Fasting has long been revered as a path to holiness among many of the world’s religions. Among Muslims, fasting is regarded as a pillar of faith. This year, and for a few years to come, the holy month of Ramadan will fall in the summer. With the season’s long, hot days, fasting will be a more challenging practice. For Muslims, however, Ramadan is not considered a hardship, but a time of charity and fellowship so revered that even those most lax in their faith are observant of the fast.
The holy month of Ramadan, which begins when the crescent of the new moon is spotted, is one of the most sacred Islamic observances. It marks the month in which God first began the revelation of the Holy Quran to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This is the month in which the doors of heaven are kept open, the doors of hell are closed, and Satan is kept in chains.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Abstaining from eating, drinking and sexual activities between dawn and dusk is the means of attaining the spiritual experience, but it is certainly not the end. Each Ramadan brings new insight and meaning for the faithful. The main purpose of fasting, as described in the Quran, is “so that you may attain God-consciousness.” Fasting is thus yet another instrument for bringing us closer to our natural state, and for cleansing this state from the dross of any disobedience and corruption.
Ramadan is a month of heightened devotion. In it, prayer is performed with greater intensity. It is a period of intense reflection, seeking guidance and forgiveness, and reading the Quran. Ramadan is a great opportunity to get closer to the blessed guidance of the Quran.
Ramadan is also called the month of the Quran. Muslims try especially hard to read and understand the Quran in this month by reading one of the 30 chapters of the Quran every day. This calls for devoting at least one hour a day to reading this valuable resource for humanity.
Ramadan is an opportunity to develop qualities of endurance and self-restraint, to control anger and a fiery or malicious tongue. Ramadan is a time to awaken compassion and solidarity with others, and in particular, with the poor. We are urged to be more liberal in giving during Ramadan and are required at the end of fasting to give an amount to enable all to share in the spirit of warmth, affection and brotherhood.
Ramadan is above all an opportunity to reorient oneself to the Creator and the natural path of goodness and consciousness of God.
Fasting should make the believer closer to God and hence it becomes easier for him to abstain from committing the forbidden. Here, we must note, any divine rule is associated with some effort or hardship, and some obligations require more hardship than others. However, God will reward man according to how much effort and energy he puts into the fulfilling of the divine rule. In this month, any prayer or deed is rewarded manifold and sins are forgiven.
Ali Abedi, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Maine in Orono. He resides in Orono with his wife and two young children. Columns on Islam are published in cooperation with the Islamic Center of Maine in Orono. Voices is a weekly commentary by Maine people who explore issues affecting spirituality and religious life.