Achieving Righteousness this Ramadan
By F. I. Choudhury
A crescent moon hails Ramadan, the ninth month in Islamic lunar calendar, when fasting for the entire month is obligatory for every able-bodied Muslim. Abstaining from food, drinks, sex and smoking from the break of dawn till sunset during Ramadan is a test for Muslims to win control over sin and lustful desires. The Holy Qur’an ordains, “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those who were before you, in order that you may learn ‘taqwa’ piety” (Al-Baqarah 2:184).
Taqwa is a spiritual aspect in the holy Qur’an, and refers to a quality that keeps a believer aware of the unseen Almighty all the time. In other words, it is attaining a state of righteousness and consciousness of the Almighty. It needs patience to attain it. Fasting brings patience. Imam Al-Ghazzali said, fasting produces a semblance of divine quality of samadiyyah (freedom from want) in a human being.
One of the five pillars of Islam, viz., shahada (declaration of faith), salat (prayer), zakat (charity), sawm (fasting) and Hajj (pilgrimage to Makka). Fasting reflects the moral and spiritual characteristics of Islam.
As a pre-Islamic tradition, fasting existed in every human society and was observed basically as a symbol of sadness or atonement for sins. In Judaism, fasting is observed on days of penitence or mourning. Roman Catholics observe fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Similarly Hindus too observe fast on Ekadasi, Karwa Chauth, Navaratri etc. Fasting is observed by other religions, too. Islam radicalised fasting into an enlightened concept of triumph over the forces of evil by tearing to restrain oneself from meeting human needs which are otherwise lawful. Emphasising the importance of fasting a Bukhari Hadith says “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of hell are closed and devils are chained.”
Islamic fasting is more than hunger and thirst. It is a month-long training to restrain oneself from doing evil. In other words, Ramadan is a month of self-regulation. Islamic scholar Marmaduke Pickthall said, “the fast of Ramadan, like all the rites and ceremonies of Islam, is disciplinary, not superstitious. It is absolutely meaningless without the thought which comes from our obedience, the thought of Allah”.
Fasting awakens the inner conscience of an individual and creates a control in the Muslim which raises him or her to the state of ihsan, meaning perfection or excellence. It is a matter of taking one’s faith (iman) and showing it in both belief and action. It is established in the hadith that the angel Gabriel (Jibril) asked the Prophet (PUBH): “Tell me about excellence in faith (ehsan).” He replied: “It is to worship Allah as though you see Him, and though you do not see Him, you know that He sees you.”
Apart from moral and spiritual aspects, researches have revealed that fast helps control numerous illnesses like cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, asthma, digestive disorders and helps reduce thickening of blood and the formation of clots in the arteries. It helps to lead a healthy life.
The Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammed(PBUH) in this month. As the Ramadan fast ends, the first day of the next month of Shawwal is Eid-ul-Fitr, the festival of breaking the fast, one of the two most important Islamic celebrations. Eid is considered as reward from Allah for those who spent the entire Ramadan observing fast and in prayer. On this day people offer congregational prayer and enjoy feast with family and friends.
The writer is Advocate-on-Record, Supreme Court of India. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org