By Osman Heshri:
Tripoli, 10 July 2013:
“O ye who believe! Fasting is . . .[restrict]prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint…Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting…” (The Holy Quran, Chapter 2, verses 183 and 185).
Ramadan, the ninth and most holy month of the Islamic Lunar calendar, begins with the sighting of the crescent moon. The importance of this month and the need to determine the precise time of its onset led to considerable advances in the fields of mathematics and astronomy by Muslim scholars, at a time when most of Europe was still groping its way through the dark ages. The word Ramadan derives from the Arabic root ramida or ar-ramad, meaning scorching heat or dryness. This seems a fitting name for the 29/30 days spent every year in thirst as observers refrain from eating or drinking between the hours of sunrise and sunset. It was in this month, in the year 620 C.E. that Muslims believe the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Mohamed (pbuh), and later the instruction for all able Muslims to spend it in fast.
The fourth pillar of Islam, fasting during Ramadan, is obligatory on all Muslims over the age of puberty with the exception of those who are ill or whose health prevents it, for example diabetics or pregnant women, those travelling or having menstrual bleeding. As well as abstaining from eating and drinking during sunlight hours, observing Muslims must not smoke or chew gum and must refrain from any sexual activity.However, this is merely the physical component of the fast; spiritual aspects include refraining from gossiping, lying, slandering and all traits of bad character. Purity of thought and action is paramount. Time should be spent in spiritual reflection, prayer, doing good deeds and spending time with family and friends. By doing this, the act of fasting redirects the heart away from worldly activities towards the Divine.
Fasting purifies and softens the heart and trains Muslims in self-discipline whilst helping to prevent them from greed.Muslims are told that during Ramadan, the gates to Paradise are opened and the gates to hellfire are locked, and the devils are chained. Ramadan therefore offers Muslims time for self-reflection, away from the temptations of the devil. In a state of moderate hunger, many report a clearness of mind and heart.It also offers a lesson in compassion and charity. The fasting person is naturally among the most merciful of people. This is because he has tasted hunger, experienced thirst and endured hardship. He can relate to those who go without and is encouraged to give from his own wealth. Zakat -ul -Fitr is a charity obligation which must be paid by every Muslim, young and old, to the poor and helpless at the end of the Month of Fasting.
The holy month of Ramadan is an opportunity for all believers to attain Allah’s (swt) pleasure. And for those who do, the rewards are great. A companion of the Prophet (pbuh), Abu Hurairah, reported that the Prophet (pbuh) said: “He who observes the fast in Ramadan out of Iman(faith) and hoping for reward from Allah, all his previous sins will be forgiven.” Fasting renews faith and in itself is a form of worship. It was also reported that the prophet(pbuh) said: “Allah said: ‘Every action of the son of Adam is for him except fasting, for that is solely for Me. I give the reward for it.'” It is for this reason that Muslims spend Ramadan in increased prayer such as the Taraweeh or communal night prayers which take place late into the night and involve the recitation of large chapters of the Quran, reading of the Quran and making du’a (supplication to God).The Prophet (pbuh) said:”The du’a of three persons is not refused: a fasting man when breaking the fast, a just ruler, and an oppressed person.”
Every day in Ramadan is blessed, the Prophet (pbuh) said: The beginning of Ramadan is for mercy, its middle salvation and its end, for safety from Hell.Laylatul-Qadr, the ‘Night of Power’, falls on one of the odd-numbered nights in the last ten days of Ramadan. It is believed to be the night when the Quran was first revealed. It is the holiest night of the holiest month. This is a time for especially fervent and devoted prayer, and the rewards and blessings associated with such are manifold. Muslims are told in the Qur’an that praying throughout this one night is better than a thousand months of prayer. No one knows exactly which night it is; it is one of Allah’s mysteries.
As well as benefitting Muslims spiritually, many scientists believe that fasting could be extremely beneficial to health. In addition to weight loss and healthy weight maintenance, fasting has been linked to improved immune system function, lower systolic blood pressure, lower body temperature, lower cholesterol and lowering of glucose levels in the blood. It may contribute to longer life by cleaning the body of harmful toxins and help to prevent diseases like diabetes and cancer by slowing down the aging process and increasing DNA repair. The body’s metabolic rate slows during a fast, allowing it to conserve energy, thereby contributing to the healing process and the value of fasting as a treatment for many chronic health conditions continues to be studied.
At a time when most Muslims are devoted to keeping steadfast in worship and avoiding all obscene and irreligious sights, sounds and practices, it is important that non-Muslims remember to keep their own habits respectful. Respect the sentiments of Muslims by not eating, drinking or smoking in public places. Most restaurants and eateries will only open at sunset, the time fast-breaking occurs. It is also advisable to refrain from playing loud music and to keep clothing modest and not revealing. Lastly, be patient – fasting is not a choice but an obligation for all Muslims, respect this, and bear in mind that sometimes a Muslim may seem lightheaded, unable to concentrate and tired. Ramadan is a very special time in the Muslim calendar and can be used well in reflection by all. I wish you all a very blessed and joyous one.
Ramadan Kareem. [/restrict]