holy fasting in order to
stress the spiritual value of the fasting. We have to know that it is not just
fast for a month and resume all evilish activities after the holy month.
For most Muslims- if not for all- fasting is just a formality
to be observed just like that without any serious concern for spiritual aspect
The month of Ramadan provides us with a sort of
''Boot camp.'' It is a month of intense moral training. Since we know that
Fasting is a special duty prescribed by God, we learn that any sins may spoil
our record of fasting with God, so we go through great lengths making sure we
are on our best behavior. Many people who experience fasting in this month,
feel the impact that this intense training has on their habits, and realize
the power of this transformative tool designed to make us better human beings-
the ultimate goal of any spiritual exercise. The entire Ramadan atmosphere
provides the driving force for this positive change.
None other than Muslims observe fasting for a month as no other religion has
this important pillar of faith Muslims are required to undertake.
If the answer is in the negative, perhaps there was something
wrong with our fasting effort and we must revise out fasting and post fasting
habits next year. We must hope to change, after all life depends on our
Any Muslim who thinks they will not
change but only fast just like that, they are wasting their fasting, thereby
harming their hereafter and earn wrath of God almighty as well.
Lies, cheating, deceptive techniques and betrayal etc are not
Islam. Muslims, therefore, should avoid kicking the fasting even while
God's mercy and justice
Muslims seek mercy of Allah. The faithful Muslims seek justice from Allah
during the Holy month of Ramadan more forcefully by fasting and leading a pure
Ramadan month is the time for all Muslims of
spiritual reflection, improvement and increased devotion and worship. Muslims
are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam.
The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from
worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the soul by freeing it from
harmful impurities. Ramadan also teaches Muslims how to better practice
self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less
fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and compulsory charity (zakat)
Moreover, it reminds us of the life after death, which itself has a great
impact on our character and our world-view.
Ramadan is a blessed month for a special reason: It is actually the month in
which God first revealed His final message and guidance for mankind to our
beloved Prophet Muhammad. This message has been perfectly preserved both
orally and textually in the form of a Book, called the Qur'an (The
Reading/Recital). Therefore, Muslims try to do an intense study of the Quran
in this month especially, and evaluate their lives according to the standards
and guidance contained in it.
The mosques have got sacred duty to help Muslims undertake fasting sincerely.
Muslims should be told that they fast not for obtaining or increasing wealth
but for self purification in mind, heart and soul as preparation for making
life Hereafter easily and happily. Muslims should know that even non believers
and Allah haters and Islam haters also get wealth and power. Everyone knows
Let every Muslim be ready to welcome Holy month of
Ramadan for further purifying ourselves, our thoughts, hearts, deeds, among
other virtues so that we live good and honest humans.
Let others learn from Muslims! But if Muslims even while offering regular
prayers and fasting according to Islami laws, also behave like others and do
and talk exactly or even worse than others how others do, where is the
difference between them and others?
There is exactly
where Muslims have to ponder over as they undertake the fasting in the holy
There are Muslims who do not hesitate to use
the holy Ramadan Month to make money and increase wealth by immoral and
illegal means. Are they not anti-Islamic frauds? What can they contribute to
Islam, except making it appear to be religion of frauds just like the
terrorists making Islam a terrorist religion?
Let us make this Holy Ramadan month a fruitful one in the real sense!