By: Mohammad Sobhanie
Hamid Waqar is an American Scholar graduated from Islamic seminaries.
The holy month of Ramadhan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar in which Muslims from all over the world participate in fasting from dawn until dusk. In addition to refraining from consuming food and drink during this blessed month, Muslims must practise self-discipline and abstain from sinful acts. Self-discipline during the month of Ramadhan includes control of the tongue as well as eyes and ears. During Ramadhan believers are expected more than usual to refrain from performing or otherwise being involved in acts such as slander, gossip, and profanity, or even being in an environment where such behaviours are encouraged. The month of Ramadhan is a time for reflection too. And it provides a blueprint for how one must conduct one's life throughout the remaining eleven months of the year.
Fasting during the month of Ramadhan was ordained in the year 624 C.E., the second year of the Islamic calendar. This religious obligation is spelt out in the second chapter of the Holy Qur'an, verses 183 and 185: "O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed to those before you, so that you may guard (against evil)".
During this holy and blessed month, God multiplies his blessings for His Creation. Ramadhan provides the faithful with an opportunity to get closer to their Creator, and to absolve themselves of their impurities and repent for their misdeeds. It is a season of repentance, prayers, reciting the Holy Qur'an and asking for prosperity. According to the Prophet(s) the month of Ramadhan is a month of blessings, mercy and forgiveness. It is a month in which Muslims are guests of Almighty God and their supplications, prayers and deeds are accepted and rewarded so benevolently that it is stated that the recitation of one verse from the Holy Qur'an is equivalent to the recitation of the entire Holy Qur'an.
Ramadhan provides an opportunity for Muslims to rekindle relationships with their family, friends and other members of the community. It is a time when Muslims demonstrate their charitable nature, and stand in unison with those who are less fortunate. In relation to the importance of reaching out and building the spirit of brotherhood, the Prophet Muhammad(s) stated: "O People! One who gives Iftar (the evening meal to break the fast) to a fasting person in this month will be like one who has freed someone (a slave) and his past sins will be forgiven"
The holy month of Ramadhan has another and even more profound significance, as it was during this month that the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad(s). It was revealed in the 'Night of Power' (2:185, 44:3, and 97:1) or the 'Night of Destiny'. The Night of Power is an exceedingly blessed night. It is mentioned in the Holy Qur'an (97:2) that the Night of Power is better than one thousand months. This is interpreted to mean that the reward of any good deed in the Night of Power is better than the reward of the same deed in a thousand other months. Angels and holy spirits descend to earth during this night with peace and special blessings from God for those who seek His mercy and bounties through prayer and supplications (97:5). Unfortunately, the precise timing of the Night of Power is unknown; however it is believed to be one of the last ten nights of Ramadhan.
Members of other Abrahamic faiths can relate to the month of Ramadhan, as they also have their own periods of fasting and self-reflection. In Christianity the 40 days of Lent are observed by giving up a common vice or luxury as a form of self-sacrifice or penitence, and in Judaism seven days of fasting and supplication are observed in the run-up to the holy day of Yom Kippur.
In summary, Ramadhan is a time in which Muslims observe self-restraint and abstain from food, drink and sin. Although this can be difficult, the self-discipline developed during Ramadhan prepares the believer for the rigours of the spiritual journey that lies ahead. Fasting also allows people to gain an appreciation of how the less fortunate survive in the face of hunger and thirst, and in return learn to appreciate their own blessings.
Originally published in islam today magazine UK, Vol. 1 No. 9 | July 2013. It has been republished here with permission.