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Islamic Society ( 22 Jul 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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A Testing Month of Faith



By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

July 22, 2014 9

The month of Ramadan is winding down. For some it was the first time they ventured into and exercised their Ramadan duties. During this blessed month, while Muslims all over the world abstained from food, drink, and other physical needs during the daylight hours, Ramadan was much more than that.

This Ramadan particularly has been hard on the people of the region who have been exposed to the brutal genocide of the innocent civilians of Gaza by the Israeli military forces.  The carnage was specifically directed at women and children who made a sizeable ratio of the more than 500 dead and counting as the Israeli aggression against these defenseless people marches on.

This is a holocaust that cannot be dismissed as a retaliatory measure against ineffectual rockets fired into Israel. That is a preposterous yet acceptable argument by much of the west to appease their conscience when confronted by the sight of infants and children being blown up on live television. This was an unjustified series of war crimes being played in front of their very own eyes, and yet they chose not to act!

For Muslims all over, this was indeed a trying month with so much carnage around. But Ramadan is also not only just about holding off food and drink for 14 to 15 hours. Beyond such physical restraints, it is also a time to purify one’s being; refocus attention on God, and practice patience and self-sacrifice.

During Ramadan, every part of the body must be restrained. The tongue must be restrained from backbiting and gossip. The eyes must restrain themselves from looking at unlawful things. The hand must not touch or take anything that does not belong to it. The ears must refrain from listening to idle talk or obscene words. The feet must refrain from going to sinful places. In such a way, every part of one’s body submits to the conditions of the fast.

Spiritually, we are called upon to use this month to re-evaluate our lives in light of Islamic guidance. We are to make peace with those who have wronged us, strengthen ties with family and friends, do away with bad habits — essentially to clean up our lives, our thoughts, and our feelings.  This month is also a means of making some of us understand the trials and tribulations of the less fortunate who suffer from lack of food and drink not just during this month.

“Siyaam” the Arabic word for "fasting" literally means, "to refrain". That restriction does not apply itself only to refraining from food and drink, but from evil actions, thoughts, and words.

Therefore, fasting is not merely physical, but is rather the total commitment of the person's body and soul to the spirit of the fast. Ramadan is a time to practice self-restraint; a time to cleanse the body and soul from impurities and re-focus one's self on the worship of God.

Ramadan is not is a time to exercise one’s impatience or aggressive behavior, or to look at oneself, as if he or she is the only one fasting and putting up with hardship.  It is perhaps a time when our civic sense should be at its peak.  So should be our code of ethics and behavior towards others.

Those of us speeding erratically on our roads with not a hint of concern to the plight or safety of others are not practicing Ramadan.  Others who boorishly barge in and jump queues because they are fasting are also not observing the sanctity of this month.  They are simply not eating and drinking during daylight hours.

By placing others at some level of stress just to appease one’s own desires does not qualify a successful fast.  By ignoring work responsibilities and schedules, by sleeping in when duty calls, or by avoiding responsibility towards others does not do for a good Ramadan. Cats and dogs often go without food during daylight hours. But that does not qualify them to be fasting spiritually.

It is best to elevate our consciousness this month towards a much higher plateau; one that strives to spiritually guide us towards the care and concern of others who may need our assistance. Let us conclude this month with our spirit of welfare towards our community marked by concrete steps that etch our progress.

Let this month not be simply reduced to food or sleep deprivation, for then it would have no spiritual value. Let us finish it off with virtue within ourselves, and spare a prayer for the innocent victims of the Gaza genocide.