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The Spiritual and Ethical Dimension of Ramadan

The social, economic, spiritual, and psychological benefit of fasting in Ramadan is coherent and linked. For thirty days, we learn what intense hunger feels like. However, how many of us realize that there are millions of people in the world who fast every day, and not by choice, but rather because they have to? The message behind abstaining from food and drinking from dawn to sunset is intended to build compassion in our hearts for the less fortunate and allow us to relate to their daily plights.

The Holy Month of Ramadan is a divine blessing to the believers, in which mankind fosters a strong will against hunger, thirst, and transgressions of the soul against the Creator. On a more profound level, Ramadan is not merely a means of abstaining from food, but rather a time to build our spirituality and ethics. During this glorious month, Muslims battles the lowly desires of their soul which, if left unmitigated, bring us to darkest pits of self-destruction and sabotage. The grand magnitude of the Month of Ramadan is founded on Mercy and Forgiveness by the Almighty, coupled with the innate human desire for self-improvement. In brief, this month can bring an evident victory against our selfish caprices and the human attraction towards extravagance and arrogance.

Ramadan is most exalted of all months, and appropriately so, for it is the month of God. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) stressed the significance of the month, “O’ People! Surely, the month of God has approached you – the month which, in the eyes of Allah, is the most virtuous of the months. Its days are the best of the days and its nights, the best of the nights and its moments, the best of the moments.” Indeed, Ramadan is also the month of patience, and as the believers are aware, the reward for patience is paradise.

The question that we must ask ourselves continually: by what means do take advantage of this Holy Month? There are countless themes that are characteristic of the Holy Month, and it is the duty of all Muslims to focus on these lessons.

Gaining Taqwa

The relationship between fasting, the Holy Qur’an, and Taqwa (righteousness) is distinct and powerful. In the Holy Qur’an, the link between them is highlighted numerous times, among them: “O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed upon you as it has been prescribed upon those before you, so that you may attain Taqwa.” (2:183) Verse 185 of the same chapter reads, “Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (signs) for guidance and a criterion (between right and wrong).”

To truly understand this relationship among fasting, Ramadan, the Holy Qur’an, and Taqwa, we must analyze each component. For example, can Ramadan be successful without fasting? Can fasting be perfected without reciting Qur’an? More importantly, consider this: how can we gain Taqwa if we forgo the first two? As a result of the importance of becoming more God-fearing and pious, we must ask ourselves everyday upon breaking the fast: has this fasting made me more pious? Have I become a more righteous believer and more fearful of the chastisement of hellfire?

Perfection of Manners and Morals

As we have already established, fasting is comprised of much more than just avoiding food. Among the more ascetic and ethical aspects of fasting is refining our Akhlaq (manners). Although by fasting we are completing one part of our faith, we must not neglect the others. The Holy Prophet warned of depreciating the importance of manners and piety, “It may be that a fasting person receives nothing from his fast except hunger and thirst.” Rather, the Prophet placed emphasis on piety and manners: “The most (important) things that cause people to reach Heaven are divine piety and a good temper.”

These narrations point towards the ethical and social need for a pious and tolerant disposition among Muslims. More importantly, when we fast, it must be a fast of the mind, body, and soul. Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) explained the need for a complete fast, “Your fast day should not be like other ordinary days. When you fast, all your sense – eyes, ears, tongue, hands and feet – must fast with you.” Just as fasting purifies our bodies, it must also purify our minds and tongue from moral imperfections.

Very often, the biggest tests during Ramadan come from our interactions with others. The temptation to be rude and ill-tempered towards those that we feel wrong us is another one of the diseases of our soul. We must keep in mind that Ramadan is the month of Mercy and Forgiveness, and those blessings must be applied to both ourselves and others. The believer pardons the faults of others and forgives them, while the hypocrite seeks them out.

Establishing Generosity and Charity

The social, economic, spiritual, and psychological benefit of fasting in Ramadan is coherent and linked. For thirty days, we learn what intense hunger feels like. However, how many of us realize that there are millions of people in the world who fast every day, and not by choice, but rather because they have to? The message behind abstaining from food and drinking from dawn to sunset is intended to build compassion in our hearts for the less fortunate and allow us to relate to their daily plights.

The Holy Month provides us with a clear lesson on charity and giving. Our generosity in Ramadan is above all an opportunity to reestablish ourselves on the path of goodness and devotion to God through helping those less fortunate than us. Those who work to help others in this life will be rewarded in the hereafter. The Prophet Muhammad stressed charity in this month, “Whoever among you affords generosity to an orphan will be rewarded by Allah being generous to him on the Day of Judgment.”

Spiritual Awakening and Advancement

Fasting is an institution for the betterment of a person both spiritually and morally. It is hoped that the changes one makes during this blessed month will be carried on long after Eid. The month of Ramadan is the most glorious time to make amends and seek forgiveness for our sins. Among the most basic and universal lessons of Ramadan is that each among us has the ability to change and become better. The Prophet spoke of the impact such changes will have in both this life and the hereafter: “Whoever among you improves his conduct during this month will have a safe passage on Sirat al-Mustaqeem, (the Straight Path) when many feet will slip away.”

The environment presented by Ramadan is perfect for increasing our spiritual concentration due to the absence of idle chatter, useless debates, and God forbid even gossiping or backbiting. The key to comprehending the manner in which we must strive to improve spiritually is through understanding why we fast. Fasting is an act of devotion that we use to seek nearness and increase our devotion to God.

The most exalted and praised fast is one in which we disengage ourselves from everything other than Allah. By doing so, we free our hearts to the true and pure worship of God and remove worldly vices from our souls. During Ramadan, it is said we are the guests of Allah, but applying this concept is more difficult unless we invest great resolve in seeking God and His blessings. The following Prophetic tradition reinforces the above; “For the one fasting, there are two joys: joy when breaking his fast, and joy when he meets His Lord.”

References

Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 96, pg. 356

Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 71, p. 373

Al-Amali, 84-85

Al-Mahajjat al-Bayda, vol. 2, pg. 122

About Huda Jawad

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6 comments

  1. May Allah give us all strength to achieve our resolutions in this holy month!

  2. Well written, a gentle reminder of what we often forget

  3. Jazakallah for this incredible, moving piece. May Allah reward you again and again for your sincere efforts to better the Ummah.

  4. This is my first time fasting as a revert to Islam and this was a very poignant article that needs to be shared with as many people as we can. It’s a great article for people of other faiths (or no faith) to have so that they can understand the meaning behind the fast.

  5. This is my favorite article about Ramazan! Hands down, it’s very well done and the author is very caring in the message. Many times when people write about Ramazan its about how wrong we are about it etc. This article teaches us and makes us realize how blessed we are as Muslims.

    Bless her.

  6. Alhamdulilah.may allah gives us tufiq act upon and whole ummah.

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