Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, September 2009
What Was It All About?
By Sarwat Husain
ccun.org, September 24, 2009
5 Sha'aban, 1430
Ramadan, the ninth month of the lunar calendar, is almost over. Today is the last day. The month concludes with 29 or 30 days, depending on the sighting of the new moon.
Ramadan fasting is the fourth of five pillars of Islam. Thee other pillars are declaration of faith, five daily prayers, almsgiving and pilgrimage or “hajj.”
The Arabic word for fasting is sawm, which literally means to refrain.
During the entire month Muslims do not eat or drink anything from dawn to sunset. However, fasting is not merely abstaining from food and drinks, but it is also time for Muslims for reflection, devotion, generosity and sacrifice.
It is time for abstaining from ignorant and indecent behavior. This is the month for self-evaluation, self-redemption, self-control and self-restraint. For instance, if you smoke, you have to stop if you are fasting. If you can control the urge of smoking for 14 hours a day for 30 days, you can practically kick the habit for the rest of your life.
Fasting in Ramadan is a duty to the almighty God. It teaches a person to control their desires and urges for worldly satisfactions, to feel empathy for the poor. When the month is successfully completed, all your sins are washed out and you start with a clean slate.
In this month the Quran was also revealed to Prophet Muhammad. According to the Quran, the Torah and the Bible were also revealed to Prophets Moses and Essa (Jesus); peace be upon all of them.
The Quran says, “O Ye who believes fasting was prescribed to you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous.”
Of the many lessons learned from fasting the most important one is taqwa, closeness to God. After going through this intense “boot camp” that reforms your character from the inside out, it does bring you closer to God because your intention while going through all the hardships of fasting is to have that deep faith in God called eeman. One does not fast for the whole month through habits or desires to seek praise or fame. It comes genuinely from the heart.
To get close to God one must also recite and understand the Quran, reflect upon its meaning, increase in kindness, give in charity, make supplications to God and attend gatherings of knowledge. Thus, Ramadan is the most effective means of spiritual development for a person.
After it is over we must strive to make this transformation of character stay for the whole year till the next Ramadan comes, hence the rest of our lives.
After the end of Ramadan Muslims throughout the world rejoice and celebrate for three days. This celebration is called Eid-ul-Fitr, which means “the festival of breaking the fast.”
As this pious month ends I pray to almighty God to grant all of us the ability to make us a better person through the wisdom and lessons we have learned through our fasts. And may this transformation stay with us for the rest of our lives, Ameen.
Sarwat Husain is president of the Council on American Islamic Relations-San Antonio.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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