By Sadia Dehlvi
Jul 27, 2012
The month of Ramzan is a gift that returns each year as an opportunity to fight spiritual diseases and purify our hearts. The goal of fasting is the acquisition of taqwa, a conscious awareness of God.
Fasting helps in weaning the love of the world and all its trappings, for worldly pleasures such as food, sex and drink are given up voluntarily. It is a month to reflect inwards, identify shortcomings and resolve to rectify them. Ramzan is known as the month of spending for the sake of God. It is a time to give generously to the needy, to share food, wealth and other resources.
Ramzan comes as an oasis for purification of the soul, mind and body. It is a month of mercy and blessings from God for those who open their eyes to His Reality. Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani, the great 13th-century Sufi master said that there are three degrees of fasting. First, when the person fasting is merely abstaining from food and drink, but has not abandoned actions that are evil and wrong.
Second is the one that includes protecting the limbs, eyes, ears, tongue and all other organs of the body.
It involves not gossiping, not seeing what is not permissible, not backbiting or causing harm of any kind to anyone. In this stage the person fasting doesn’t harbour rancour and negative thoughts about other people, doesn’t oppress anyone, doesn’t lie, cheat or indulge in any form of corruption.
The third type of fasting — the highest degree — is abstaining from everything except Allah, not depending on anything except God, not seeking anything from anyone other than Allah and not having time for anything except Allah.
Prophet Mohammad once said that fasting is half of patience, and patience is a quality indispensable for a successful life and afterlife. He also said that the breath of a fasting person is dearer to Allah than the fragrance of musk.
In Islamic traditions, fasting is considered the pinnacle of sincerity to Allah for it is an invisible act done for Allah alone. A person might pretend to fast, but only God knows if s/he is really fasting or not. Prophet Mohammad said that paradise has eight gates. The one gate meant especially for the group of people who fast is called Al Rayyan. It is the only gate we know by name which establishes its excellence. Ramzan is also the only month that is named in the Quran, affirming its special position.
Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam.