By Jamila Cassim
Ramadhan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and one of the most important for Muslims. The month being one in which the Holy Quran was revealed, marks it as the most spiritual month for mankind. During Ramadhan, the believer has to abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset.
There are many benefits to the fast. On the physical level the body undergoes a cleansing process- detoxification of the organs take place. Cleansing and healing takes place as well. According to author Tom Mc Gregor in his book, Fasting in Freedom¹, there are 4 stages to detoxification where the body undergoes cleansing. He explains that it is only at the 4th stage of detoxification -that is by the 16th day of the fast- that the body adapts to the process. During this stage heightened clarity and emotional balance takes place, thus aiding us on our journey of spirituality.
Allah Almighty says in the Holy Quran, “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that you may gain self-restraint” (2:183). It would be a disservice to interpret this verse as merely superficial, denoting an abstinence from food and drink, but rather, the deeper meaning of the verse should be highlighted. Here Allah Almighty is asking the believer to work on his/her inner-being and practice spiritual rejuvenation and healing. Thus, during the fast the believer doesn’t only go through a physical detoxification, but a spiritual one as well. In practice it would follow that when one refrains from all harmful and forbidden actions and intentions, one practices fasting on a spiritual level.
It is of my humble opinion that Allah Almighty wants us to reflect on our deeds; our lives our purpose here on earth. The physical and spiritual act of reading the Quran (pondering and reflecting on the message Allah wishes to convey to us); the intensification of doing good deeds; additional prayer; acts of kindness and charity all serve to enhance the communion with our Creator.
Most scholars will reiterate that this is a time to reflect on our lives. Are we kind and compassionate to the people around us or are we harsh and judgemental? Islam teaches us to love all of mankind. We have to start inculcating an attitude of patience, gratitude and humility in our lives. How do we treat those less fortunate than us? We have to reprioritize our values. Are we worshipping our material possessions -our cars, homes, money -rather than our Creator?
Allah the Almighty says in the Quran:
“ and seek Allah’s assistance with patience and prayer; and truly it is extremely heavy and hard except for those with full submission who are certain that they are going to meet their lord and unto him are going to return” (2: 45-46)
It is through fasting that one makes the spiritual journey towards Allah. It is not the simple abstinence of food and drink, but the abstinence of harmful acts, thoughts and speech.
Often we hear that the ultimate goal or lesson we should gain from the fasting month is that of attaining “taqwa”.The term “ taqwa” means God – consciousness. The spiritual state of being where an individual is on a heightened state of awareness about his/her actions so that an individual becomes “fearful” that his/her actions do not incur the displeasure of Allah. It means to be mindful of Allah at all times and achieve his maximum pleasure at all times; to be vigilant and conscious of the mercy of Allah². So “taqwa” is the internal compass on the path that leads to Allah.
Fasting is a gift given to mankind to enable us to achieve closeness to Allah. May the Noor of Allah encompass all of us during this blessed month, enabling us to achieve greater “taqwa” not only in this holy month but going forward so that each and every aspect of our lives are governed by it. Aameen.
For more reading on the concept of Taqwa: