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Ramadan: Time for Becoming Better Muslims

Today, we’re going to talk about fasting in Ramadan.

We made another video “Getting Ready for Ramadan” and that video was intended especially for new Muslims, for people who hadn’t fasted before, or maybe for Muslims who’ve forgotten a little about how to fast.

This video, these few minutes, we’re going to speak about fasting in Ramadan. So it’s intended for new Muslims, it’s intended for Muslims who’ve been faithful Muslims all their lives, it’s intended for those Muslims who’ve maybe slid a little bit and need to come back to Allah.

So it’s intended for all Muslims, and indeed for people who are not Muslims as well, they might learn a little about our wonderful faith, our way of life, our deen, Islam.

Fasting in Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. It’s pretty important as pillars hold up a building. Without the pillars, the building will fall down. In Islam, we have five things that Allah Almighty has given us especially to hold up our faith, our deen, our way of life.

We declare shahadah, we declare that there is no one worthy of worship, no created thing, no being worthy of worship but Allah alone and that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is His messenger; we pray five times a day; we give zakah (a portion of our left over wealth to the poor); we fast in Ramadan; and we go on pilgrimage once in our lifetimes, if we’re able to, to perform the hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah).

So today we’re talking about fasting in Ramadan.

Why Do We Fast?

We fast (this is very important, and sometimes as Muslims we forget why we’re doing it) because Allah tells us to fast and that’s it. There is no other reason. Allah Almighty tells us in the Quran:

{Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that you may learn taqwa.} (2:183)

In the other video, I just gave a word or two to remind ourselves about this word ‘taqwa’ an Arabic word. It can be translated as maybe piety or maybe fear of the Lord. But what do those really mean?

I really understand it best, taqwa, as being humble in God’s presence.

By fasting in Ramadan, it helps us put our lives in proper perspective. When we pray, as Muslims, our foreheads touch the ground and we say to Allah Almighty: “I am nothing without You. Without You, I can do nothing.”

And all of those images we project of ourselves in life of how important we are, we want to be important and be in charge of other people. When we pray, our lives are put into context, we are nothing really without Allah, we couldn’t even breathe unless He breathes the life into us each day, so we are nothing without Him.

So taqwa, fear of the Lord, piety, is what we learn by fasting in Ramadan. That’s what Allah tells us. We don’t do it to lose weight, we don’t do it to please other people, we don’t do it to please the other people in the mosque, “oh he’s fasting… isn’t he a good Muslim!…” That’s not why we do it. We fast to please Allah.

As well, some people will tell you how wonderful Ramadan is going to be. Now indeed Ramadan is wonderful and I will tell you how wonderful it is, but just in case you’re not feeling all that wonderful when you’re fasting…

You know, maybe you have that terrible habit of smoking, which you shouldn’t have anyway, but say you smoke and you’ve given up smoking in Ramadan and you feel pretty awful. Nowhere does it tell us in the Quran that when we fast we’ll see rainbows and little rabbits jumping around and butterflies… it doesn’t say that. It doesn’t say we’ll feel wonderful. It’s simply tells us fast, and fasting is prescribed… And by fasting, Insha’Allah, we’ll learn to put our lives into context.

Few Rules of Ramadan

So just a few rules of Ramadan. If you’re new to Ramadan or if you don’t know anything about Ramadan, when do Muslims fast? Well it’s in the month of Ramadan obviously, one of the months of the Muslim year.

When during the month do they fast?

They fast when the adhan sounds for salatul fajr (morning prayer). As soon as the sound of Allahu Akbar in the morning, fast has begun and it ends with the call to prayer for the sunset prayer, salatul Maghrib, when the sound Allahu Akbar, the fast is finished. So we fast from one call to prayer for Fajr prayer to the other call to prayer for Maghrib prayer.

Some new to Islam they make a mistake. They look outside “Is it still dark? Is it still dark?” It’s got nothing to do with that. It’s to do with the time of Fajr prayer, that’s when our fasting begins, when the prayer begins. So if we eat after the prayer has been called, we’re breaking the fast, so let’s be very clear. And if we eat a few seconds before the prayer is called for Maghrib, we’re breaking the fast.

So we fast from Fajr to Maghrib, that’s when we fast.

How Do We Fast? What Do We Do?

Well, we don’t eat and we don’t drink; but there are many other things we don’t do, we don’t smoke, we don’t take things into our bodies.

In Islam, sexual activities between a man and his wife, intercourse during the hours of fasting, is not allowed. Is sex wrong? No it’s not. Food isn’t wrong, drink isn’t wrong but Allah tells us to fast from these things during the hours of fasting, we’ll say why in a moment.

As well as the things we don’t take in, also we try to fast from bad thoughts, from backbiting, speaking ill of people using bad language.

You see, Ramadan is a whole package, it’s not just about missing your lunch, or not having a cup of tea. It’s about becoming a better person, a better Muslim. That’s why we do it.

And each day of Ramadan, you should be asking yourself: “Am I a better person today because of my fasting?”

Now, to be honest, my dear brothers and sisters, if you fasted the whole day, and it could be tough, sometimes you will have a terrible headache, you won’t feel well, but at the end of the fast, when we break the fast, you know how good it can feel: “I fasted today for Allah’s sake.” You feel good, doing good makes you good, and it makes you feel good as well; just as doing bad things, if the truth be told, makes us feel bad.

So Ramadan teaches us taqwa, fear of the Lord, piety and it makes us better people.

So we know when we fast, we know what we do to fast.

Who Fasts?

Well, Muslims fast, able-bodied Muslims fast. Islam is eminently sensible; it’s a very sensible way of life, a sensible deen, it all makes sense.

So there are some people who are exempt from fasting. Who are these?

The chronically ill don’t have to fast, the very old people if it will make them ill they don’t have to fast, a woman who is expecting a baby doesn’t have to fast, little children don’t have to fast… it makes sense.

Ramadan isn’t a punishment, and Allah Almighty doesn’t want to make us ill by fasting. But if these people can’t fast, they can do other things to help them to gain all the benefits of Ramadan as other Muslims are gaining, they can pray more, they can recite the Quran more and so on.

What if you break the fast by mistake?

For example with all the best will in the world, your intention in the morning is to fast, but half way through the day, you mistakenly pick up a sweet and put it in your mouth and then you remember: “Oh! What have I done?” Does that invalidate my fast?

No it doesn’t; you’re still fasting and it does not break your fast unless you did it intentionally, if you did it on purpose if you said “Oh, I think I will have a sweet, it won’t make much difference!” That breaks the fast and you will have to make up for that day of fasting after Ramadan.

But if you break the fast accidently, there is no penalty attached to it. Islam is very sensible, if you deliberately break the fast, there is a penalty afterwards; if you break the fast by mistake, there is no penalty.

If you are unable to fast because you’re sick or you’re too old or you are weak, you’re exempted from fasting.

So those are other few rules…

What Then is the Importance of Fasting?

This is a very important thing.

Ramadan is such a beautiful month. You know I said in the other video about getting ready for Ramadan, as one who accepted Islam later in life, I can honestly put my hand on my heart and say that Islam for me it’s like Christmas and New Year and birthdays, and Thanksgiving… all rolled into one. It truly is the most beautiful of months, better than a thousand months, it tells us in the Quran.

Why is it better than a thousand months?

Because we become better people and we become closer to Allah Almighty. That’s what Ramadan is about, it’s becoming closer to our creator. It’s not about keeping rules and regulations, it’s about coming closer to our creator, to become better people, to become better Muslims.

Ramadan is the month of the Quran. The Noble Quran was first revealed to our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) during the month of Ramadan; and during Ramadan, we try as best we can to recite as much of the Quran as we can. We even attend in the mosque if we’re able to, it’s strongly recommended that we try, we attend Taraweeh prayer in the evening, where the Quran is recited and during the course of Ramadan, the whole of the Quran will be recited. So we are encouraged to do that.

Ramadan is the month of prayer; it’s a month when we set aside time; it’s a month when we try to get up in the middle of the night, when all is dark and quiet, and all the business of life has gone, we get up quietly, no one need to see us, and we prostrate ourselves before Allah and we listen to Him and we know that Allah is waiting and listening for those who will come to Him in the night and ask things of Him.

So Islam tells us that Ramadan is the month of Quran and prayer and it’s a month of fasting; not a punishment, not of dieting, but of fasting for Allah’s sake, we do it for Allah’s sake. Why? So that we become better people, so that we are spiritually renewed.

It’s like…, you’ve heard of like spring-cleaning? You know after the dark months of winter, many housewives they sweep out the house, they shake away the cobwebs, they clean the carpets and get the house nice and clean as the seasons are changing, it’s becoming more cheerful outside.

Well Ramadan, whenever it falls during the year, it’s like a spring-cleaning of our hearts and our lives. We’re dusting away all of the rubbish, all of the cobwebs that have clung to our hearts during the past year, we’re brushing them away; we’re saying to Allah in Ramadan: “I’m sorry, Oh Allah, for all those mistakes I made, for the things I deliberately did wrong…” and it’s time to come closer to Him.

Just a word about fasting, it’s very important to remember. In Cairo, when the adhan sounds for Maghrib prayer, a cannon sounds, as soon as the adhan sounds, the cannon goes off to let the people around know that the fasting has ended, it’s a nice idea.

I tell people of Cairo, there are many people today whose fast won’t end with the sound of a cannon being fired. There are many people in our world during Ramadan who will starve to death because they’ve nothing to eat or drink and the cannon won’t signal the start of feasting and celebrating and bringing our food together and sharing iftar, breaking the fast because they will die.

So Ramadan as well teaches us to thank Allah Almighty for all the blessings we have, we can’t number the blessings we have. We thank Allah for our hearing, our sight, our speech, our sense of smell, the fact that we can walk and move around and experience this world and everything in it. We thank Allah for that. We thank Allah for our families and for our friends, for opportunities He gives us.

It’s a time for sitting down and thanking Allah for all those beautiful things that we’ve taken for granted.

One thing we take for granted: water. You know, we remember in Ramadan how important water is because we’re going without it. But you know, it helps us remember that during the year, we can just turn on the tap whenever we want to drink. What a wonderful gift water is, it’s a life giving and refreshing and cleansing…

So Ramadan will be a time when we will become better people, better Muslims for Allah’s sake. Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that you may learn taqwa, piety, fear of the Lord and become better people Insha’Allah.

Assalamu Alaykum warahmatu Allah Wa Barakatuh.


About Idris Tawfiq

Idris Tawfiq was a British writer, public speaker and consultant.He became a Muslim around 15 years ago.For many years, he was head of religious education in different schools in the United Kingdom.Before embracing Islam, he was a Roman Catholic priest.He passed away in peace in the UK in February 2016 after a period of illness.May Allah (SWT) have mercy on him, and accept his good deeds. Ameen.

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