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During this blessed month of Shahru Ramadan, we will meditate upon various Surahs of the Quran Majid, so that we can become closer to our holy book, during its month of revelation.
In this meditation, we will reverse this and look at how the Quran Majid teaches us to fast, so that our fasts can, in sha Allah, have more purpose and spiritual meaning.
In the 183rd aya of Surah-al-Baqarah, Allah (SWT) says
‘Ya ayohal lazina aamanu koteba alaikumus siyamo kama koteba alalazina min kublekum laalakum tatakhun’ (Oh you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous).
In this aya, there are a few words that we need to fully understand. Firstly, is the word aamanu, as Allah (SWT) begins many ayas by calling us with this. The word aamanu comes from the word amun, which means security. When someone believes in Allah (SWT) they receive internal security.
If we were to take a rich man, for example, he may have wealth, but he always fears that he will lose that wealth. If we were to take a powerful woman, she may have power but may fear she will lose that power. Although they have wealth and power, they lack inner peace and inner security.
In the Quran Majid, Allah (SWT) describes how the prophets (AS) of Allah (SWT) did not have this fear as their belief in Allah (SWT) was all that they needed and, consequently, this is all that we need.
The second word that we need to understand is ‘kutiba’ which comes from the word ‘kitaab’. In the Quran Majid this has two meanings, firstly, to write and, secondly, to make mandatory. In this aya, Allah (SWT) is saying that he has made fasting mandatory.
The most important part of this aya, however, is when Allah (SWT) says that he has made fasting mandatory for us, just like he had done for others before us.
During the months of Shahru Ramadan, many of us complain that we have to fast for thirty days. When we look at how Allah (SWT) prescribed fasting for others before us, we will no longer complain as much!
Allah (SWT) prescribed fasting to Daud (AS) and his people for half of their lives. They would fast every alternate day throughout their lives.
Allah (SWT) prescribed fasting to Musa (AS) for forty days and to Isa (AS) for 40 days, or more. When we look at the conditions of Musa (AS) and Isa (AS) who lived in the deserts and outside in the heat, we cannot even compare it today where we have shelter and air conditioning.
Similarly, just as Allah (SWT) prescribed fasting by not eating and drinking during sunlight, he also prescribed different types of fasting. Maryam (AS), the mother of Isa (AS), was prescribed a fasting of silence, during which she was not allowed to speak.
When we look at the meaning of the word ‘siyam’ we realise that it does not mean to not eat and drink, but it means to refrain from. During this month of Shahru Ramadan, we should all make a conscious effort to realise that our fast is not just hunger and thirst, but to refrain from anything that is haram.
One of the most important ways that we should observe our fasting is through observing our tongue and the words that we say. Rasulullah (SAW) said that when we wake, every part of our body speaks to our tongue and says, ‘oh tongue, if you are safe we are safe and if you are in danger, we are in danger’. This is why Allah (SWT) has put our tongue behind three prisons, the jaw, the teeth and the lips. Before we speak, we need to open our jaw, open our teeth and open our lips, giving us enough time to contemplate what we will say.
Through fasting, we will receive many rewards on the day of judgment and, also, we receive many benefits in this world, too.
During the remainder of this meditation, let us examine just five of these benefits.
The first benefit is equality. Imam Jaffar-us-Sadiq (AS) was asked what the purpose of fasting was, and he said, ‘to make it equal between the poor and the rich’. The rich can have what they want whenever they want, whilst the poor cannot.
Although this division is a material division, Islam is a religion of equality. When we perform salaat in a masjid, we, the rich and the poor, all stand together, we go into rukuh and sajda together and we all rise together. Similarly, when we perform hajj, we all dress the same and it is impossible to tell who a billionaire is and who is a pauper.
Just as salaat and hajj are times of equality, Allah (SWT) has decreed a month of equality, in his month, where the rich and the poor stay hungry and thirsty together.
The second benefit is compassion. The reason why Allah (SWT) wants the rich to feel hunger is so that they can relate to the poor. This means that the next time that a poor person asks us for help, we can relate to them and to their hunger, as we have experienced that, and, through this experience and empathy, we will help them.
The third benefit is for our health. Amirul Mumineen (AS) says that Rasulullah (SAW) said ‘summu tasohu’ (to be healthy, fast). Before Rasulullah’s (SAW) time, it was customary to cure diseases through fasting. Amirul Mumineen (AS) also emphasised this in Nahjul Balaga by saying ‘the stomache is the house of all diseases and not eating is the head of all diseases’. As we see today, many of our diseases are caused by the foods that we eat.
The fourth benefit is related to this, which is the reduction of obesity. Although many open and break their fasts by eating more than they would in a normal day, this is actually not advised in fiqh as it defeats the whole purpose of fasting. During Shahru Ramadan, we should actually eat less so that we remove obesity from our body, as that is also a cause of many diseases.
The fifth benefit is the strengthening of our will power. If anyone wants to remove a bad habit, such as smoking, Shahru Ramadan makes it easier. As they cannot smoke from sunrise to sunset, those hours are already removed. With a little more will power, those hours can turn into 24 hours, a full day and, in sha Allah, a full month. Once a full month is completed, a second, third and fourth month is easier. This is why Shahru Ramadan is the ideal time to remove bad habits, as during daylight they are haram, and it is just takes a little more discipline to abstain for the whole day.
Ultimately, at the end of the aya, Allah (SWT) says that our fasting makes us more righteous. We often ask whether our fasting has been accepted and the simple answer is to look at our life and to ask ourselves if we have become more equal, more compassionate, healthier, thinner and have we removed the bad habits from our lives? If we have, our fasting has fulfilled its purpose, if it has not, we have just stayed hungry and thirsty for a few hours.
May Allah (SWT) give us the strength to fast in the way that he has prescribed us. May we remove all that he does not like during this fasting hours so that, with our strengthened will power, we can remove them purposefully. May our fasts unite us all and increase our compassion and may we leave this holy month as a righteous person. Aamin.