As the Islamic month of Ramadan comes to an end, I just wanted to take this time to explain the real reason behind fasting. Most of you may already know, but we are always in the learning process. I’m sure at some point in a Muslim’s life they have been asked why they fast by people belonging to other faiths. Before I begin, let me take this time to clarify that this is not me criticizing those people. The point of this post is to simply teach those who may not know.
In Islam there are 5 pillars which are the foundations of the Muslim life thus making it compulsory for every Muslim to follow. These are: Shahadah (the belief/confession of faith), Salat (prayer), Sawm (fasting during the month of Ramadan), Zakat (charitable giving) and Hajj (pilgrimage in Mecca).
As you can see from above, fasting is also one of the five pillars of Islam, therefore every Muslim around the world is obliged to fast (unless of course they are ill or have a legitimate reason as to why they are abstaining from fast). Fasting means not eating or drinking anything from dawn (Fajr) to sunset (Maghrib). Although in the winter it is a lot easier as the days are shorter, it is still obligatory in the summer heat. For example, this year in the United Kingdom; Muslims had to fast for over 18 hours in a heat wave which lasted for over two weeks. But why? What’s the point starving ourselves all day long?
Well, fasting is not all about just starving ourselves in daylight! There are many reasons why Muslims fasting such as learning self-discipline, becoming spiritually stronger, giving thanks for the Holy Qur’an, which was revealed in this month but the most important reason I would say is that we start to appreciate the shelter and food and drink that Allah (swt) has provided for us and makes us more conscious and aware about the hunger and discomfort that is felt by the less fortunate (currently 1.4 billion people living in poverty in the world). These people have to starve on a daily basis throughout their entire lives. At least when Muslims fast they know that they will eat eventually at sunset, these people living in poverty through their whole lives do not have anything to look forward to. This therefore is meant to enkindle a spirit of sacrifice in the Muslims which leads to giving charity towards the people who are suffering.
Ramadan means something different to every Muslim; whether it helps them become a better person afterwards, if it simply opened their eyes to make a difference to the less fortunate or even if it has helped you make certain life choices that you would probably not think about before (the last one applies to me). However, even Muslims sometimes need reminding that this month means a lot more than just ‘starving’ yourself and as this month comes to an end; close your eyes, think what you have achieved in this past month and try to make a difference in the future.
Although we do not know when Eid-Ul-Fitr 2013 is yet, in the United Kingdom, it is either tomorrow (Thursday) or the day after (Friday). If it is tomorrow, an early Eid Mubarak to you all! May Allah (swt) bless you and your families