Each year for 30 days, 1.5 billion Muslims around the world fast during the month of Ramadan.
You may have heard about Ramadan as a time during which followers of Islam abstain from food and drink each day from dawn until sunset, but there’s much more to this month than simply not eating or drinking.
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Being lunar means that within the span of every 30 years or so, the month of Ramadan falls in each of the four seasons, hence, the just nature of the lunar system.
Just imagine the month arising at the same time every summer or every winter! Which brings us to an interesting question: It’s hard enough to abstain from food and water for a whole day, how do people do it in the summer? Not even water?
Actions that Muslims are commanded to avoid during fasting hours include eating, drinking, smoking, having sex… Then they are free vis-a-vis these actions until daybreak of the following day.
The time to break the fast, or in other words to feast, coincides with sunset. It is often a fun time for families and friends who share meals and invite each other over for dinner, or dine with their local community at a mosque or center.
For someone with health concerns who requires medications throughout the day, fasting is not an option for them. In general, where fasting compromises an ill person’s pace of treatment or prognosis, they are ordered to refrain.
Other exceptions include pregnant women, nursing mothers, postpartum women, children, travelers and seniors who either cannot tolerate fasting or upon whom fasting is harmful. Almost everyone else, fasting is fair game.
Time for Reflection and Self Improvement
The month of Ramadan is a time of reflection and self improvement in terms of oneself, one’s behavior with other people, and one’s relationship with the divine.
Fasting has much inner and outer wisdom underlying it. It is a way for a person to feel solidarity with the millions of poor and hungry people around the world, who are fasting day and night without a choice.
People usually take food and water for granted and rarely ever feel real hunger, and so don’t think about those who are suffering. Fasting is a means for one to share a little bit in the pain the millions of others who go through every day to feel more motivated to give to charity, to help those who are in need in societies more susceptible ones.
Fasting Means Abandoning
This abandoning entails physical actions such as eating, drinking; and abstract actions such as abandoning one’s ego and becoming totally selfless and annihilated in the divine.
With all actions there is an inner and outer meeting. The inner objective of fasting is to attain an inner state of silence. This is acquired by slowly, surely, taming one’s animal dimension, thus becoming closer and closer to the essence of what we are.
Don’t be sidetracked by the negative images you encounter in the media. Why not experience it for yourself and visit your local Islamic center and take part in the Ramadan experience? See how it goes. Get to know yourself better.