THE SIGNIFICANCE OF RAMADĀN
Ramadān is the ninth month of the Islamic year.
It is the most blessed month for Muslims because it is, among other things, the month of Fasting.
THE UNIVERSAL INSTITUTION OF FASTING
Almighty God tells us in the Holy Qur'an :
"O you who believe! Fasting is made compulsory for you, just as it was prescribed for those (believers) before you, that you may develop piety (or Taqwa)."
[Al Baqarah, 2:183]
And so, Fasting is a universal institution, enjoined not only on Muslims, but also on all the Prophets of God and their followers.
FASTING - A PILLAR OF ISLAM
The Holy Prophet Muhammad said:
"Islam is built on five pillars:
To testify that there is no one to be worshipped but Almighty God, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God;
To establish Salaah or Prayer;
To pay Zakaah (the annual charity);
To perform the Hajj (or Pilgrimage);
And to Fast in the Month of Ramadān."
Thus, Fasting is one of the five Pillars of Islam, and it is compulsory for Muslims to observe the Fast during the Holy Month of Ramadān.
Fasting is defined as complete abstention from food and drink, from the break of dawn until sunset. It is also essential to abstain from any immoral or evil action.
When Islam introduced this unique institution of Fasting, it planted an ever-growing tree of infinite virtue. Some of these virtues include:
ACTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS OF ALMIGHTY ALLAH
1. Fasting cultivates in man a vigilant and sound conscience, and an active consciousness of Almighty God. This is so because the fasting person keeps his Fast in secret as well as in public.
In Fasting, especially, there is no mundane authority to check man's behaviour or compel him to Fast.
He keeps it to please God alone, and to satisfy his own conscience by being faithful in secret and in public.
There is no better way to cultivate a sound conscience in man, and an active consciousness of Almighty God.
PATIENCE AND SELFLESSNESS
2. It inculcates in man Patience and Selflessness; when the Muslim fast, he or she feels the pains of deprivation, but endures it with patience.
Truly this deprivation may be only temporary, yet there is no doubt that the experience makes him realise the severe effects of such pains on others, who may be deprived of essential necessities for days or weeks or even longer periods.
The significance of this experience in a social and humanitarian sense is that such a person is much quicker than others in sympathising with his fellow men and responding to their needs. And that is an eloquent expression of Unselfishness and genuine sympathy.
SPIRIT OF SOCIAL BELONGING
3. Fasting develops in man the real Spirit of Social Belonging, of Unity and Brotherhood, of Equality before God as well as before the Law.
This spirit is the natural product of the fact that when a Muslim fasts, he knows he is joining the entire Muslim Nation throughout the world in observing the same duty, in the same manner, at the same time, for the same motives, and to the same end.
No sociologist can say that there has been at any period in human history anything comparable to this fine institution of Islam.
People have been crying throughout the ages for acceptable belonging, for equality, but how echoless their voice has been, and how very little success they have met! Where can they find their goals without the guiding light of Islam ?
RAMADĀN - MONTH OF QUR'AN
Besides being the Month of Fasting, Ramadān is also the month in which the Qur'an was first revealed for the guidance and happiness of all humanity.
Almighty Allah says in the Holy Qur'an:
"Ramadān is the month in which was revealed the Qur'an,
a guidance for mankind, And clear signs for guidance,
And a criterion (between right and wrong);" [Al-Baqarah, 2:183]
Through the sublime teachings of the Holy Qur'an, the whole of mankind emerged from a long spell of darkness into an age of culture and enlightenment.
It is thus appropriate that the days of Ramadān should be adorned with fasting, and the nights be beautified with Prayer, for the spiritual discipline of the community and as an expression of gratitude for the unique blessing Almighty Allah has bestowed upon us.
Ramadān offers all believers this great opportunity.... to return to Almighty God, with sincerity, devotion and obedience. I hope and pray we can all do just that.