“O ye who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed on those before you that you may become righteous”
- Al- Qur’an; 2:183
With the intention of becoming righteous, Muslims solely fast to please the creator of mankind as he alone knows how much sincerity weighs in the hearts and deeds of every being. Fasting teaches the principle of sincere love because a person who fasts does so out of deep love for God and those who love God truly know what love is.
Fasting is certainly one of the foremost duties of a Muslim in the blessed month of Ramadhan. It is obligatory for every Muslim of sound mental and physical well-being. We are aware that great religious leaders fasted during their lifetime albeit their followers did not always follow suit. Jesus (pbuh) and Moses (pbuh) in the Bible, and Gautama Buddha in Buddhism, too observed fast and achieved great heights through this element of devotion.
The great leap in today’s sciences has made it easy for us to decipher the benefits of fasting. The three fathers of Western medicine: Hippocrates, Galen and Paracelsus, prescribed fasting as the physician within. Renowned physicians worldwide recommend fasting as the medicine for the 21st century, thereby labelling it the remedy to heal one’s body within. If given an opportunity, the body has the unique ability to heal itself.
Germany’s great fasting therapist Dr. Otto Buchinger declared: “Fasting is no doubt the most effective biological method of treatment, the operation without surgery, a treatment evolving exudation, redirection, loosening up and purified relaxation.” He stresses that most modern-day illnesses could be cured through fasting. Cardiovascular and chronic digestive system diseases, painful and inflammatory illnesses of the joints, numerous disorders of eating behaviour, malfunction of kidneys, glaucoma, skin disease, allergies, tension and migraine could be cured through fasting. This God given mercy and boundless gift of fasting is designed to cleanse, regenerate, rejuvenate and restore the sense of physical, mental and spiritual well-being of an individual.
Renowned physicians worldwide recommend fasting as the medicine for the 21st century, thereby labelling it the remedy to heal one’s body within. If given an opportunity, the body has the unique ability to heal itself
Dr. Buchinger reckons that when the body fasts, the soul is hungry and when the body is lighter, the soul craves for relief. Indeed, fasting decomposes all aged, damaged, diseased, weakened and dead cells and tissues a detoxification process.
Abstaining from consuming food and beverage is only one aspect of fasting. Abstention from sinful behaviour is often overlooked. Thus, fasting provides an opportunity to purify the mind as well as the body. When a fasting person goes without food and water continuously for one month from dawn to dusk, he or she acquires the knowledge of compassion and empathy towards those in hunger. Refraining from food and water as well as vain and bad behaviour allows a person to strive for patience, gratitude and humility -- life lessons that elevate a person’s disciplinary standards.
A sound conscience is instilled in a fasting person because he has to keep his fast secretly and publicly since no authority except God alone for whose sake he observes the fast knows his intentions. A lesson of great patience and selflessness is taught as a person who is observing a fast goes through the pangs of hunger and deprivation of impulses and needs but bears them patiently, solely to please his creator. A person who fasts until sunset needs a strong sense of willpower, combined with self-control, brilliant lessons for life.
If one fasts without realising its true meaning or with an attitude of indifference, then he or she fails to derive the real benefits of fasting. There is divine help to the believer who is committed to fasting. The human body has a unique ability to adapt and does so within the first few days of fasting. It adapts to a new schedule reducing the normal hunger we feel without food and water.
The community spirit and unity reach new heights when fellow believers are seen fasting with you, waking up for a pre-dawn meal and sharing it or the food at the time of breaking fast. This cycle of training for one whole month from deprivation of bodily appetite frees the soul from carnal desires and greed. Hunger makes us remember that our carnal desires are our servants and that God has given us the supreme ability to control them.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the last and final messenger to mankind, said: “If a person does not control his or her senses and behaviour, then God does not require that person to refrain from eating.” He further added that if someone verbally abuses, acts ignorantly or hurts another, then respond saying: “I am fasting.” Fasting provides benefits to society too. The personal knowledge of hunger and deprivation makes us realise the true sense of hunger and poverty. Whilst learning the lesson of deep gratitude to your maker and provider, you become more generous and charitable to fellow human beings less fortunate than you. So it is why God made ‘Zakah’ -- a form of charity obligatory for able Muslims to give away 2.5% of their annual earnings to the needy in the month of Ramadan.
Fasting is certainly one of the foremost duties of a Muslim in the blessed month of Ramadhan. It is obligatory for every Muslim of sound mental and physical well-being. We are aware that great religious leaders fasted during their lifetime albeit their followers did not always follow suit
Fasting in the glorious month of Ramadan is a commitment fulfilled by the faithful to their creator, the physical and spiritual training of one month every year through fasting, extra hours of night prayers and charity empower us to marvelously sail through life’s journey with inner-peace, tranquility, truth, justice and compassion.