I was watching (again) a video of a sweet, brave and strong Syrian girl, perhaps around age 8 or 9, or younger, showing her faith and integrity.
Something woke me up.
Allah SWT has ordered Muslims to fast for a month in Ramadhan, with a few groups of people exempted from the order (like the ill ones, travellers, women who are having menses or post natal bleeding). The month of Ramadhan is not only for fasting, but in this holy month we are adviced strongly to study the Quran, do more charity, and more specific acts of worship like prayers.
Many, Muslims and non Muslims alike, wonder what the reasons are behind this order.
As with other commands written in the Quran, Muslims believe there are pbvious, and not-so-obvious blessings and goodness behind it. There are many good reasons as to why Allah asked us to fast.
Amongst those taught to us when we were in school is so that we learn how hard life can be. So that we could understand how poor people feel when they don’t have food at home, when they have to stay hungry until they find means to get food.
But you see, poor people, just by being poor, are not exempted from fasting. Prophet Muhammad SAW himself has never remain in a full stomach for more than three days in a row. During normal days, sometimes he’d fast just because there’s no food at home.
So he (SAW) was poor, in the sense of material possessions. But why does he still fast?
Some parts of the more scientific or health conscious Muslims would speak about how fasting increases one’s health, helps regulate blood sugar and even avoid heart attacks. A doctor working in a Muslim country like ours would notice that the average blood glucose in diabetics are generally lower during fasting month. Hospital admissions due to heart and glucose related problems decrease during Ramadhan. It is only in Ramadhan that we could actually sleep during on call nights because less patients come in.
There are studies upon studies showing the benefits of fasting.
We were also taught that it is to increase God-consciousness (taqwa). How does being hungry and thirsty (and not having access to one’s wife on the daytime) increase God-consciousness?
Allah said that fasting is for Him. It means that, whether the person is truly fasting or not, only He would know. And to truly fast means that someone is truly sincere in obeying His commands.
You see, when someone observes fasting, he needs to refrain himself, in simpler terms, from three things: food, drinks and sexual relationship, within the fasting hours, ie from dawn to dusk. At night he could, well, eat, sleep and be merry.
It teaches us self control, when we’re faced with these temptations.
It teaches us integrity. We could always eat when nobody is looking. But why didn’t we? The answer is God-consciousness: we know Someone Superior is watching and He has told you not to. We know it is wrong, that’s why we did not do it, even when no human being is watching.
It teaches us to stick to our principles. We have said to ourselves, promised ourselves, every night before we sleep, that we were going to fast the next day. So we fast. Why do we fast? Because it’s Allah’s order in He knows best. We stick to our principles, because it is wrong to let it go.
It teaches us that we can be a better person than we were before. The worship in Ramadhan helps us discover and fight our own demons, helps us understand who we actually are, deep inside, without all the distractions of food, food, more food, and the opposite gender. The worship in Ramadhan would wake us up as to how much kindness that we could extend to others.
Ramadhan makes us realise that kindness, mercy and forgiveness goes a long way.
By simply sharing meals during breaking fast brings about not just joy, but also tranquility in the mind that would not have been achieved otherwise. We do it because it is the right thing to do, according to the Quran and Prophet Muhammad’s teachings, and end up wanting to do more because of the blissful feeling that it brought.
It is simply amazing.
I need to mention that a person who is fasting is also adviced to guard his tongue against hurtful words, guard himself from going into fits of rage, backbiting, and bullying others.
Just imagine a person who has self control, integrity and sticks to his principles. He will be one who does not take bribes, even when nobody knows about it. He will not give bribes too, so there will be no corruption if nobody gives and nobody takes it.
(Bribery, corruption is a big sin in Islam, heavily forbidden).
Just imagine a world without corruption.
Just imagine a world where people only say nice things to each other.
Just imagine a world where people put themselves into each others’ shoes, empathising and helping out those in need.
It’s a world of peace and freedom that is supposed to be achieved with proper, real, sincere fasting.
It’s a world of justice and mercy, that is supposed to be achieved when Muslims fully embrace the meaning of Ramadhan.
It is a world that we all dream of living in.