Ramadhan, the ninth month of Islamic calendar, has begun in Muslim world. Around 1.6 billion Muslims – constituting about 23 per cent of world population – will observe fasting from dawn until dusk, and will also forego liquids and sexual relations with their partners.
The prophet of Islam, Muhammad [PBUH] told the Muslims, some 1400 years ago, that the nations before them were also obligated to fast. In the Qur’an, the holy book of Muslims, Allah says: “O believers, fasting is an obligation upon you as it was obligated upon the [Muslims] before you so it would help you to reach piety.]”
While some religious scholars say that it is a month-long training period for Muslims so that they become pious, others believe, and they come up with scientific and medical theories, that fasting enhances the metabolism and even cures a number of ailments.
During this month, Muslims are mandated to stay away from food – both solid and liquid diets, abstain from smoking, getting intimate with their partners, asked to stay away from corruption, lies, and urged to take part in more charity work, and being just with fellow humans and animals etc.
One of the five pillars of Islam, the month of Ramadhan is not just about staying away from food. In one of hadiths, attributed to Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (A.S.), the Prophet of Islam [PBUH] said: “Your day of fasting should not be like ordinary days. When you fast, all your senses, eyes, ears, tongue, hands, and feet must fast with you.” It implied that we should even abstain from sinful thoughts, bad speech and unbecoming acts.
This month teaches us to guard again evil, practice self-restraint, inculcate patience, and empathise with destitute and downtrodden.
Besides the spiritual benefits like peace of mind, the emphasis on organizing community iftaars and taking part in fundraising events makes this month all the more relevant.
Since lot of empahasis is laid upon charity and generosity, this month teaches us to give, and not to take. Fasting for more than a dozen hours (changes according to place) makes us understand what others – less fortunate ones who go to bed on empty stomach – go through.
According to the UN, the number of refugees in the world has reached more than 50 million — highest since the post-World War II era. In a report, released last week, it said, refugees in foreign countries, internally displaced people and asylum-seekers live in abandoned buildings, large tent communities, or with relatives under extreme conditions.
Obviously such an enormous number of people need food and clothing. With the month of fasting already on, Muslims would donate more for these people so that they, especially old and children, receive the necessary help. These people don’t have access to food and clothing, so we should be generous enough to donate whatever we can.
That is the true spirit of Ramadhan. And that is what makes it all the more relevant in today’s age. Besides, we know how corruption has been eating into the vitals of our administration and sucking up the economy. When we fast, we are also advised against indulging into such wrong practices. This month will teach us therefore not to practice corruption as it goes against the teachings of the Prophet [PBUH] and Qur’an.