Across cultures and peoples, the principles of Ramadan are the same: self control and the cleansing of the body and mind.
Before the commandment for fasting came, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had advised his followers to fast for three days in a month, and this was optional.
It was in the second year of Hijrah that the verse about the obligatory fast of Ramadan was revealed.
Ramadan is, of course, the month of hunger, hardship, and patience. And yet for believers, it brings great happiness and contentment too.
Because Ramadan offers a golden opportunity to Muslims for immense spiritual attainments that can earn them their Paradise, the hardship of leaving food, drink, and sex gets them the happy promise that their efforts are sure to be accepted by the All Merciful.
The result of sincere fasting is piety, which one acquires through the training course of fasting:
O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn piety. (2:183)
Piety (taqwa) is a diligence and watchfulness that help us suppress our inclination to yield to temptations. Piety is the opposite of avarice and selfishness. It is a constant struggle to give a wide berth to all that is glamorous on the outside and rotten inside. Piety enables us to keep our passions under control, and discipline them. Piety is the fear of none but Allah. The strength of piety comes from Allah and Allah alone.
Ramadan is a month of the year meant for the purification of our minds and souls. It is a special time to grow closer through our faith and deeds to Allah, as well as to each other. It is also a time for reflections upon Allah’s infinite blessings through piety, self-discipline, and patience.
Ramadan is the time to seek Allah’s forgiveness and for each Muslim to forgive each other by settling differences that arose during the past year. In this month, believers not only abstain from food and drink during day time, but also hold back all tendencies for quarrel and confrontation.
During Ramadan, people take particular care to spend more time with family and friends, to be kind and considerate to all, and to overlook people’s faults and forgive them for their lapses.
Fasting is an effective lesson in moderation and willpower. It helps us to be adaptable to new situations. It enables us to overcome the unpredictable hardships of life. It generates in us the real spirit of social belonging, of unity and brotherhood, and of equality before Allah as well as before the law.
This is because when we fast, we are joining Muslims all over the world in observing the same duty in the same manner with the same objective.
During Ramadan, a believer refuses to indulge his body, but feeds his soul instead. A fasting person lowers his gaze, restrains his wandering mind and reins in his tongue.
Fasting trains a person to flee from the prurient and the obscene. Through the remembrance of Allah, through the recitation of the Quran, and through the night vigil prayers, a Muslim nourishes his soul.
Fasting prepares a Muslim to confront the trials of life with patience and fortitude. It helps him or her to calmly endure the physical pangs of hunger and thirst, as well as the mental pain of facing the misdeeds of others.
Fasting is a good course in anger management as well. It gives a person the strength to rise above common weaknesses and remain steadfast in truth and justice. It instills into a person compassion for his fellow beings as regards their needs, concerns and anxieties. Ramadan makes Muslims charitable and generous to the unfortunates who have fallen by the wayside in their journey of life.
Ramadan fosters unity among the believers, and instills into their hearts a spirit of sacrifice. During Ramadan, Muslims experience hunger and thirst — the common lot of the poor — with an equal temper of mind.
During this month, the reward for giving charity to the poor and the orphans is among the best of deeds, and our good deeds are multiplied during this blessed month. Generosity to the needy brings mercy from the Lord. Ramadan enables the rich among the believers to feel the sufferings of the poor and be one with them.
Indeed, the Muslims of the world become a genuine “Ummah”, or united body of believers, during the Ramadan.
Fasting lifts a person from the mere mundane sphere of life to a lofty level of the spirit. The selfless worship of Allah during Ramadan rises almost to the level of the ceaseless worship of the angels of the Most High.
At university campuses across the US, Muslim student groups organize general iftar meetings to which students from every corner of the world are invited. Though coming from different religious cultures, their negative perceptions of Islam slowly disappear. Indeed, some of them begin to develop love and respect for Muslims.
Foreign students — particularly those who are familiar with Muslims at home — enthusiastically indicated that no matter how far away they were from home, the familiar sights of communal gathering made them feel at home. The sharing of the meal, the Arabic call to prayer, and the services that followed reminded them of home, enabling them to cherish these 1400-year-old Islamic traditions in a new way.
Across cultures and peoples, the principles of Ramadan are the same: self control and the cleansing of the body and mind. In Islam, religion and spirituality are not confined to the private sphere. The principles that direct the private lives of Muslims shine through social obligations and rights.
Let us pray to Allah the All-Merciful to make this year’s Ramadan the most spiritually rewarding Ramadan we have ever had.
To this end, let us switch off our TV, internet, radio, cell phone, and so on, and focus on the worship of Allah to the extent we can.
May Allah reward us with piety in this life and Paradise in the life to come!