The Holy month of Ramadan and the Quran

by Dr Rifai writes from London

(August 12, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Humanity lives in a global village today and different cultural and religious groups interact and come closer than ever before. Each religious group tries to understand others culture, traditions and way of life and no longer humanity could live in a watertight compartment. Whether we like or not we are bound to learn other people’s way of life today and with advancement of modern technologies this learning process is made easy. This is a universal phenomenon that humanity interacts more via modern technological revolution. People in Srilanka are not exceptional to this new phenomenon and but sadly we in Srilanka are reluctant to learn and understand other people’s way of life and each community has been living in watertight compartment without understanding and knowing others way of life. We rarely have interfaith dialogues in Srilanka. May be this is a very sensitive matter as far as Srilanka is concerned and at least it should take place among academia.

Here I will try introducing one of five pillars of Islam to our Non-Muslim brothers so that they will have at least some understating of it. It is beyond the scope of this article to cover all aspects of this pillar and yet I will try my best on the eve of this holy month to give some basic points about fasting and most of time our Non-Muslim brothers ask. Why do Muslim fast and how do they starve from dawn to dusk and how do they go without water or drinks whole day and now it is nearly 17 hours in western countries. Some people see it as a daunting task. But believe me it is not a difficult task and even 6/7 years old could do it.

First of all, fasting is not a unique practice in Islam alone and it has been prescribed in most of world religions and it is still being practised in Judaeo-Christian religions and it is still practised in other religions as ell. Almighty Allah allude to this fact in his Holy Quran and Says :(O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you that you may ward off evil) (2:183.)

This is not a new practice in Islam alone and yet it is worthy to note here that Islamic method of fasting is different from any other forms of fasting and Muslim not only abstains from foods, drinks and sexual intercourse but the process of fasting whole month develops a deep sense of spirituality in Muslim society and in fact whole month is a spiritual training camp for Muslim society: children, adult, young and old and men and women and rich and poor and all sort of Muslim people observe fasting and there are many social and communal benefits in fasting and yet we fast because we have been commanded by Allah to do so and why do we fast we fast because it is divine command and that is first and foremost reason that Muslim fast all over the world during this month. Moreover, it increases our spiritual feelings and it cultivates goodness and piety in hearts and minds of Muslims people and it brings them together and closer and unite them and we Muslims all go to Mosques for night prayers and it increases our feelings of brotherhoods in Muslim community and its cultivates kindness in the hearts of rich among us to help and donate for poor and needy in the society and that is why you could see that Muslim people do a lot of charity works specially during this month. It also teaches us how to control ourselves and teaches us how to resist our desire and lust during day times. Muslims really enjoy fasting during this month as it brings them a lot of spiritual and communal goodness and even children in Muslim communities enjoy it. How could otherwise, a child of 6 years old observe fasting for 17 years in this summer time. This is a great happy occasion not mere starvation and thirsty. Fasting is indeed, some spiritual experience that w e can not describe it with words rather every one should experience it to realise its physical, spiritual and social goodness. Islamic teachings are not mere philosophical teaching and it is practical teaching that every one in the society can practice them.

Moreover, three basic elements constitutes in human beings namely his soul, his mind and his body and Islamic teachings aim at developing all these three elements equally and it is beauty of Islamic teaching that it never ignore or overemphasise on either of these three constituents. In order to fulfil spiritual needs of man it does not demand to renounce physical needs of human body at the same time in order to fulfil badly needs it never ignore spiritual needs of human beings and in the ways, Islam does not ignore intellectual development of human beings at expense of other two and maintaining the balance developments of holistic human personality is one of the objective of fasting: it cultivates a deep sense of spirituality in Muslim man and it also help him to concentrate his mind on any subject.

Our Holy prophet has mentioned merits of fasting and holiness of this month in his sayings. This month is very much special one for Muslims for many reasons. It is a holy month because fasting is prescribed in this holy month and it is holy because, any good act done by a Muslim will be rewarded by Almighty Allah seventy times more than in any other month, it is holy because, first 10 days of this month are mercy and Allah bestows His mercy abundantly for His devotees and its second ten days are enshrined with divine Forgiveness and during the last ten days Almighty Allah frees many people from torments of Hellfire. It is a holy month because; devils are chained in this month and Human inclination and willpower to do good deeds dramatically increased in these days. It is a sacred month because, doors of Paradise are opened and it is a blessed month that is because the angles of Allah descend in this month. It is sanctified because, there is a night in this month which is better than thousands years. In addition to these rewards there are hundreds of blessings in this holy month and that is why Muslim people all over the world venerate this holy month and they make special preparation to get maximum rewards from this month. Above all, this month is a unique month because almighty Allah revealed His last and final divine Message to our prophet Muhammad in this Holy month and that makes this month holiest of all months. This final divine revelation is a historical turning point in the destiny of humanity and human history. The Holy Quran alludes to this divine phenomenon in human history as (The month of Ramadan in which the Quran was revealed: guidance for mankind and clear proof for the guidance and criterion between right and wrong) 2:184. This divine revelation changed the destiny of mankind and brought them from darkness to light.

To understand such a historical change one needs to go back into the history and life style of Arabs prior to this revelation. Historical records of pre-Islamic Arab history confirm that Arabs lived in a malicious and cruel society. Their faiths, religious practice and way of life were primitive and they had superficial belief system and their social and cultural life style was uncivilised and they would flight for any trivial issue and they would bury marry as many girls as they want and they would bury new born babies alive and they would kill their opponents for small matters. They would loot and robe other people’s wealth and properties for no reasons and they would exploit others in their business transactions and alcoholism was their way of life and all sort of evils and bad practises prevailed in that society and this is a very short description of Arab society prior to Divine Revelation:

The divine revelation totally changed these Arab people within 23 years and these cruel people became most influential personalities of world and they inspired and influenced most of nation within a short period of human history and they conveyed the message of Islam to the half of the world within a short of period. This social revolution would not been possible without divine guidance and we fast to honour the great blessing of divine guidance as well. It is duty of every Muslim to share these blessings with our non-Muslim brothers and at least to let them understand these teaching of fasting so that they may become conscious of the significance of fasting for Muslims and it may be one good practice that we Muslims invite our Non-Muslim brothers for our break fasting programmes so that they could understand the spiritual and communal sides of fasting and its holiness. This can be good opportunity to present Islamic teaching in a positive manner to our Muslim brothers and in western countries Muslims leadership celebrate Muslim occasions with Non-Muslim bothers and sisters so that we communities could come closer and understand each others culture and way of life more profoundly and as a Multicultural country this paragon may be applicable in our country as well.