24 August 2009
Before I begin listing the many benefits of the month of Ramadan, it is important to point out that the reason we fast is because it is ordained by Allah (SWT). All the benefits that we reap during this month are just an added bonus. Allah (SWT) revealed to us in the Holy Qur'an:
"Ya ayuhal ladheena ameenu, kutiba 3alaykumu siyamu kama kutiba 3ala-ladheena min qableekum la3allaku, tattaqun". (Surat Al-Baqarah, verse 183).
The English interpretation of that verse is:
"O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may obtain Taqwa"
The Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation of the Qur'an translated the word Taqwa as "self-restraint". That's not a bad definition, but Taqwa has many dimensions. The word is multi-faceted and has many simultaneous meanings.
Taqwa is "mukhafatoo min Al-Jaleel, wal-3amal bi-tanzeel, wa ridda bil qaleel, wa istadadoo li yami-raheel".
Taqwa is a blend of God-consciousness, devotion to God, fearing the punishment of God and loving the reward of God.
So let's go back to the verse in the Qur'an. Allah (SWT) tells us that he has prescribed fasting to us to obtain all aspects of Taqwa.
So how can we obtain all of that in just one month?
Do you guys remember taking Physical Education in school? Do you remember "conditioning"? Conditioning, also dubbed "Hell month" is a grueling month of sit-ups, push-ups, sprints, long distance running, etc. The reason for this inhumane torture was to get our bodies "conditioned" so that we can participate in sports without fatigue or injuries. It makes our body stronger and is basically a good way to prep our body for the year ahead.
Likewise, Ramadan strengthens our Iman (faith) and prepares us for the year ahead. After Ramadan, you feel strengthened Iman and feel confident in dealing with your daily affairs.
Making Haram the Halal
During the sunlight hours of Ramadan, the halal becomes haram. Eating, drinking and relations between husband and wife are normally halal, but while fastng, they become haram.
If a person can avoid eating food, which is normally lawful, then certainly after Ramadan, he can avoid the food which is unlawful.
If a person can avoid drinking water, which is normally allowed, then a person can easily avoid drinking alcohol.
If a person can abstain from relations with their spouse, then how easy it must become to avoid relations with someone you are not married to.
By abstaining from that which is necessary, it becomes easy to avoid the unnecessary.
I often compare Ramadan to the bonus level of youraverage video game. When you play a video game and you reach the bonus stage, you have 30 seconds in which your points double or triple. In this short period of time, video game players rush to collect as many points as possible before time runs out.
In Ramadan, you have 30 days in which your good deeds are multiplied by 70 times. For this reason, Muslims who observe the fast try to do as many good deeds during this month as possible. Not only do people increase the amount of charity they give, but they perform extra superrogatory prayers and read the Qur'an more frequently.
Muslims know that the punishment for intentionally breaking the fast is severe. You have to fast 60 days or feed 60 poor people for every missed day of fasting without valid excuse. Therefore, Muslims are very keen to observe the fast, unless they are sick or on a journey or women during their menses.
Muslims are also keen not to lie or backbite during this month, because doing so would render the fast defective. For this reason, a person observing the fast thinks twice before saying anything. Therefore, it is true that fasting teaches us "self-restraint".