Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic year, which follows the lunar calendar.
Fasting the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. Found in several religious traditions, literally speaking, fasting means to abstain entirely from food, drink, intimate relations, and smoking from the break of dawn until sunset for the entire month of Ramadan.
However, if one were to restrict fasting only to its literal definition, they would be mischaracterizing the beauty of the month. Ramadan is a month of God-Almighty’s Mercy and Forgiveness. God-Almighty gave us the gift of Ramadan, in which we embark on a spiritual awakening. Here are a few examples of the spiritual benefits to the Islamic fasting:
The Month of Mercy – Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “It is a month which God-Almighty regards as the best of all months. Its days, in the sight of God-Almighty, are the best of days, its nights are the best of nights, and its hours are the best of hours.” Fasting helps us remember who we are, and who God-Almighty is. Fasting was made obligatory only in order for humanity to reinforce sincere devotion to Him.
In addition to being more aware of spiritual surroundings, Ramadan allows us to envelop ourselves in the service of those less fortunate. Whether it is sharing our fast-breaking tables, our pre-dawn meal, volunteering, or donating to those less fortunate, Ramadan enables the believer to appreciate everything they have and share it with those who may not.
Empathy – Focused on our own lives, it becomes very easy to be self-involved and forget about those who may be suffering around us. Islam teaches that one way to gain an understanding of those who are less fortunate is to put yourself into that situation and experience what they experience, hence the fast during Ramadan. A simple change in eating allows us to re-examine our daily food intake.
One may ask, how much do I really share or give to others? Can I do with less?
Most of the time, not only can we do with less, but ultimately, we should. Muslims are encouraged throughout all times of the year to be socially and economically sensitive, but Ramadan especially provides a unique opportunity to empathize with their neighbor who may not have as much as them.
Taming your tongue during Ramadan – Gossiping, backbiting, and slandering are all forbidden during Ramadan just as the physical aspects of fasting are forbidden.
“O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, for some suspicion is a grave sin (liable to God’s punishment); and do not spy (on one another), nor backbite (against one another). Would any of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would abhor it! Keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety. Surely God is One Who truly returns repentance with liberal forgiveness and additional reward, All-Compassionate (particularly towards His believing servants).” (49:12)(1)
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) also taught us, “Whoever believes in God-Almighty, let him speak good or remain silent.” (2)
Will power & applied moderation – Fasting is all about bringing a new and improved routine into your life. Not only do your meals become less frequent, but one also gains a new sense of gratitude for the food they are given. That cup of cold water or slice of freshly cut watermelon becomes a little more gratifying than it may have before.
Ramadan also causes us to become more aware of the blessings we have and teaches us not to take them for granted. We become more conscientious of the world around us. Ramadan teaches us to use only what we need and waste less. Since Ramadan lasts for an entire month, these new habits can form into permanent characteristics of their being.
The benefits of fasting, both physical and spiritual, are many. But if nothing else, fasting allows one to see how weak and fragile they really are. Our needs are infinite, and just as God-Almighty can feed our stomachs during Ramadan, He can also feed our souls.
Unal, Ali. “The Miraculous Quran.” The Miraculous Quran.
Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim