BRIAN MALAMA, Lusaka
FOR the Muslim community, it is Ramadan time again, which also involves fasting.Fasting in Ramadan develops in a person the real spirit of social belonging, of unity and brotherhood, and of equality before God.
This spirit is the natural product of the fact that when people fast they feel that they are joining the whole Muslim society.
It is important to note that fasting in Arabic is called Sawm, which literally means ‘to be at rest’. Fasting in the month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar) is one of the Five Pillars upon which the “house” of Islam is built.
During this month, every able-bodied Muslim is required to fast, every day from dawn until dusk. This year the Eid al Fitr [the beginning of fasting in the month of Ramadan] will be celebrated on Friday, 15th of June.
I will now share why it has become important for all Muslims to fast.
Fasting is an institution for the improvement of moral and spiritual character of human being. The purpose of the fast is to help develop self-restraint, self-purification, God-consciousness, compassion, the spirit of caring and sharing, the love of humanity and the love of God. Fasting is a universal custom and is advocated by all the religions of the world, with more restrictions in some than in others. The Islamic Fast, as opposed to mere starvation or self-denial, is an act of worship and obedience to God, thanksgiving, forgiveness, spiritual training, and self-examination.
Ramadan gives a break and provides a rare opportunity to think about oneself, future, and families. It is a time to offer mental break and to temporarily forget about the hundreds of worries and stresses experienced constantly with. In hectic times, such as ours, and this valuable time to think about our lives, on individual basis, is a luxury and is desperately needed! It is a unique month of self-analysis, and of taking stock of one’s moral and spiritual ‘assets and liabilities’.
Fasting inculcates patience, unselfishness, and gratitude. When Muslims fast, they feel the pains of deprivation and hunger, and learn how to endure it patiently. The meaning of this powerful experience in a social and humanitarian context is that they are much quicker than anybody else in sympathizing with the oppressed and needy around the world, and responding to their needs.
“It is the month to visit the poor, the sick, and the needy to share their sorrows. It is the month where the food, sustenance and the earnings of a believing Muslim increase and they are blessed,” says the Final Prophet of God, Muhammad.
He is a man who was known for his noble humanitarian causes, for social justice, and for being the first to respond to other’s needs, despite the fact that he himself lived a very simple and humble life.
It is only during such a trying time as Ramadan that Muslims can reflect on the condition of those in this world who may not be as fortunate as us.
Fasting in Ramadan enables Muslims to master the art of mature adaptability and time-management.
Muslims can easily understand this point when Muslims realize that fasting makes people change the entire course of their daily life. When they make the change, they naturally adapt themselves to a new system and schedule, and move along to satisfy the rules.
This, in the long run, develops in them a wise sense of adaptability and self-created power to overcome the unpredictable hardships of life! A person who values constructive adaptability, time-management, and courage will appreciate the effects of Fasting in this respect as well.
It cultivates in Muslims in the principle of sincere love, because when Muslims observe fasting, they do it out of deep love for God. And a person, who loves God, truly is a person who knows what love is and why everyone on this Earth should be loved and treated justly, for the sake of God.
Elevates the Spirit
Fasting elevates the human spirit and increases awareness of God. It strengthens will-power as Muslims learn to rise above lower desires.
The institution of fasting is both unique and a shared experience in human history. From the very beginning of time, humans have struggled to master their physical and psychological selves: their bodies and their emotions.
Hunger is one the most powerful urges that human kind experiences. Many, through over or under-eating or consumption of unhealthy foods, abuse this urge.
Thus, when a person purposefully denies something to their own self that it craves, they are elevating their mind above their body, and their reason and will above their carnal passions.
“A fasting person empties his stomach of all the material things: to fill his soul with peace and blessings, to fill his heart with love and sympathy, to fill his spirit with piety and faith, to fill his mind with wisdom and resolution,” says a Lusaka-based Muslim Ikrama Bux.
The person who can rule their desires and make them work, as they like, has attained true moral excellence.
Develops Clarity of Mind
With the clarity of mind and absence of distractions, also comes a greater focus. As students, the period of fasting, especially early during the day, serves as a tool to focus our minds on our academics. In the month of Ramadan, many Muslims try to avoid watching TV, listening to music, and some other leisure activities.
It is a reminder of our duty to God, our purpose and higher values in life, as God Himself describes the purpose of fasting as follows, “O you who Believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may develop consciousness of God” (Quran 2:183).
Develops a Healthy Lifestyle
Fasting has numerous, scientifically proven benefits for physical health and mental well-being. The time, length and nature of the Islamic Fast all contribute to its overall positive effect.
One of the medical benefits is a much-needed rest.
BRIAN MALAMA, Lusaka