Australian Ramadan – Why Muslims Fast
“قال تعالى: “يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
Almighty Allah said: “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint (Arabic تقوى Taqwa).” Surat No. 2, Verse No. 183
Muslims believe that this verse is evidence that fasting (Arabic صيام Siyam) is an ancient form of worship, prescribed for Muslims as well as other nations which preceded them, ever since the time of Adam.
As we mentioned in the previous article “Australian Ramadan – The Reality of Fasting” we are going to start off today with what fasting is for Muslims but we will be using this verse again when we speak about fasting in other religions.
Mark Holland – Why Muslims Fast
According to Mark Holland, a Liberal MP Canadian politician who is fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan for the 2nd consecutive year, fasting gives you a feeling of what poor, hungry people feel throughout the year. Therefore, you may have much sympathy for them.
The following is the transcript of a part of Holland’s statement (to watch the video click here):
“Last year, I had the opportunity to fast for the entire period of Ramadan. It is something I am going to do again in support of a charity called (Give 30). People take the money that they save from fasting every day and give it to those who are more needy, particularly food banks.
“When I fasted, it was an incredible experience to feel what it was like to be hungry. Of course, I got relief at the end of the day, but for many children, unfortunately, in Canada and around the world, that relief never comes. They have to make it through a day and try to learn and prepare for their future without the aid of food.”
Nobody can argue against Holland’s statement as one of the messages of Islam is, indeed, to take care of each other and have sympathy for the less fortunate humans around you. The prophet –peace be upon him- once said: “ما آمن بي من بات شبعان وجاره جائع إلى جنبه وهو يعلم به” which means; you are not a true Muslim if you go to bed with a full stomach while your neighbor is starving, and you know it.
I’m not saying that Holland got the wrong idea, because he did not, all I’m saying is; he got it incomplete.
Muslims’ perspective – Hunger is not the answer
My argument is simple; feeling sympathy toward those who are needy, poor and hungry cannot be the only or main reason for the fasting worship. A main reason is like a rule of thumb that can be applied to each and every Muslim with no exceptions regardless of his/her particular situation.
Also getting a sense of how difficult the lives of hungry people might be is not logically accepted as the sole reason why people would stop drinking water for 30 days.
Here is why hunger is not the answer;
- Poor, hungry people shouldn’t be fasting because there is no reason for them to experience hunger. This is not acceptable by any Muslims regardless of their financial situation.
- Strong people wouldn’t feel the same as less strong people when fasting. Some people won’t even feel a thing.
- Developing a sense of sympathy differ from one person to another according to their emotional capacity and the kind of experience they have gained throughout their lives.
- Not eating for a couple of hours each day for 30 days won’t make anyone feel the misery and unfortunate life poor people have. Psychologically speaking, you know that in a few hours you will be relieved and this is what keeps you going through the day.
Now, imagine what it feels like not to know when your next meal is coming. It’s a terrible feeling that could drive you insane and make you susceptible to all sorts of bad deeds. This can’t be compared to what you feel while fasting.
Muslims’ perspective – Why Muslims Fast
Going back to verse 183 in surat Al-baqarah; Allah is telling us the reason why we must fast.
“That you may (learn) self-restraint…”, since genuine fasting helps us overcome lusts and thereby sets us at the beginning of the road leading to perfection.
The ultimate goal of fasting is taqwa.
Taqwa (Arabic تقوى) is a function of the heart, not the body. It is a voluntary effort comprising the elements of caution, alertness and fear of God. The Prophet used to point to his chest saying: “Here is the seat of taqwa.”
The pious (Arabic المتقون al-Muttaqun) are those whose hearts are purified by Allah from all lusts. Once a person’s heart has been purged (i.e. evil is removed), his actions will be for the sake of Allah, his speech addressed to Allah and his fate controlled by Allah alone.
Why Muslims Fast – Taqwa definition
The best example I ran across when looking for a definition of taqwa was of Ubbay Ibn Ka’ab, a companion and a scribe of the prophet Muhammad, when asked by Omar Ibn Elkhattab, the second caliph after the Prophet, to define taqwa and his reply was:
“Have you ever walked along a thorny road?”
“Yes.” Omar answered.
“What did you do?” Ubbay Asked.
Omar said: “I was cautious”.
“That is taqwa”, said Ubbay.
Ubbay understood (taqwa) to mean cautiousness and so should you.
This concludes article two; Australian Ramadan – Why Muslims Fast. In the next article we will be talking about fasting in other religions (i.e. Christianity and Judaism)
We wish you the best of luck with your spiritual journey.
 Abu Sulayman al-Darani
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