Ramadan Fasts: Four Levels of Spirituality

The holy month of Ramadan is once again upon us and those Muslims who are fortunate to witness it are obligated to fast for the entire month, unless, they are old, traveling, ill or unable.

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam; the other four are witnessing the Oneness of God, the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him), praying five times a day, partaking in distributive justice by sharing one’s wealth with the needy (Zakat) and performing the pilgrimage to Makkah (Hajj) if one can afford it.

The Quran says that fasting has been commanded to Muslims as it was commanded to all other faith communities prior to them (2:183) in order that believer become God conscious.

The purpose of fasting is to make the awareness of God and the relationship between the human self and the divine more acute and more conscious. The experience of fasting is like none other.

I believe that there are four levels of fasting; the fasting of appetites, the fasting of the senses, the fasting of the mind and the fasting of the heart.

Fasting of appetites involves abstaining from intake of solid food, drinking any kind of liquids including water and partaking in sexual activities from dawn to dusk.

This ability to control one’s physical desires and wants gives one the will power to moderate one’s behavior and resist temptations that can lead to immoral, irresponsible or illegal conduct.

Muslims hope that the discipline learned in Ramadan will hold them in good stead for the rest of the year.

The next level of fasting involves the fasting of the senses. Do not see, do not say, do not hear, and do not touch anything that will break your fast. The most difficult part is to keep one’s loose tongue and curiosity in check.

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About Dr. Muqtedar Khan
Dr. Muqtedar Khan is Associate Professor of Islam and Global Affairs at the University of Delaware. He is a Fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. His website is www.ijtihad.org.