Ramadan: The month of devotion creating strong sense of spirituality

Published : Tuesday, 12 March, 2024 at 12:00 AM

Every year, Muslims around the world anticipate the sighting of the new crescent moon that signifies the official first day of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and the most sacred month in Islamic culture. Ramadan holds profound significance for Muslims worldwide. Beyond being a period of fasting from dawn until sunset, Ramadan encapsulates a time of spiritual reflection, self-discipline, and heightened devotion to Allah (SWT). The teachings of Ramadan extend far beyond abstaining from food and drink; they encompass a comprehensive approach to personal and communal conduct. Hence, it is important to entrench the core teachings of Ramadan and explore how Muslims should preserve themselves during this sacred month.

Ramadan is observed to honor the fourth pillar of Islam, known as Sawm. It was during Ramadan, on the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr)-commemorated on one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan, usually the 27th night-that Allah revealed to Prophet Muhammad (Sm) the Al-Quran, Islams holy book, as a guidance for the people. Allah forgives the past sins of those who observe the holy month with fasting, prayer, and faithful intention.

Ramadan was chosen as the month of fasting and spiritual advancement due to its association and close affinity with the revelation of the Holy Quran. The Quran states, “The month of Ramadan is that in which the Quran was sent down as guidance for mankind with clear proofs of guidance and discrimination.” The blessings of the month itself can be understood by this saying of Prophet Muhammad (Sm): “When the month of Ramadan enters, the gates of Heaven are flung open and the gates of Hell are shut, and Satans are chained.”

The Quranic concept of taqwa, or good-consciousness, often links with Ramadan, emphasizing the importance of fulfilling Allahs commands and avoiding what He has forbidden. Fasting during this sacred month serves as one of the greatest means of adhering to the teachings of Islam and strengthening ones faith. Through fasting, Muslims learn the virtue of restraint, gaining the ability to control worldly desires and focus on prayer and meditation.Muslims fast as an act of obedience to Allah and to attain righteousness. This verse emphasizes the obligation of fasting for all capable Muslims, highlighting its role in fostering piety and spiritual growth. Additionally, the Quran asserts, “But to fast is best for you, if you only knew.” This underscores the benefits and virtues of fasting, indicating that it is a means to attain goodness and spiritual purification.

First and foremost, fasting is commonly defined as abstaining from all or some kinds of food or drink, especially as a religious observance. In principle, this definition is descriptive of the act of keeping a fast, but fails to grasp the depth and essence of the concept. The incorporation of fasting in world religions signifies that the scope of this practice reaches well beyond the simplicity of abstention from food and drink.

The principles of Ramadan are surrounded on fasting. Interestingly, fasting is not a noble practice introduced by Islam. In fact, the Holy Quran acknowledges this and declares, “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.” Thus, the practice of fasting in Islam is an extension of the practice found in earlier religions.

In Hinduism, fasting is known as Upavasa. It is a common expression of religious commitment and is undertaken as part of an ascetic routine. Jews observe several annual fasts during certain periods like the great fast of Yom Kippur. Fasting is termed as afflicting ones soul by the Torah. Following the biographical traditions of Buddha, the Buddhists also fast for days voluntarily as some Buddhist monks and nuns choose to undergo a minimum 18-day fast in which only small amounts of water is taken. In Christianity, fasting is observed during Lent – the period of preparation before Easter and during Advent – the period before Christmas. Hence, fasting has been associated with most of the major religions of the world though Islam holds its significance to a much greater extent.

In Islam the practice of fasting is not only a physical exercise but a spiritual one. If a Muslim merely observes the outward requirements of the fast, they will simply succeed in making themselves hungry and thirsty and nothing more. Indulgence in inappropriate speech and inapt actions nullifies the very objective of fasting in Islam. This is why Prophet Muhammad (Sm) has taught that, “He who does not shun telling a lie by word and deed, should know that Allah needs not his abstention from food and drink.”

Furthermore, fasting aims to teach Muslims to control their passions and lead productive lives as Prophet Muhammad (Sm) taught a simple lesson regarding fasting, “Fasting is a shield; so the day one of you fasts, he should not indulge in foul talk nor should he shout. And if someone abuses him or fights with him, he should simply say to him, I am fasting, I am fasting.”

According to Islam, every action man carries out is for his own sake except fasting, which is for the sake of Allah and Who Himself will provide the reward for it. Thus, a Muslim who is observing a fast is advised to spend most of their time executing their duties toward Allah and His creations. They should give more attention to the five obligatory prayers and strive to offer supererogatory prayers like Tahajjud (after midnight) prayer and Tarawih prayer. Prophet Muhammad (Sm) has emphasized the observance of the Tahajjud prayer during Ramadan saying, “Who so stands in Tahajjud prayer in Ramadan with firm faith and with the intention of achieving the pleasure of Allah, all of their previous sins are forgiven.”

In addition to prayer and spirituality, Islam is a religion that makes the welfare of society a matter of concern for each and every Muslim. Muslims are encouraged to donate generously to the needy through acts of Zakat (obligatory almsgiving), Fitra and Sadaqah (voluntary charity) during Ramadan. Moreover, the communal spirit of Ramadan is exemplified through the sharing of meals (Iftar) with family, friends, and the community at large. Such acts of generosity foster solidarity and compassion, reinforcing the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood within the Muslim ummah.
Islam prescribes fasting for all Muslim adults though Islam does not desire the practice to become a burden on those who are not able to fast. Thus, those who are incapable of fasting due to sickness or travelling are exempt from fasting in the month of Ramadan and are required to complete the missed fasts later on. Pregnant women, menstruating women, and suckling women are also exempt from fasting. Further concession is made for those Muslims who cannot complete missed fasts later on; hence they are obliged to pay fidya (feeding the poor and destitute), not as penalty but as a small sacrifice so that Allah may bestow them the capacity and the strength to observe the fast themselves.

In totality, the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (Sm) on Ramadan serve as a timeless guide for Muslims seeking to maximize the spiritual benefits of this sacred month. As Muslims observe Ramadan, they are reminded of their duty to uphold the teachings of the Prophet (Sm) in their daily lives, seeking Allahs mercy and guidance in all their endeavors.

We have just entered into the month of Ramadan. It provides us an opportunity to enlighten ourselves with spiritual growth, devotion and the concept of social progress. This month should not be contained only within fasting. Allah has promised to reward the mankind by Himself in Ramadan but that is not only for fasting. Rather we should all come out of corruption, dishonest business practices, ill speech, gossiping, all sorts of evil deeds and everything else. My legal elements such as foods, drinks and even wife were made illegal from dawn to sunset during Ramadan. Moreover, we should think about and contribute to the poor generously to ensure a combined social progress. Hence, it is important to control ourselves during Ramadan while leaving all sorts of ill practices. Only then, Allah will reward us. Otherwise, mere fasting in Ramadan will not bring anything for us.

We must utilize Ramadan to the fullest to achieve Allahs satisfaction. Every Muslim should carry on the teachings of Ramadan throughout the year as well. We hope, everyone will follow the true teachings of Ramadan and humanity will prevail all around.

The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Editor at Kishore Bangla

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