For Muslims worldwide, it’s that time of year again. Ramadhan. Eagerly anticipated, Muslims all over the world spend a whole month fasting followed by Eid, a day where many families get together and enjoy spending time with each other.
While Ramadhan may be associated with the abstinence of food and drink from dawn until sunset, it isn’t the sole purpose of this blessed month; in fact, that abstinence is a foundation to the whole purpose of Ramadhan. Most of us are lucky enough, especially in the developed world, to drink and eat what we like and when we like it; it’s a great part of our daily enjoyment. So much so, that often we can take these basic life necessities for granted! Fasting requires us to stop enjoying these worldly things for a time during the day. However on their own, hunger and thirst serve no purpose in attaining the pleasure of God which ultimately is the goal of every Muslim. This ultimate goal is to serve God; by remembering Him and His Creation.
Someone who fasts, goes about their daily lives as normal. If you work, you go to work, so it certainly doesn’t affect daily life. However, the spiritual changes are profound. Every waking moment is filled with prayer and the remembrance of God and if you forget, the intermittent hunger pangs will remind you. But they also remind you of something else – how fortunate you are to have food. It reminds you of your fellow man who perhaps has spent his life time feeling this hunger. The instance when you realise this is devastatingly humbling and that realisation paves way for the other method of serving God – by serving His Creation.
Serving His Creation can occur in many different ways. It’s an integral part of Islam but in Ramadhan it multiplies several fold. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that if a person provides provision for someone to break their fast, that person gets an equal reward as to the person who has fasted. It is these small ways that God brings everyone together during this blessed month. Even those who are unable to fast, those who may be travelling or are sick, are still able to partake in the purpose of Ramadhan. They are able to pray and also serve humanity. In fact, those who do not fast, are obliged to feed a poor person for the duration of missed fasts during Ramadhan as well as completing the missed fasts when they are later able to do so.
I am a Muslim but I won’t be fasting. That is because I am also a mother to my wonderful 11 months old baby boy who still relies on me for most of his nourishment. God says He doesn’t wish hardship for His followers, hence the reason I cannot fast this year. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be participating in Ramadhan. While I won’t be abstaining from food and drink, I will be spending days and nights in the remembrance of my God, His favours upon myself and my dear family and looking for ways to contribute to my community and neighbourhood. Although my dear son is still relatively young, I will also endeavour to start encouraging him to see the importance of these things. I want him to be a real positive contribution to society and what better time to start than the most blessed month in the Islamic calendar?
Serving God and humanity are the heart of Ramadhan. Without them, abstaining from food and drink are pointless. It becomes a ritual that has no significance whatsoever. Prayers and helping one another is what fulfils the purpose of Ramadhan and by doing these things for a whole month, they should become a habit. Remembering God, giving to the poor and needy, being a kinder person; if practiced in the true nature intended of Ramadhan, they will become second nature. So by the end of the month, the purpose isn’t to revert to the old self but to continue the good deeds onto the rest of the year until next Ramadhan where you build on them further.