A Month To Strive for God-Consciousness,
Spiritual Purity and Selflessness
Ejaz Naqvi, MD
Ramadan is widely considered as the month of ‘fasting’, which is true. However, “fasting” is rather an inaccurate translation of Sawm, which means to abstain. Ramadan is much more than about abstaining from food and drinks from dawn to dusk. It is about abstaining from lust, cheating, lying, backbiting, hurting others, self-boasting and practicing self-control, including controlling your hunger, and other negative emotions such as anger. It is about feeling for others – their hunger and their needs, and thinking beyond our own selves. This is a month for spiritual cleansing and strengthening, and an opportunity to renew your relationship with God. This is a month to seek, and work towards, nearness to God by submitting to His will and serving His creation.
O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may (learn) self restraint (or “remain God-conscious”) The Qur’an 2:183
The word “prescribed” has also been translated as ‘ordained” by some. “Prescribing” fits well as fasting is considered a recipe to heal our bodies, minds and soul.
This is the month to show random acts of kindness to all- humans and animals and other creations of God- to parents, siblings, neighbors, strangers, co-workers and spouses. It is a month to forgive, and seek forgiveness from the Almighty. It is month to show kindness to others, especially the needy and the hungry, and ask for God’s mercy.
Muslims worldwide, including Muslim Americans, give the most during the month of Ramadan. According to some estimates, up to 70% of the yearly donations to charitable organizations are made during this month.
Just when you think that the ‘non-fasting’ aspects of the ‘fasting’ are part of a ‘high quality Muslim fast’, think again. Prophet Isaiah lays down the elements of a good fast in the following passage. This may look strikingly similar to what Muslims would consider the essence of fasting. It includes the “Dos” and the “Don’ts”.
“I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord? No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. Isaiah 58:3–17
Ejaz Naqvi, MD is an Amazon bestselling Author of The Quran: With or Against the Bible? and The Three Abrahamic Testaments: How the Torah, The Gospels and the Qur’an hold the keys to healing our Fears. He is an interfaith worker and a blogger on Patheos: Ask a (Born Again) Muslim