Reasons to Fast, Guilt, Ramadan Family Time
Issue 795 » June 20, 2014 - Shaban 22, 1435
Reasons to Fast
Al Baqara (The Cow) - Chapter 2: Verse 183
“What is fasting?” “How does the fasting of Muslims in Ramadan differ from the fasting of other faiths?” “Why should one ‘torture’ one’s body in the first place?” “What do you really gain from fasting in the end?" These are a few questions that a number of non-Muslim friends and colleagues often ask us, usually out of fascination with this spiritually-uplifting practice of Islamic faith, and at times out of pity and sympathy for us, thinking, why should anyone suffer from hunger and thirst like Muslims? I wouldn’t be surprised if many of us shared the same negative perception of fasting.
It is important to note that fasting in Arabic is called “Sawm”, which literally means ‘to be at rest’. Fasting in the month of Ramadan (the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar) is one of the Five Pillars upon which the “house” of Islam is built. During this month, every able-bodied Muslim is required to fast everyday from dawn until dusk
7 Reasons To Fast
- Fasting is an institution for the improvement of moral and spiritual character of human being. The purpose of the fast is to help develop self-restraint, self-purification, God-consciousness, compassion, the spirit of caring and sharing, the love of humanity and the love of God. Fasting is a universal custom and is advocated by all the religions of the world, with more restrictions in some than in others. The Islamic fast, as opposed to mere starvation or self-denial, is an act of worship and obedience to God, thanksgiving, forgiveness, spiritual training, and self-examination.
- Fasting indoctrinates us in patience, unselfishness, and gratitude. When we fast we feel the pains of deprivation and hunger, and learn how to endure it patiently. The meaning of this powerful experience in a social and humanitarian context is that we are much quicker than anybody else in sympathizing with the oppressed and needy around the world, and responding to their needs.
- It cultivates in us the principle of sincere love because when we observe fasting we do it out of deep love for God. And a person, who loves God, truly is a person who knows what love is and why everyone on this Earth should be loved and treated justly, for the sake of God.
- Fasting elevates the human spirit and increases our awareness of God. It strengthens our willpower as we learn to rise above our lower desires. The institution of fasting is both unique and a shared experience in human history. From the very beginning of time, humans have struggled to master their physical and psychological selves: their bodies and their emotions. Hunger is one the most powerful urges that we experience. Thus, when a person purposefully denies something to their own self that it craves, they are elevating their mind above their body, and their reason and will above their carnal passions.
- With the clarity of mind and absence of distractions also comes a greater focus. In the month of Ramadan, many Muslims try to avoid watching TV, listening to music, and some other leisure activities, which spares them more time and energy to be spent on more productive activities such as academics, intense study of Islam, voluntary prayers, social and humanitarian causes, and a quality time with the family, to name a few. It is a reminder of our duty to God, our purpose and higher values in life.
- It makes us realize the reality of life and death. Fasting makes us realize how dependant our lives are on things that we often take for granted, such as food and water. It makes us think about our dependence on God and God’s mercy and justice. Moreover, it reminds us of the life after death, which itself has a great impact on our character and our worldview.
- Ramadan is a blessed month for a special reason: it is actually the month in which God first revealed His final message and guidance for mankind to our beloved Prophet Muhammad. This message has been perfectly preserved both orally and textually in the form of a Book, called the Quran (The Reading/Recital). Therefore, Muslims try to do an intense study of the Quran in this month especially, and evaluate their lives according to the standards and guidance contained in it.
In a nutshell, even though the real purpose of the dynamic institution of fasting is to discipline our soul and moral behavior, and to develop sympathy for the less fortunate, it is a multi-functional and a comprehensive tool of change in various spheres of our lives including social and economic, intellectual and humanitarian, spiritual and physical, private and public, personal and common, inner and outer – all in one!
"The Fasting of Ramadan: A Time for Thought, Action, and Change!" - Taha Ghayyur & Taha Ghaznavi
The Prophet (peace be upon him) hated to let his Companions nurture a pointless feeling of guilt. He kept telling them that they must never stop conversing with the One, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful, who welcomes everyone in His grace and benevolence and who loves the sincerity of hearts that regret their misdeeds and return to Him. This is the profound meaning of at-tawbah, offered to everyone: sincerely returning to God after a slip, a mistake, a sin. God loves that sincere return to Him and He forgives and purifies. The Prophet himself exemplified that in many circumstances. On one occasion a Bedouin came and urinated in the mosque; the Companions rushed on him and wanted to beat him up. The Prophet stopped them and said, "Leave him alone, and just throw a bucketful of water on his urine. God has only sent you to make obligations easy, and not to make them difficult." [Bukhari]
"In The Footsteps of The Prophet" - Tariq Ramadan, p. 113
Ramadan Family Time
“Ramadan is family time,” one Muslim mother said recently in discussion about plans for the upcoming blessed month. She described how her busy household was usually scattered in different places throughout the year, with school and extracurricular activities taking precedence. But in Ramadan, everyone gathered to at least eat Iftar together.
While this may be true for some families, it is not for all. For many, there are scheduling conflicts. But hours on the job can be readjusted, classes can be rescheduled, and other activities can take a back seat.
If even this is not possible, you can still make time, as impossible as that may seem. If you and your family can commit to a daily Ramadan ritual of 20 minutes or less, it will go far in strengthening not just personal faith, but family bonds as well. Here are some ideas that offer ways to do that.1. Family bedtime story
Set the timer to 10 minutes. Everyone gather in the same room in their pajamas. Take turns sharing or reading short Islamic stories. Suggestions for Islamic include "Treasury of Islamic Tales," "Companions of the Prophet," "Stories from Islamic History," among others. If the story is long, read only 10 minutes of it. Continue the following day. Be, and encourage all readers to be, as dramatic as possible in his or her presentation to retain audience interest.2. Pray one prayer together at home
Most prayers easily take 20 minutes or less, in fact 10 minutes or less if you are praying only the required Rakat. Choose which prayer can be offered together and encourage all to participate.3. Eat Suhur or Iftar together
Some of the Companions of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "We eat but are not satisfied." He said, "Perhaps you eat separately." The Companions replied yes. The Prophet then said, "Eat together and mention the Name of Allah over your food. It will be blessed for you” (Abu Dawud).
Eating together is about so much more than food, as this Hadith makes clear. It is about satisfaction not just of our physical appetites, but our spiritual and emotional need for companionship as well. And who better to build that companionship with than our families?4. 10-minute Ramadan craft
Arts and crafts can be fun and therapeutic. But you don’t need hours in front of an easel to enjoy them. Google “fast and easy crafts” to come up with some great ideas that you can adopt and adapt for Ramadan. Make sure older kids in the house also participate. Also, have all of the materials and preparations done beforehand so the actual craft work really does take 10 minutes or less.5. Daily dua ritual
This can be done right after the family has prayed together, or if that is not possible, at any other point in the day that everyone is in the same place, be it the home or the car. Begin by praising Allah, and then the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. After this, each person takes turns making one Dua. It could be for better health for a family member, a pet, or a gift wish for Eid. Make sure to set a timer and to remind participants to keep their duas short and meaningful so that everyone gets a chance to share.
"Reconnect with family this Ramadan- in 20 minutes or less" - Samana Siddiqui