BY Barrister, Hannatu Musawa
Ramadhan which began on Friday, the 26th of last month is sadly coming to an end. From all indications, the Holy Month of fasting will end in the evening of Saturday the 24th of June, i.e. this weekend. This annual observance which is also one of the Five Pillars of Islam is a time for spiritual reflection, improvement and increased devotion and worship.
Ramadhan is annually performed by Muslims worldwide in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Usually, the month lasts 29–30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon, according to numerous biographical accounts compiled in the hadiths.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan was made obligatory during the month of Sha’ban, in the second year after ‘the Muslims’ migrated from Mecca to Medina. Fasting is ‘fardh’ (obligatory) for adult Muslims, except those who are suffering from an illness, travelling, are elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic, chronically ill or menstruating.
It becomes compulsory for Muslims to start fasting when they reach puberty, so long as they are healthy and sane, and have no disabilities or illnesses. Exemptions to fasting are travel, menstruation, severe illness, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. Those who were unable to fast still must make up the days missed later.
While fasting from dawn until sunset, as Muslims, we are to refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking and engaging in sexual relations. We must also refrain from sinful behavior that may negate the reward of fasting, such as false speech (insulting, backbiting, cursing, lying, etc.) and fighting.
During Ramadhan we are expected to put more effort into following the teachings and learning more about Islam. The act of fasting in Islam is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the soul by freeing it from harmful impurities.
Ramadan also teaches us how to better practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and compulsory charity (zakat). It also affords us the opportunity to quit bad habits and start to make healthier choices. During Ramadhan, spiritual rewards for fasting are believed to be multiplied within the Holy Month. Fasting during Ramadan typically includes the increased offering of ‘salat’ (prayers), recitation of the Quran and an increase of doing good deeds and charity.
A peculiar significance during Ramadhan is the ‘Night of Power’ i.e. Laylat al-Qadr. This is the holiest night of the year. It is the night in which the first revelation of the Quran was sent down to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stating that this night was “better than one thousand months [of proper worship]”, as stated in Chapter 97:3 of the Qu’ran.
The blessings and benefits of Ramadhan Fasting are too many to be counted. If one does recognize them and realize their importance, he/she wishes to have the month of Ramadhan to be throughout the whole year. These blessings are given by Allah to the fasting Muslims, who are to fast with full faith and expectation.
Muslims throughout their history received many benefits during Ramadhan, amongst which they recorded historical successes and victories. For example, the Battle of Badr, Battle of Khandaq, Opening of Makkah, Battle of Tabuk, and Salahuddin liberating Jerusalem from the crusaders were all accomplished during the Holy Month. Also, visiting Makkah during the month of Ramadhan is Equal to one Hajj (pilgrimage) and equal to one Hajj with Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
The spiritual benefits of the Holy Month include the opening of the doors of heaven. Also, doors of hell are closed while devils are chained down. Fasting with Iman (faith) leads to forgiveness by Allah (SWT) to the individual’s sins. Whoever fasts two consecutive months of Ramadhan with good intention will receive forgiveness for the mistakes committed throughout the year.
Multiplication of Rewards occurs during the month Ramadhan. Also, whoever performs the Night prayers with sincerity and good intention will receive forgiveness of his past mistakes. While observing and supplicating during the last ten days and nights of Ramadhan, one will get rewards, forgiveness, and multiples of blessings.
Amongst the many spiritual benefits are also proven medical benefits of fasting. The month of Ramadan is a great time for our digestive system, which is responsible for the metabolism process of food, to get some rest. Also, during fasting, the level of sugar in our blood decreases so does the level of cholesterol. By fasting, one gets to reduce weight, purify the brain, rejuvenate the body, and look healthier and younger.
The mental benefits of fasting during Ramadan are even better. This year I look at it as one more chance to learn how to thrive and be grateful for whatever comes my way. You get an opportunity to be in a state of self-discipline and self-control. Ramadan teaches you to avoid anger, to forgive, help those in need and share your happiness with everyone.
The holiday of ‘Eid al-Fitr’ marks the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the next lunar month, ‘Shawwal’. This first day of the following month is declared after another crescent new moon has been sighted or the completion of 30 days of fasting if no visual sighting is possible due to weather conditions.
As we begin the sad countdown to the end of this beautiful immensely beneficial Holy Month in the Islamic calendar, I urge fellow Muslims to continue fearing Allah (SWT), practicing the revelations of Allah (SWT), accepting the little things that one has achieved and prepare for departure from this world to the Hereafter. We should also continue in our Jihad of self-discipline, self-control, self-restraint, self-education and self-evaluation.
Even after Ramadhan, we should continue to avoid all things ‘Haram’, immorality and anger. We should pray for the recovery of our ailing President and to return home hale and hearty. We should pray for our country to surmount all the myriad of problems facing us as a nation. We should also pray that Allah (SWT) gives our leaders the fortitude to do what is right and the needful at all times in taking our nation to greater heights.
We should also pray for the Muslim Ummah in war-torn climes like in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. Pray that Allah (SWT) would temper the hearts of the warring factions leading to them immediately sheathing their swords so that many who have become refugees as a result of the conflict may begin to find their way back home. Lastly we should pray for a more peaceful and tolerable world, where everyone can live in tranquillity and in harmony.