The Sunday Mail
Umari Stambuli Holy Qur’aan
Muslims the world over have commenced fasting as the month of Ramadhaan has started.
Ramadhaan is the fasting month for Muslims. Over one billion Muslims throughout the world fast from dawn to sunset, and pray additional prayers at night. It is a time for inner reflection, devotion to Allah, and self-control.
It is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. Allah, The Almighty, says in the Holy Qur’aan: “The month of Ramadhaan is that in which the Qur’aan was revealed as guidance for people, in it are clear signs of guidance and Criterion, therefore whoever of you who witnesses this month, it is obligatory on him to fast it. “But whoever is ill or traveling let him fast the same number of other days, God desires ease for you and not hardship, and He desires that you complete the ordained period and glorify God for His guidance to you, that you may be grateful”. (Holy Qur’aan Ch 2:185)
Fasting in the month of Ramadhaan is one of the five pillars upon which Islam is built. The other four are Shahaadah (declaration of one’s belief in God’s oneness and in the message of Muhammad, peace be upon him, Salah (regular attendance to prayer), Zakah (payment of obligatory charity), and Hajj (the pilgrimage).
If we examine these five pillars, taking into account the fact that Islam aims at improving the quality of human life at individual and social levels, we find that the first of these five pillars is concerned with beliefs which influence man’s conduct.
The second, that is prayer, provides a constant reminder of man’s bond with God Almighty. Zakah, the fourth pillar, is a social obligation which reduces the gap between the rich and the poor, while the fifth, which is the pilgrimage, has a universal aspect that unites the Muslim community throughout the world.
Fasting in Ramadhaan has a particularly high importance, derived from its very personal nature as an act of worship.
Although in a Muslim country it is extremely difficult for anyone to defy public feelings by showing that one is not fasting, there is nothing to stop anyone from privately violating God’s commandment of fasting if one chooses to do so.
This means that although fasting is obligatory, its observance is purely voluntary. The fact is that fasting cannot be used by a hypocrite in order to persuade others of one’s devotion to God. If a person claims to be a Muslim, he is expected to fast in Ramadhaan.
On the other hand, a person fasting voluntarily at any other time should not tell others of the fact. If he does, he detracts from his reward for his voluntary worship. In fact, people will find his declaration to be fasting very strange and will feel that there is something wrong behind it.
This explains why the reward God gives for proper fasting is so generous.
Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) quotes God as saying: “All actions done by a human being are his own except fasting, which belongs to Me and I reward it accordingly.”
This is a mark of special generosity, since God gives for every good action a reward equivalent to at least ten times its values. Sometimes He multiplies this reward to seven hundred times the value of the action concerned, and even more.
We are also told by Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) that the reward for proper fasting is admittance into Heaven.
It may be noted that we have qualified fasting that earns such great reward as being “proper”. This is because every Muslim is required to make his worship perfect.
Perfection of fasting can be achieved not by merely staying away from food and drink but by coupling that with the restraint of one’s feelings and emotions.
Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said that whilst fasting, a person should not allow himself to be drawn into a quarrel or a slanging match.
He teaches us: “On a day of fasting, let no one of you indulge in any obscenity, or enter into a slanging match. Should someone abuse or fight him, let him respond by saying: ‘I am fasting!’”
This high standard of self-restraint fits in well with fasting, which is, in essence, an act of self-discipline. Islam requires us to couple patience with voluntary abstention from indulgence in physical desire.
This is indeed the purpose of fasting. It helps man to attain a standard of sublimity, which is very rare in the practical world.
In other words, this standard is actually achieved by every Muslim who knows the purpose of fasting and strives to fulfill it.
Fasting has another special aspect. It makes all people share in the feelings of hunger and thirst. In normal circumstances, people with decent income may go from one year’s end to another without experiencing the pangs of hunger which a poor person may feel every day of his life.
Such an experience helps to draw the rich nearer to the poor. Indeed Muslims are encouraged to be more charitable in Ramadhaan.
Fasting has also a universal or communal aspect. As Muslims throughout the world share in this blessed act of worship, they feel their unity and equality.
Their sense of unity is enhanced by the fact that every Muslim individual joins willingly in the fulfilment of this divine commandment.
The unity of Muslims is far from superficial; it is a unity of action and purpose, since they all fast in order to be better human beings.
As a person restrains himself from the things he desires most, in the hope that he will earn God’s pleasure, self-discipline and sacrifice become part of his nature. He learns to give generously for a good cause.
The joy that millions of Muslims feel as Ramadhaan comes upon them once more is difficult to put into words. Those who are not Muslim cannot imagine what Ramadhaan is really like. It must seem like a severe diet that lasts for a month.
How, they say, can people look forward to going without food and drink between dawn and sunset for a whole month?
And yet, that is what Muslims have done.
They have looked forward all year to this one special month in the calendar, knowing that their fast will be total. They have prepared themselves for the fast, and now Ramadhaan is upon them they enter into it with their whole mind and body.
- For further information on Islam or a free copy of the Holy Qur’aan, please contact:
- Majlisul Ulama Zimbabwe, Council of Islamic Scholars
- Publications Department
- PO Box W93, Waterfalls, Harare
- Tel: 04-614078/614004, Fax: 04-614003
- e-mail: [email protected]