Muslims are called upon to use this month to re-evaluate their lives in light of Islamic guidance. We are to make peace with those who have wronged us, strengthen ties with family and friends, do away with bad habits — essentially to clean up our lives, our thoughts, and our feelings. The Arabic word for “fasting” (sawm) literally means “to refrain” – and it means not only refraining from food and drink, but from evil actions, thoughts, and words.
During Ramadan, every part of the body must be restrained. The tongue must be restrained from backbiting and gossip. The eyes must restrain themselves from looking at unlawful things. The hand must not touch or take anything that does not belong to it. The ears must refrain from listening to idle talk or obscene words. The feet must refrain from going to sinful places. In such a way, every part of the body observes the fast.
Therefore, fasting is not merely physical, but is rather the total commitment of the person’s body and soul to the spirit of the fast. Ramadan is a time to practice self-restraint; a time to cleanse the body and soul from impurities and re-focus one’s self on the worship of God.
Each year, Muslims spend the ninth month of the Islamic calendar observing a community-wide fast. The annual fast of Ramadan is considered one of the five “pillars” of Islam. Muslims who are physically able are required to fast each day of the entire month, from sunrise to sunset. The evenings are spent enjoying family and community meals, engaging in prayer and spiritual reflection, and reading from the Qu’ran.
The word “Ramadan” comes from the Arabic root word for “parched thirst” and “sun-baked ground.” It is expressive of the hunger and thirst felt by those who spend the month in fasting. As opposed to other holidays, when people often indulge, Ramadan is by nature a time of sacrifice.
- Through fasting, a Muslim experiences hunger and thirst, and sympathizes with those in the world who have little to eat every day.
- Through increased devotion, Muslims feel closer to their Creator, and recognize that everything we have in this life is a blessing from Him.
- Through increased charity, Muslims develop feelings of generosity and good-will toward others. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) once said, “A man’s wealth is never diminished by charity.”
- Through self-control, a Muslim practices good manners, good speech, and good habits.
- Through changing routines, Muslims have a chance to establish more healthy lifestyle habits — particularly with regards to diet and smoking.
- Through family and community gatherings, Muslims strengthen the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood, in their
- own communities and throughout the world.
Ramadan is a very special time for Muslims, but the feelings and lessons we experience should stay with us throughout the year. In the Qur’an, Muslims are commanded to fast so that they may “learn self-restraint” (Qur’an 2:183). This restraint and devotion is especially felt during Ramadan, but we all must strive to make the feelings and attitudes stay with us during our “normal” lives. That is the true goal and test of Ramadan.May Allah accept our fasting, forgive our sins, and guide us all to the Straight Path. May Allah bless us all during Ramadan, and throughout the year, with His forgiveness, mercy, and peace, and bring us all closer to Him and to each other.