Why we Fast

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Prof M ASLAM writes on the significance of abstaining from sensual activity on special days.The month of fasting, Ramzan, which is already more than halfway through, provides an opportunity to believers to reinforce their faith in the Almighty through the process of self-purification. Fasting in one form or the other does exist in almost all major religions. We have Navaratri fasting for nine days among Hindus. Similarly, Hindu women also fast for a day — Karwa Chauth — for the wellbeing of their husbands. Catholics have 40 days fast during Lent that is not mandatory, but fasting on Ash-Wednesday, the beginning of the Easter Season of fasting and abstinence, and Good Friday are mandatory except for those who are ill or for pregnant women. However, roza or fasting as practised by Muslims is an elaborate process stretching over a period of one month every year. It involves a wide range of responsibilities on the part of those who observe the fast.

A human being has physical, emotional, biological and spiritual parts. A balanced mix of these can lead to excellence. Fasting during the month of Ramzan, orients the practitioner to the art of balancing spiritual essentials with other parts. It helps curb base tendencies mostly originating from the stomach. It is an effective tool for sobering the mind and reconstructing our spiritual faculties.It involves taqwaa or self-restraint, behaviour modification, taking care of one’s health, patience, positive social outlook and strengthening of family ties.There are a number of health benefits as well, from the month of fasting. The basic among them being that it prevents overeating, the root-cause of many diseases. Ramzan fasting is a sentinel against disease, provided the one who fasts follows the strict dietary rules. I have experienced that the blood pressure remains normal throughout the month of fasting.

We also have additional prayers prescribed after dinner during the month of Ramzan. According to one estimate, using a calorie counter, the amount of calories burnt during tarawih, the special night prayer of Ramzan, amounts to 200 calories.

The concepts of hospitality, good neighbourliness and charity are important virtues apart from self-purification, which the month of Ramzan is expected to inculcate among its followers. The Prophet had said, “Those who become happy on hearing the sound of footsteps of a guest, God will forgive their sins”. What a great incentive to practise the concept of hospitality!

The practise of the concept of good neighbourly behaviour is equally important. It has wider connotations than its literal meaning. The Prophet had said, “One should behave decently with the whole of humanity and foremost among them is your neighbour.” If one connects it with the concept of fasting, an immediate implication is that a true Muslim cannot see any human being hungry, even if it means having to sacrifice iftar and to continue fasting for the next day. Similarly, a true Muslim cannot see a human being in pain or misery. It applies to both one’s immediate neighbourhood as well as humanity at large. What we are witnessing around us in the name of Islam is not Islam. In essence, Islam in general and roza in particular teaches a person to address human concerns and values.

On charity it is said that if one gives say rupees ten during the month of Ramzan, he will get 70 times more blessings in return. This is a great motivation and in reality an average middle class Muslim does follow this more meticulously than others.

A Muslim is also expected to take stock of his personal wealth in both cash and kind, every year and calculate zakat that is earmarked for distribution among the poor and needy.

One of the greatest advantages of fasting in the month of Ramzan is that its true observance inculcates in a person the habit of speaking the truth, something that is rare nowadays. If a person speaks the truth, practises the concept of hospitality and good neighbourliness and gives charity as advocated above, he will certainly be entitled to Divine Grace and protection, which we all need so desperately

Why we Fast & Silence is Golden1

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