Ramadan: Feast of God [Archives:2008/1186/Opinion]

September 1 2008

Khalid Shidaiwa
Ramadan is the holy month of the year in which Moslems fast every day from dawn to dusk. This month is very special for the Moslems. It is the month the Quran was inspired to Mohammad and it is also called God's feast. In this month a person who fasts empties and purifies himself, and then waits for God to walk into his heart. A person, who fasts, by eating less food and taking more care of his behaviour, tries to empty his body and cleanse his heart of impurities. He is supposed to resist his sensual desires and focus on his moral side: eating, drinking, smoking and having sex is forbidden from down to dusk.

Of course, those who have health problems, children, and old people are excused. It is very much like a rider training his horse. One who fasts tries to train the horse of his body with his soul. Still these are not the only things a faster should decline: he should not lie, talk behind anyone's back, or hurt anyone for then his fast will be useless. In all, since no unclean place can be expected to be entered by someone honoured, no unclean body and heart is expected to be surrounded by God.

Even many of those who do not avoid eating and drinking do not miss the praying part, especially at dawn and dusk. If praying on other days of the year is like walking toward God, in this month it is like running toward him. At dawn when the routine life has not started yet, and most people are still in their homes, there is a special calmness on the earth which makes praying deeper and more touchable for those who fast.

And at dusk when it is time to break the fast and start the normal life again, praying is like getting one step closer to purity. Life becomes more enjoyable by then! Praying is like opening your heart and inviting God into it. When he walks in he may bring gifts with him: gifts of honour, confidence, peace, patience, courage, satisfaction, safety, and most of all faith and love.

After all, fasting is like cleansing inside and opening hearts, waiting for God to enter. This is what makes Ramadan so special to Moslems. However, it is not the only chance for God to reach someone's heart. God's love is unconditional and any one who is loved by him becomes gifted, no matter what time or month of the year it is or what religion he has!

Significance of fasting:

Fasting occupies a key position in Islam. It is common knowledge among Muslims that Islam is based on five principles, among which is fasting. Also, the Prophet Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) said to his companions, “Marriage (and all that goes with it) is half of this religion, and the best man among you is the one who is best and kindest to his wife and women of his household.” They asked him, “what is the other half?” and he replied, “purity.” He later explained that half of that purity is contained in fasting. More on this later

Some people think that “Ramadan” means fasting, but actually that's just the name of the lunar month in which fasting is obligatory on adult sane able-bodied Muslims. (It is not obligatory on pre-adolescents, the insane, women who are pregnant or on their period, those who are too sick to fast, or those who are travelers). Actually, Ramadan means “intense heat,” and it was given that name because when the ancient Arabs were naming the months, that month was particularly hot.

The actual word for fasting in Arabic is “sawm,” which literally means to both “abstain from and rise above.” So, for example, soon after Mary (blessings and peace be upon her) gave birth to Christ (blessings and peace be upon him), she undertook a vow of silence that day, “fasting from speech” (Qur'an 19:26 – where the same word “sawm” is used).