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Islam and Spiritualism ( 25 Jul 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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The Essence of Fasting!


By Khwaja Mohammad Zubair

July 21, 2012

Fasting in the Holy month of Ramadan is a devotional exercise, which purifies the soul and equips one for a sustained relationship with God where fear of Allah remains supreme. If performed with faith and sincerity, fasting, above all, helps us in becoming a good human being - no wonder all religions one way or other prescribe fasting. It is common knowledge that fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam (the other four being Iman, prayer, Haj and Zakat).

The blessed month of Ramadan is the month of prayers, the month of charity, the month of piety, the month of Quran and, above all, the month of introspection and self-reform. It is especially during this month that Muslims strive to do all the good they can, by all the means they can, in all the ways they can, in all the places they can, to all the people they can. With the motto of “do all the good”, it is necessary today for the Muslims all over the world to resolve to make a concerted effort to become a good human being, to achieve the excellence of character, to improve their general behaviour and to develop an exceptionally powerful moral sense and a fierce confidence that they know right from wrong - even if what is right is not always immediately attainable. This is the real requirement of this age and of this holy month.

The basic moral values of Islam are: compassion, mercy and peace. With the overpowering fear of God in our heart and mind for self-righteousness that fasting breeds and, equipped with the moral values of Islam, Muslims can do wonders to tame the world and bring back the lost glory. What comes to mind, first and foremost, is compassion and how it can turn us into good human beings. The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect. It is necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and emphatically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism or self-interest to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others - even our enemies - is a denial of our common humanity.

The best place to begin our study of the compassionate tradition in Islam is, of course, the Holy Quran and the life of Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Muslims must contemplate the signs (Ayat) of God’s benevolence in all the wonders of the created world. Because of Allah’s generosity, there was order and fertility where there could have been chaos and sterility. As they learned to appreciate the overwhelming kindness of God, Muslims would be inspired to imitate Him; they would want to give graciously to all God’s creatures and cloak themselves in the virtues of compassion, developing a caring and responsible spirit, especially for the weak and vulnerable members of society.

Every recitation of the Holy Quran begins with an invocation to Allah, the Compassionate and the Merciful. The fundamental message of the Quran is a call to practical compassion and social justice; it is wrong to build up a private fortune and good to share your wealth fairly, and work hard to build a just and decent society, where everybody is treated with respect. From the very beginning of the Holy Prophet’s mission, Zakat made charity to the poor an essential part of Muslim life. Faith is not merely an intellectual acceptance of a set of doctrines about God. The earliest Surahs repeatedly emphasised the fact that a man or woman of faith was one who performed the “deeds of justice” (Salihat).Every Muslim knows all this, but we all need to make a conscious effort to remind ourselves of these basic truths. The Quran, itself, is just such a reminder. It says again and again that human beings are not essentially bad, they are just forgetful. Once the compassion is reinstated at the heart of the religious, moral and social life, all the other contentious issues that cause dissensions among the faithful can be seen in proper perspective.

Khwaja Mohammad Zubair is a freelance columnist. This article has been reproduced from the Khaleej Times.