10 May Conditioning Our Moral Ethos Through Fasting by Imam Rashad Sharif
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar. It is the holiest month for the Muslims because the greatest miracle, the Holy Qur’an, was revealed in this month to Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH), through the Archangel Jibril (Gabriel). As a mark of appreciation and a means of development, Muslims are directed in the Qur’an to fast during this month. Hence in Ramadan we purposefully feed more on the Word of God provided from on high and less on the material food and drink derived from this world. In this manner we are guided to condition our moral ethos through fasting every Ramadan. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) listed this fasting in Ramadan as one of the five pillars of Islam.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also taught that divine rewards are multiplied several times for righteous deeds done in the month of Ramadan. Thus Ramadan brings an increase in prayers, devotion to scripture, charitable assistance in general, and especially the feeding of the needy. The Prophet (PBUH) also said that the smile on the face of a believer is a charity; removing a thorn (source of discomfort to others) from a path is charity; giving good advice is a charity; and saying words of comfort to the bereaved is a charity.
The spiritual exercise of fasting promotes self-discipline so that the believer can better serve God through unselfish service to others. It cultivates Furqan, the ability to differentiate good from bad, right from wrong. It also protects the believer from misdeeds. The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Fasting is a shield from committing sin. If one of you is fasting, he should avoid obscenity and quarrelling, and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say, ‘I am fasting’.”
Fasting, of course is not a practice that began with Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). We find in the book of Judges 20:26 “Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up and came unto the house of God and wept and sat there before the LORD and fasted that day until even and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.” Prophet Jesus (Peace Be Upon Him), faithful Servant of the Lord, personally practiced fasting and recommended fasting as a practice for others. Some passages recording this are found in the book of Matthew 4:2, 6:16-18, 9:15, and 17:21.
Thus the Qur’an states:
O ye who believe !
Fasting is prescribed to you,
as it was prescribed to those before you,
in order that ye be in a state of God-consciousness.
– From Al-Qur’an, Surah (Chapter) 2, Ayah (Verse) 183.