By Sadia Dehlvi
Jun 30, 2014 -
Ramzan begins with the sighting of the new moon. Muslims treat Ramzan as an honoured guest, for it brings showers of God’s graces.
“Ramadan”, has been the name of the ninth month in Arabian tradition prior to the onset of Islam; the word originating from an Arabic root “rmd”, which means severe heat or burnt ground. It is believed that fasting in Ramzan involves Allah’s mercy and burns sins.
Fasting has been a tradition of prophets and mystics, holding timeless wisdom. Rumi writes, “Hunger is God’s food for which he quickens the bodies of the upright.” Shaqiq Balkhi, a 9th century mystic, taught that 40 days of constant hunger could transform the darkness of the heart into light. Sahl Tustari, another early mystic, fasted perpetually and earned the title of “Shaykh ul Arifin”, Master of the Knowers. He said, “Hunger is God’s secret on the earth.” Abu Madyan, the African mystic, writes, “One who is hungry becomes humble, one who is humble begs and the one who begs attains God. So hold fast to hunger, my brother, and practice it constantly for by means of it you will attain what you desire and will arrive at that for which you hope.”
For Muslims, fasting is an order for the Quran says, “Ramzan is the month in which the Quran was sent down as a clear guidance and judgment so that mankind will distinguish from right and wrong”. Another verse says, “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you so you may become righteous.”
Prophet Muhammad swore that the breath of a fasting person was more pleasing to God than the fragrance of musk. He stated that there were two joys associated with fasting; one of breaking the fast and the other when meeting his Lord.
Ramzan is an occasion for generosity, prayer and reflection, leading to purification of the heart. Fasting is a rigorous act, for it does not allow the drinking of water, eating, smoking and sexual relations during the daylight hours. Ramzan is a time of heightened attention to the rules of righteous behaviour. Self-control by those honouring Ramzan should include refraining from rancour, anger or any negative intention.
The 8th century Sufi scholar Imam Jafar as-Sadiq from the family of Prophet Muhammad said, “Your day of fasting should not be like ordinary days. When you fast, all your senses, eyes, ears, tongue, hands, and feet must fast with you.”
The Prophet clarified that five things break the fast of a believer; lying, backbiting, slander, ungodly oaths and lust. He described the best charity in Ramzan as setting things right between people who harbour acrimony with one another. Islamic scriptures are clear that those who abandon their loved ones will not enter paradise till they make peace with them.
Forgiving wrongdoers, charitable deeds and distribution of food, clothing and other necessities to the needy form an important component of Ramzan. Fasting to some extent helps in experiencing the hunger of the less fortunate. The sacred month calls for living each moment with God consciousness. The resolve must be to continue righteous behaviour beyond Ramzan, each day of our lives.
Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam.