It’s the month of Ramadan – the month in which the Quran was revealed and the month in which we have been bound to fast for the entirety of it.
Don’t worry, we don’t fast non-stop the whole month – just from dawn to sunset.
Have you ever tried going a day without food?
Years before I chose Islam, I tried a juice fast one day (where all you consume is fresh juice – no solid food).
I couldn’t make it through half the day! I never tried it again.
But things that are difficult outside Islam, become easier within it. Like giving up bad habits, or in this case, fasting.
In reality, everyone fasts… but throughout the night, while they sleep.
That’s why breakfast is break-fast!
That’s almost exactly what fasting is in Islam, except in Islam it is done during the waking hours – the consciousness is an important part of the experience. As is developing willpower over one’s desires, gratefulness toward the Provider of our sustenance as well as appreciation and mercy towards those who struggle to survive against famine and poverty.
So, while you may fast every night and break your fast in the morning, you are missing out on the many benefits you could be reaping had you fasted instead throughout the day!
When fasting, one abstains from what is not only lawful (halal) but also necessary for survival – food and drink.
The benefits are many, but I will list a few here for you to consider, to give you a glimpse and hopefully an appreciation you may not have had before.
First, fasting in Islam is an act of worship – and it’s nothing new or strange. It has long been a part of the way of life laid out by our Maker practiced and taught by previous prophets such as Moses and Zacharia:
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become of the righteous (those who have taqwa) -“ (Quran 2:183)
Let me explain to you what worship means, because the definition of worship in Islam is broader than you might think. Worship isn’t just rituals; it encompasses every aspect of life. Worship in Islam is doing anything that is pleasing to God (which we can only know via His revelation to us; His relating and describing to us what is acceptable and pleasing to Him) and abstaining from that which He has forbidden – that which is not pleasing to him of our actions.
So in Islam, smiling at a person is an act of worship. Not lying is an act of worship. In this case – the case of Ramadan, fasting is an act of worship.
As with all acts of worship in Islam, the benefits are plentiful and manifold.
The main reason for fasting, as God explained for humanity in the Quran, is to attain taqwa – which is an arabic word with a rich meaning that entails God consciousness (remembering God and aligning one’s actions with the purpose of life on earth- remembering God in every action). This acts as a shield for the person who has it, that protects them from the harmful pitfalls and diversions of life.
So we do it to gain greater consciousness of God, which helps us live better, more successful lives.
Ramadan is like a leg-up. Throughout the year, we might be progressing slowly, or even backtracking, but Ramadan helps the individual who takes advantage of it, make a leap of progress in a relatively short time.
By no means is it merely abstaining from food and drink, by which one can attain this spiritual benefit and increased closeness to our Creator – The prophet Muhammad reminded us that God is not in need of our fasting and that it is virtually pointless if we do not also abstain from false talk and other bad behavior. (Bukhari,Muslim)
He also said: “Many people who fast get nothing from their fast except hunger and thirst, and many people who pray at night get nothing from it except fatigue” (Darimi).
And so we are warned not to be of those who only get hunger and thirst out of fasting, but to strive for broad self discipline and that greater God-consciousness.
There is the spiritual side, the self-discipline side of it, and believe it or not, there is also a physiologically beneficial side to fasting as well!
Scientific studies in animals and humans show that fasting is largely beneficial to physical health. It promotes stem-cell regeneration, boosts immunity and helps slow the proliferation of cancer. There are many articles you can research on this but here are two for you to take a look at if you are interested:
So next time you eat breakfast in the morning, think about those of us who break our fasts at sundown.
What do you think it would be like for you if you were not to eat or drink all day?