Significance and Benefits
The blessed month of Ramzan, the ninth month in the Islamic (Hijri) calendar, is a God-gifted time to purify and train one's mind, body, and soul. The other eleven months are Muharram, Safar, Rabi al Awwal, Rabi al Thani, Jumadi al Awwal, Jumadi al Thani, Rajab, Shaban, Shawwal, Dhu al Qaidah, and Dhu al Hijjah. A Muslim must fast during Ramzan, meaning refraining from food, drink, and sexual activity from dawn until dusk. Smoking is also prohibited during a fast.
Minors and the mentally retarded are exempted from fasting during Ramzan. Also exempted are the aged, but they must donate a meal to the needy. The others exempted the sick, the traveller, and the pregnant, nursing, and menstruating women should fast an equal number of days missed afterwards.
In the Holy Quran Allah (subhanu wa ta'ala) says in Chapter 2 Paragraph185, “Ramzan is the month during which the Quran was revealed, providing guidance for the people, clear teachings, and the statute book.” And that “God wishes for you convenience, not hardship, that you may fulfil your obligations, and to glorify God for guiding you, and to express your appreciation.”
The goal of fasting is to develop self-restraint; through which one may develop God-fearing nature, afterlife accountability, patience, self-control, self-discipline, social responsibility, willpower against evil, obedience to abide by the Quran and Sunnah, purification of soul, moderation, etc.
Allah (subhanu wa ta'ala) says, “O you who believe, fasting is decreed for you, as it was decreed for those before you, that you may develop taqwa (self restraint).” [The Quran 2:183]
So what is taqwa? It is the state of the heart that motivates virtuous conduct and prevents evil action. Love of Allah and fear of Allah leads to taqwa, which is to guard oneself against bad elements, thoughts, and action.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said on the last day of Shaban, that is on the eve of Ramzan [narrated by Salman, the Persian, May Allah (subhanu wa ta'ala) be pleased with him]
“O you people! A great and blessed month has arrived for you. A month therein is a night which is better than one thousand months. The fasting during this month is an obligation (Fareedah), and the extra prayers during its nights are voluntary. Anyone who comes closer to Allah through a good deed during this month is as if he performed an obligatory duty during times other than Ramzan, and he who fulfils an obligatory duty in it will be like one who fulfils seventy obligatory duties in another month. It is the month of patience, and, the reward of patience is Paradise. It is the month of visiting the poor, the sick, and the needy so as to share their sorrows. It is the month where the nourishment, the sustenance, and the income of the believing Muslim increase and they are blessed.”
“Anyone who invites others to break their fast at Iftar (at sunset) will be provided with forgiveness of his sins and be saved from hell, and will receive reward equal to the fasting person without reducing his own reward in any respect.”
Some of the followers of the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Not all of us may find food to share with one so that he could break his fast." The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Allah will reward you even if you help the fasting Muslim to break his fast with a date, a sip of water, or a drink of milk . . . it is a month: its beginning is Mercy (Rahmah), and its middle part is Forgiveness (Maghfirah) and its last part is freedom from hellfire.
“Increase in yourselves four characteristics: two by which you will please your Lord, and two others by which you cannot live without. The first two qualities to please Allah are to bear witness that there is no one worthy of worship except Allah, and to ask forgiveness from Allah. However, the other two things that you cannot live without are: to ask Allah for Paradise, and to ask Him to protect you from Hellfire.
“Anyone who gives water to a Muslim at Iftar, Allah will give him water during the Day of Judgment from the fountain of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) which will make him not feel thirsty till he enters Paradise." Subhan Allah!
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said 1400 years ago, “Fast and you shall become healthy.” More recently medical authorities have confirmed that “Fasting gives the body the environments to heal itself physiological rest”, that fasting can cure gastrointestinal disorders, and is a cleansing process that prepares the body for better healthy living in the future.
In his book, 'Triumph over Disease by Fasting and Natural Diet' Dr. Jack Goldstein says that fasting gives vital organs a complete rest; promotes elimination of metabolic wastes; allows the body to adjust and normalize its biochemistry and also its secretions; lets the body break down and absorb swellings, deposits, diseased tissues, and abnormal growths; increases the powers of digestion and assimilation; permits the conservation and re-routing of energy; clears and strengthens the mind.
Dr. Goldstein further emphasises that fasting does not cause the stomach to weaken, paralyse the bowels, deplete the blood, produce anaemia, cause the heart to weaken or collapse, produce deficiency or malnutrition-related diseases, reduce resistance to diseases, harm the nervous system or the vital organs, or cause mental disturbances.
Ramzan provides an annual training opportunity that is meant to fulfil the character-building needs for the rest of the year. May Allah bless us to reap maximum benefits from the holy month!
Sources: 'More on Islam' <www.moreonislam.com>, www.ramadan.com.au, 'Road to Mecca' by Muhammad Asad (formerly Leopold Weiss), 'The Nature of Fasting' by Ibn Taymiyyah.
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