The Holy Month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and can last 29 or 30 days. The Islamic calendar is based on a lunar year of 12 full lunar cycles, taking 354 or 355 days. The moon circles the Earth twelve times in a full lunar year. The beginning of each month is marked by the observance of a new moon. When a new moon is sighted, Ramadan begins and then fasting would begin in the next dawn. If a new moon is not sighted, then Muslims would begin their fast the following day.
Islam is built upon five pillars and Fasting during the Month of Ramadan is the 4th pillar of Islam. Muslims fast by abstaining from eating, drinking, chewing gum, smoking, and involving in any sexual activity from dawn to sunset. Additionally, fasting in Islam does not solely consist of refraining from food and drinks, rather one is to abstain from every kind of evil, selfish desire, and wrongdoing. The purpose of fasting is not merely for the body, rather it's for the spirit as well. Fasting in Ramadan is for the soul, mind, and body. Muslims are commanded to refrain against gossiping, backbiting, slandering, lying, cheating, looking at what’s prohibited, nursing a grudge, using sinful speech, and/or any behavior of wrongdoing. Muslims must adhere to the morals of Islam strictly during their fast as failure to do so can violate ones fast. Fasting in Ramadan is obligatory for every sane healthy Muslim, who is not ill or traveling long distance at that time, whether male or female unless a female is on her menstruation cycle or having post-childbirth bleeding. Most religions practice some sort of fasting that generally requires one to go without food or drinks for a certain period. According to the Bible, Jesus fasted for 40 days.
…But why do Muslims Fast?
The primary reason Muslims fast is because God the Almighty has commanded them to do so in His Last and Final Revelation, the Holy Quran. The Holy Quran was sent down to the last and final nation, our nation, whereas the Bible, Torah, and all previous scriptures were sent to previous nations. God states in the Quran:
“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may become righteous and (hopefully learn) self-restraint (Quran 2:183)
Fasting is an act of worship which is beloved by God. The Holy Month of Ramadan & the prescribed fasting The Creator is a gift and mercy to Muslims. God does not prescribe any rulings to his slaves unless there is great wisdom and benefit behind it.
…But how is Ramadan & fasting a gift & mercy to the ones that fast sincerely?
A sin is defined as an act of disobedience in which a person goes against the commandments of God. God deliberately placed human beings on Earth knowing that they will sin. By nature of human beings, mankind is fallible and bound to sin due to outside evil influences whether it's from friends, family, the media, or from Satan’s attack and whispers that can stray one from the straight path leading them to destruction. God is willing to accept anyone’s repentance. No doubt, it is, in fact, Allah that loves people who repent over and over again. Since Muslims are err to sin as a result of ignorance, forgetfulness, or from the handiwork of Satan. Mankind needs to be reminded and trained from abstaining from negative behaviors that go against the commandments of God.
God the Almighty states fasting and abstaining from which is prohibited will increase one’s Taqwa. Taqwa is translated to God-fearing piety, righteousness, mindfulness, and consciousness of God where one is aware God is watching at all times. The concept of Taqwa is expressed in the Quran over 200 times. The word Taqwa comes from the root word ‘to guard’ When one has taqwa or God consciousness, one loves to do good and avoid evil for the sake of God.
….But how does one attain Taqwa by fasting?
Fasting is a shield for mankind. Fasting protects a person from sin and lustful desires. The purpose of fasting is not simply physical training to withstand hunger, thirst, and exhaustion; rather, it is disciplining the soul & the ego to give up what’s loved in this world from material goods, wealth, fame, etc. for the sake of God. Fasting Muslims seek to overpower and suppress sinful desires in themselves, putting aside all evils and bad behaviors to express their dedication and love to God and use it as a way to draw closer to Him so that God becomes a reality in their lives resulting in a higher spiritual state. Fasting in Ramadan offers one to develop spiritually and gain strength and control over one’s soul and one’s egos which would dominate one’s life when left unchecked and unmonitored.
Sincere and proper fasting for the full month of Ramadan every year is very beneficial for individuals and society as a whole as it develops piety and self-restraint. Once one is conscious that God is watching, one’s sins and disobedience will dramatically decrease because one would be aware that God is watching. Fasting in Ramadan recharges one's spiritual and physical state. Fasting is meant to instill virtuous qualities in humans from being generous, patient, and cleansing the spiritual heart. Fasting cleansing the soul, mind, and body as temporally giving up for food, water, and many disobedient acts is a natural way of removing toxins from the soul, mind, and body. When Fasting, one controls the urge to eat and drink empowering one to exercise self-control and help to develop patience, inner strength and will-power in a person. Additionally, fasting develops good qualities of endurance and self-restraint, helping one control his or her anger, tongue, and actions. Fasting help resists unlawful desires and wicked habits which would help guard one against evil. Fasting exercises one’s ability of self-restraint so that one can apply it their everyday life to bring about self-improvement & self-development. Fasting in Ramadan suppresses worldly desires and strengthens one’s spirituality.
The Holy Month of Ramadan is special and blessed because the Holy Quran, which is the book revealed to Prophet Mohammad Peace Be Up Him, was revealed in this special month. Therefore, Muslims recite the Quran frequently in this blessed month. Ramadan is the month when Muslims try to establish or re-establish a relationship with their Creator and The Quran so that one may be guided. Ramadan is a month for deep inner reflection.
Muslim believe they earn extra spiritual rewards in this month for good deeds which can lead them to paradise in the hereafter and avoid the punishment of the hellfire. During Ramadan, Muslims engage in consistent spiritual reflection and prayer with the aims of drawing closer to God and becoming a better person.
During this blessed month, extra voluntary prayers are offered in every Mosque well into the night, with many places of worship crammed with worshippers. Hearts are directed away from worldly material goods and get directed to Almighty, His Religion, and His Final Revelation, the Holy Quran. Due to the blessings and rewards associated with this Holy Month, Muslims are encouraged to give and help others to their best of ability. While the primary reason for fasting is to draw closer to Allah by purifying oneself by abstaining from sins and increasing acts of good, fasting comes with many additional benefits. Amongst the benefits of Fasting is that it teaches man the principle of sincere Love to God as he struggles to fast solely for the pleasure of God.
Fasting in Ramadan is supposed to help discontinue any bad habits one may have developed throughout the year. Fasting is supposed to free a person from the slavery of sinful desires as they give it up for a whole month. Additionally, fasting develops new good habits as Muslims increase acts of good in this month.
Fasting in Ramadan is a way of experiencing hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and developing sympathy for the less fortunate which should result in an increase in helping the less fortunate. Many take blessings like food and water for granted. When one is fasting, he or she realizes what the less fortunate feel every day. This should increase helping and giving others, especially the less fortunate as fasting helps one to sympathize with the poor so one may know and experience their hardships. During the fast, one learns to give, and not to just take.
Fasting in Ramadan leads one to be more thankful and appreciate all of God's gifts and provisions. Fasting is a way to humble one before God and His creation as hunger and thirst help one come in a realization that they are in desperate need of God and his provisions decreasing one’s false pride and arrogance. Fasting in Ramadan teaches patience as one feels the pains of deprivation, but he endures them patiently. Fasting teaches moderation and increases one willpower as one feels hunger but disciplines him or herself to not eat so that they can benefit from the increased willpower and discipline after the month is over. This month is supposed to be a training period for the rest of the year so that one can resist temptations.
Amongst the many spiritual benefits, lie many physicality benefits as well. Fasting in Ramadan speeds up one’s metabolism, lowers cholesterol levels, helps with weight loss, indorses longevity, improves one’s brain function, clears one’s skin from acne and dry skin, improves the immune system, and purifies the body by allowing the body to rest from the continuous task of digesting food.
Whereas fasting in the Month of Ramadan may appear very exhausting and difficult, it is, in fact, an enjoyable time for Muslims. It becomes a month of Family and friends getting together to worship the One God and to eat together after sunset. Ramadan has a different atmosphere from other months of the year. Often, local families and individuals sponsor breaking-fast and dinners at local mosques which are open to the community. Mosques are often packed with worshippers at night and special evening prayers are usually held in mosques. during Ramadan.
At the completion of the month, Muslims celebrate one of the two Islamic festivals; Eid-ul-Fitr which translates to the ‘festival of the breaking of the Fast’ It is a festival of celebration. It is a time of joy, social gathering of family and friends, gift giving, wearing new clothes, and time which Muslims express thanks and gratitude to their Creator for the self-control, will, strength and the endurance and benefits that they practiced and achieved during this Holy Month.