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What is the Fast of the Month of Ramadhan?

Shafaqna English- The Muslim fast of the Month of Ramadhan is a continuation of the long history of fasting in the Abrahamic faiths. The self-improvement benefits of fasting make it an important means of improving one’s faith and practice of religion.

“And men who fast and women who fast…God has prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward.”

( Holy Quran 33:35)

• Fasting instils patience, teaches self control and discipline.

• Fasting increases compassion for the less fortunate.

• Fasting builds focus on spirituality and diminishes focus on materialism.

• Fasting has many health benefits.

• Fasting can be atonement for sin and can earn great reward.

• Fasting is part of a strong spiritual and physical renewal plan.

• Fasting commemorates important sacred religious events.

What does the fast of the Month of Ramadhan entail?

In short, the fast involves abstention from all food, drink, vain talk, and sexual intercourse for married couples from the time before dawn when the sky becomes light enough to distinguish a black thread from the white thread of the horizon, until after sunset when redness leaves the Eastern half of the sky. Some people are not to able to fast due to age, health, child-bearing conditions, etc., and instead give charity, and/or make up the days of fast they missed at a later time.

However, the true spirit of the fast of the month of Ramadan is more than just abstention from a few things. It is a time of sustained, amplified effort toward spiritual perfection.

Thirst and hunger you undergo, feel and live through, here and now, to bring to your mind the severity and sharpness of the drought and starvation that will be the order of the day on the Day of Judgment.

Give alms to the poor and destitute.

Treat your parents and elders with respect.

Be kind and loving to your children and juniors.

Take care of and look after your relatives.

Keep from giving tongue to that which should not even be whispered.

Shut your eyes to that which is indecent to have an eye for.

Turn a deaf ear to that which is too slanderous to be all ears to.

Be compassionate, gentle and benign unto orphans so that after you, your children, if need be, receive the same treatment from others.

Turn repentant to God and seek God’s nearness.”

• The Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his family

In addition to fasting and aiming for excellent moral character, Muslims devote as much time and energy as possible in the Month of Ramadhan toward prayer and supplication to the One and Only God. During some of the nights of this month, Muslims will remain awake the whole night in worship.

After the last day of the Month of Ramadhan, Muslims celebrate Eid ul Fitr to commemorate the completion of the fast. They get together for prayer, food, and modest gift exchange (particularly for children). However, it is a day of mixed feelings, because the most blessed Month of Ramadhan with all of its opportunities for forgiveness and reward are gone for another year.

“I take refuge with Thy kindest disposition, O’ Lord, lest the dawn of this night breaks forth, or the month of Ramadan comes to an end, and I still stand as an accused (unforgiven) sinner, liable to be punished, on the Day I am presented before Thee.”

[From a prayer of the last night of the month of Ramadan, taught by Imam Jafar Sadiq (AS).
Why is fasting prescribed particularly in the Month of Ramadhan for Muslims?

The month of Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar. Since a lunar year is about a week and a half shorter than a solar year, the Month of Ramadhan cycles backward through the seasons. It is a sacred month because God ordained it for the revelation of sacred texts. Imam Ja’far Sadiq (AS) quotes the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his family, as saying,

“The Books of Abraham were revealed on the first night of the Month of Ramadhan; the Torah was revealed on the sixth of the month of Ramadan; the Gospel was revealed on the thirteenth of the Month of Ramadhan . . ., and the Holy Qur’an on the twenty-third of the Month of Ramadhan.”

It is also considered sacred because it contains the Night of Power (Laylatul Qadr). “Qadr” literally means destiny, and on this night God determines each and every event to occur during the next year to any and all of God’s creation.

Imam Sadiq (AS) informs us that,

“During Laylatul Qadr, the angels, the spirit, and the trusted scribes all descend to the lower heavens and write down whatever God decrees that year, and if God wishes to advance something or postpone it or add thereto, God orders the angel to erase it and replace it with whatever God decrees.”

The Holy Prophet of Islam (PBUH) and his family, tells us about the great blessings of the Month of Ramadhan.

“[The month of Ramadan is] overflowing with advantages, merciful, ready to put up your sins of omission and commission to God for obtaining his forgiveness. Its days, nights and hours, in the estimation of God, are more select, refined and important than the days, nights and hours of other months. It surpasses all months in merits and favors.…. So, sincerely, free from evil and sinful thoughts and actions, with clear conscience, pray and request that God may give you heart and confidence to observe fast… throughout this month..”

Conclusion

Muslims observe fast, as in any act of devotion, to seek nearness to God, seek His pleasure and Forgiveness, and generate a spirit of piety in Man. Fasting in this month honors the revelation of God’s word and purifies one in preparation for the night of decrees and in hope of forgiveness. Fasting is a yearly spiritual renewal, given abundant reward in this month of God’s Mercy, that is part of the Islamic path to the ideal self.

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