Muslims around the world eagerly await the coming of every Ramadan, the annual season of reflection, repentance and renewal. The month of fasting begins with the sighting of the new moon, this year around 20th August, and ends with the arrival of ‘Eid al-Fitr: a day of celebration and thanksgiving for the blessings of the past 29 or 30 days.
Ramadan is the month of worship and remembrance, even though these are required all year round. It is a month of training, of putting in extra effort to gain the spiritual sustenance to keep us going for the remaining eleven months of the year. Most notable is the fasting from dawn to sunset, compulsory upon all men and women unless they have an excuse such as being pregnant or very young or old. Fasting is to abstain from all food, drink or sexual activity throughout the daylight hours, and the ‘nil by mouth’ rule extends similarly to smoking.
Fasting is by no means a practice born with the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him), as the Qur’an instructs believers to fast “as fasting was prescribed for those before you.” In an age of faddish diets, fasting is a divinely recommended detox for body and soul. It breaks the chains of habit, especially of the destructive kind, and liberates the free will. It teaches us moderation in eating, and to value the food we are blessed with while many go without.
The value of any ritual is seen in its effect on one’s personality and behaviour. Thus the Prophet declared that “Whoever does not abstain from lying and evil deeds should know that God has no need for his abstaining from food and drink.” He was also more generous to the needy in this month than any other.
Because these are values common to people of all faiths, it is quite natural that many non-Muslims opt to fast for a day or more along with their Muslim friends, tasting that little bit of hunger in order to enjoy its abundant fruits.
Plus something for football fans:
Fredi Kanoute: “I Can Keep Fasting In Ramadan Even When I Am Playing”
Cross-posted from Religious Diablog by Sohaib Saeed. First published in Interfaith Matters, August 2009