With the month of Ramadan under full swing, and approximately 1.8 billion Muslims around the world currently fasting, this holy month comes with its fair share of questions and annual chuckles. Muslims around the world are always asked by their non-fasting colleagues ‘What! not even water?’. Yes, that’s right! Not even water! The look of shock and awe on their faces when they learn of this, is rather entertaining.
So, you may be wondering, what exactly is Ramadan and why is it important to your Muslim colleagues? Is it just a month where Muslims are required to abstain from food and drink from dawn till sunset? The answer is ‘no’, it is much more than that.
There is a much deeper meaning than merely staying hungry. In this act of fasting, Muslims from all over the world, from all ethnicities and financial backgrounds, leave aside their most basic needs and turn their attention to God, acknowledging that none besides Him can provide. It is the time when the rich feel the pangs of hunger and thirst of the poor, and thus sympathise with millions of unfortunate people and increase their charity giving and their expression of gratitude to their Lord.
Fasting is truly an effective means for the purification of the soul, for strengthening one’s morality, self-control and deepening one’s consciousness of God. God states in the Quran:
“You who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be mindful of God”. (Quran, 2:183).
The fact that fasting is a means to moral elevation is evident because God not only forbids his believers from eating, drinking and abstaining from other desires from dawn to sunset, but also exhorts the faithful to refrain from foul acts such as backbiting, indulging in foul speech, telling lies etc. It is almost like an annual training programme to refresh our mind, body and soul, where fasting provides us with discipline and training, to keep away from the many things that tarnish good conduct. This inevitably allows us to strengthen our character and connection with God, and act upon His guidance.
The month of Ramadan is permeated with piety and devotion to God. Muslims disconnect from worldly pleasures and exert their energy and focus on their prayers and increase their good deeds and charity. I personally devote this month to intense supplication and recitation of the Quran and reflect on the purpose of this life and our existence.
‘Man says, What? Once I am dead, will I be brought back to life? But does man not remember that We created him when he was nothing before? (Quran, 19:66-67).
‘The similitude of the life of this world is like this: rain that We send down from the sky is absorbed by the plants of the earth, from which humans and animals eat. But when the earth has taken on its finest appearance, and adorns itself, and its people think they have power over it, then our commanded comes to it by night or by day, and We reduce it to stubble, as if it had not flourished just the day before. This is the way We explain the revelations for those who reflect’. (Quran, 10:24).
‘A night better than a thousand months’
During this month, there is a night which is said to be ‘better than a thousand months’ and this night is called Laylatul Qadr (Night of Power), and it occurs during the last ten days of Ramadan. This night commemorates the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad and is a night of great importance; where Muslims dedicate the entire night to prayer and seek repentance of their sins.
Every year, in order to attain a spiritual epitome during these days, I usually travel to Makkah and Madinah or Al-Quds (Jerusalem) to spend these blessed days in devotion and away from the hustle of daily life. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, this will not be possible this year. Below are a few pictures from my previous travels:
Ramadan in Masjid al-Haram in Makkah (Saudi Arabia) 2018
The Kaaba (House of God) is the first place of worship dedicated to the one God, built by Abraham and his son Ishmael. Muslims all around the world, face towards its direction when praying.
Ramadan in Masjid al-Nabawi in Madinah (Saudi Arabia) 2018
The mosque was established by Prophet Muhammad, and is also his final resting place.
Ramadan at Al-Aqsa Masjid in Jerusalem 2019
Third holiest site in Islam and the place from which Prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven during the Night Journey mentioned in the Quran.
Breaking of the Fast
In this special month, you will see the Muslim community burst into life. The month brings forth beautiful moments, where Muslim homes are filled with a beautiful atmosphere of thankfulness, love and compassion, with families, friends and neighbours coming together to break their fast with dates and water in unison. Below are a few images of the iftar meals that I have made and enjoyed with my family:
For those of you who are observing the fasts this month, I want to wish you a blessed Ramadan! May all your fasts and prayers be accepted! And for those of you who are not fasting, I would like to invite you to perhaps try fasting for a day and tell us all about your experiences!
Whilst writing this, it has highlighted the importance of promoting good communal understanding and sharing respective experiences. Thus, if anyone is interested in learning more about the Islamic faith, please feel free to click on this linked PDF to access the translation of the Quran.
Ramadan Mubarak Everyone!