What is Ramadan?

We are passing through the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and many people probably wonder what motivates a group of people to fast and go hungry during the daylight hours continuously for one month. What is the benefit? First and foremost, we fast for the love of God and the obedience to His commandments. Secondly, we gain nearness to him, and finally, to condition ourselves to better serve humanity.

The Holy Quran states:

“O ye who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard against evil.” (2:84)

Two points are noted here. One, that fasting was prescribed by God for all divinely revealed religions before Islam. Two, it is a discipline that helps to strengthen the mind, builds character, and fortifies one’s moral resolve so that one will be better equipped to resist evil.

Islam teaches there is an indelible link between man and his creator and the ultimate goal of Islam is to help man reach God through moral and spiritual advancement. Fasting is one of the pillars of Islam that supports this advancement. For one month, Muslims abstain from food and drink and are even encouraged to stay away from permissible pleasures, while being encouraged to increase their time in prayers, reflection, and study, for the sake of strengthening that relationship. I would like to quote a relevant saying from the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him), “Allah, the Lord of honour and glory says: All other deeds of man are for himself, but his fasting is purely for Me and I shall reward him for it… (Bukhari, Muslim).”

Another blessing of fasting is that it helps to develop one’s sympathy for humanity. For example, in the state of fasting when one feels the pang of hunger, one’s mind is drawn towards the impoverished and hungry ones of the world. As a result, Muslims are reminded to be more charitable during the month. It is recorded about the prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) in history, “Ibn Abbas relates that the Holy Prophet was the most generous of men and he was at his most bountiful during Ramadhan…  During this period the bounty of the Holy Prophet waxed faster than the rain-bearing breeze (Bukhari and Muslim).”

Next time a friend of yours says he/she is fasting, these are some of the reasons why.

Ahmed Hassan