The Ramadan fasting or ‘Roza’ as practiced by Muslims is an elaborate process of self-reform, self-restraint and involves a wide range of responsibilities on the part of those who observe fasting.
It helps strengthen powers of self-control, refrain from the natural human urges by exercising our ability of self-restraint, and also attain nearness and closeness to God.
The first wisdom to be gained in fasting is taqwa or self-restraint. The Quran states: ‘”O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that you may (learn) self restraint.” (2:183).
Thus it is a beautiful instrument to develop patience. In a hadith by Abu Hurairah (r), the Prophet (s) said: “Fasting is not only to restrain from food and drink, fasting is to refrain from obscene (acts). If someone verbally abuses you or acts arrogantly towards you, say (to them) ‘I am fasting; I am fasting.'” (ibn Khuzaymah).
Fasting therefore helps in conditioning the heart, the soul, and the body on the virtues of patience, tenacity, and firmness in the face of adversity.
Patience is the pinnacle of discipline and spiritual suppleness. Jalalluddin Rumi once said: ‘Have patience, for that is true worship’.
When one analyses the reasons for prescribing fasting to Muslims, one comes across a number of them.
First the fasting is prescribed because it serves as a means to sharpen our awareness of God and seek forgiveness.
Secondly, the fasting makes a person feel pawns of hunger which poor people taste regularly.
Thirdly it induces a person to practice the concept of Charity and neighbourhood.
Finally, the fasting is prescribed to strengthen self-control and Practice truthfulness. Perhaps one needs to experience Ramadan to understand it.
As Michael Wolfe in his column “Armoring the Heart” narrating his first encounter with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in 1970, as a young traveler when he arrived in Morocco from the States, puts it so eloquently, “My first Ramadan fasting taught me self-control and Empathy.”
He perhaps rightly experienced the virtues of Ramadan and expressed them in following words, “From feelings deprived, you come to feel empowered by your ability to shake off the promptings of appetite. From thinking how slowly the time is passing, you move along, as the fast progresses to not watching the clock. You may take a larger interest in the minutes right around sunset, but the rest of the day drifts along, once you are in the swing and time as a social habit loses some of its importance. Indeed, Ramadan stands time on its head”.(https://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/islam/1999/12/armoring-the-heart.aspx)
What an expression of first Ramadan fasting experience.
Ramadan fasting also provides us an opportunity to demonstrate its relevance in today’s world.
We have to learn to respect all religions.
Negativity about Islam has to be responded by truthfulness, which is expected to be an essential attribute of every Muslim by remaining patient, by practising the concept of hospitality and neighbourhood and by giving charity to the needy.
May Ramadan fasting entitle us for God’s blessings and protection which all of us so desperately need in these turbulent times.
*Prof. M. Aslam is a Social Scientist, a former Vice Chancellor of IGNOU and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org