10 Important Things about Ramadan

EsinIslam Ramadan Explorer

Muslims across the globe are observing a fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan.

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam that all Muslims must observe.

The holy month is about more than abstaining from food and water; it is also a time to reflect and practise good thoughts and behaviour.

Metro Online speaks to International Islamic University

Malaysia Prof Dr Israr Ahmad Khan from the Quran and Sunnah Studies Department on 10 things people may not know about the holy month.

1. A month of solidarity with humanity

Prof Israr explained that the Quran is an outline of the most appropriate life for humanity. ''The Quran invites through fasting that believers must think about others,'' said Prof Israr. ''Ramadan is a time for us to connect with humanity,'' he said, adding that efforts to bridge the gap between people should be enhanced. ''The Quran teaches us not to be selfish. Help should be extended to not just the Muslims but non-Muslims as well,'' said the 65-year-old, adding that actions such as inviting your non-Muslim neighbours to join your family in breaking your fast can help foster better relationships.

2. The revelation of holy books

Ramadan is a time where all the four books mentioned in the Quran were revealed, including the Torah and Injil (Bible). ''From this, one can surmise that Ramadan must have a significant place in Allah's plan,'' said Prof Israr. ''This month should be considered and declared as the month of revelation,'' he said, adding that there was a connection between Ramadan and the Quran, and vice- versa. ''That is why the hadith says that fasting does not only denote abstaining from food, water or sex but acting upon the advice of the Quran. It does not do justice to simply observe the fast,'' he said.

3. A month to generate humility and repel ignorance

''Many people do not acknowledge their arrogance,'' said Prof Israr. For example, arrogance can be reflected when one has a sense of entitlement for being wealthier than others, such as the child of a billionaire Arrogance is also reflected in religion. ''For example, some people may chastise you for not going to the mosque,'' said Prof Israr. ''But that does not mean that you do not pray,'' he said. ''Ramadan serves as a good time for one to learn to feel humble and remind ourselves that while God has helped us to achieve the things that we have in life, He can also withdraw it.''

4. Becoming the ideal person

Ramadan can be used to train oneself to become the ideal man as described by the Quran. This can include participating in the programmes of Ramadan even if one is unable to fast for valid reasons such as paying fidyah, feeding the poor and learning not to respond angrily to your family members. ''We can also look into our behaviours or habits such as smoking, and assess how they might be affecting our health, the health of others, in addition to affecting us financially, and consider changing them,'' said Prof Israr.

5. Health benefits of Ramadan

A lot has been said about how fasting can help improve one's health and Prof Israr echoes this view. He said depression and other health problems can be caused by ill feelings. ''For example, if you are jealous of another person, your blood pressure increases,'' he said. ''Tension and depression are part and parcel of life.'' His advice includes using doa to control these feelings as communicating with God can help in cleansing one's heart. He added that the purification of the mind and heart could lead to the purification of behaviour.

6. A month of acceptance and supplication

Prof Israr explained that man could communicate with God through doa, stressing that it was important for communication to take place between man and God. The more frequent the communication, the stronger the relationship, he explained. Some may feel that their prayers are not answered but Prof Israr says it is important to clean our hearts from malignant feelings such as hatred against people, to help with our communication with God. While there is no hard and fast rule in ''cleansing the heart'', Prof Israr's advice includes bringing to mind all the people we have malignant feelings about. ''Learning to forgive the actions of others when they have wronged us or asking for forgiveness if we have done wrong can help eliminate negative feelings.''

7. The Night of Power

''The Night of Power'' (laylatul qadr) refers to the fact that the first five verses of the Quran were revealed on this night during Ramadan.

''The main message in these verses is tawhid,'' said Prof Israr. Tawhid is oneness with God and also depicts monotheism in Islam. Prof Israr said that while the exact date was unknown, the 27th night of Ramadan was generally regarded as the Night of Power. ''But that is not reliable,'' said Prof Israr. Muslims spend the night in prayer and seek forgiveness, as the blessings and rewards in this night of worship is multiplied. However, Prof Israr explained that there was a hadith which that stated that one should seek laylatul qadr in the whole month of Ramadan.

8. A reminder to inculcate good behaviours

Ramadan is a time to practise and regularise amanah, or being trustworthy and honest. For example, some may not return extra change upon receiving it by mistake when paying for their groceries or when eating out at a restaurant. While you may sometimes have to go out of your way to do so, try to inculcate the behaviour of returning money that does not belong to you. This is also a good time to remember what is halal and haram, and the reasons why some things are deemed haram.

9. Implementing the principles of the Quran

Muslims are encouraged to put in more effort into learning about the religion during Ramadan, Prof Israr said that it was also the time for them to put this knowledge into practice. Prof Israr explained that according to the Quran, the ideal man must have qualities such as ihsan, or excellence, which means to be excellent in everything or any task. This can include how we treat our parents. ''For example, if a parent asks where you are going when you happen to leave the house earlier than usual, learn to respond politely rather than with annoyance.''

10. Deeper concept of jihad

Prof Israr explained that the meaning of jihad was often misconstrued, with many limiting its meaning to a holy war. ''Jihad means making the utmost effort. The Quran invites man to make jihad,'' he said. ''To make jihad means to make utmost effort to achieve the target.''

''The concept of fasting is also a form of jihad and jihad is not just about fighting in the battlefield,'' he said. Abstaining from food, water or even cigarettes is not easy and the individual must put in the utmost effort to battle the satanic forces within man throughout the fasting period.

The Star

EsinIslam Ramadan Team

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