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Ramadhan: the Month of Revolution

In short, the month of fasting does everything that wholesome peace necessitates. It strengthens physical, mental and spiritual health of individuals; increases their awareness and knowledge about the injunctions of God; involves practical steps to reduce economic disparities in society; promotes equality, brotherhood and communal harmony; and reminds the followers of Islam their duty to combat the acts of aggression against them and those by the forces of evils against mankind.

 Dr Javed Jamil         
Ramadhan can very well be regarded the Month of Revolution. Not only did the revelation of Quran and therefore the revolution of Islam begin in Ramadhan, every Ramadhan brings a new revolution in the life of those who observe it. And as it is observed by a big section of the world population, the effects would obviously be experienced by the whole worldRamadhan is not just about fasting. It is also about Quran, Jihad, spiritual strengthening, Charity and Peace.
Fasting is the third pillar of Islam. Daylong fasting is obligatory on every adult and healthy Muslim in the Islamic month of Ramadahan. The Quran says the following about Ramadhan and fasting:
Committed followers (of Islam)! Fasting is ordained to you as it was ordained to the people before you, so that you remain reverent. (2: 183)
It is the month of Ramadhan in which Quran, with categorical guidelines and Criterion, was (initially) dispatched as Guide to mankind. So every one of you who witnesses the month should spend it in fasting, (2: 185)
 …(Fast) for the fixed number of days; (2: 184)
— but if anyone is ill, or travelling, the lost period is to be compensated in other days afterwards. God wishes to simplify things for you and does not want to make the matters difficult; so that you complete the prescribed period, glorify Him because He has guided you and be thankful to Him.(2: 185)
For those who can afford, the method of ransom is to provide meals to one deprived person (per one lost fast). Now, if a person volunteers to do more (in compensation) it is better for his own self. And to fast is certainly better for you. You had better know it. (2:184)
… eat and drink till the white line of dawn becomes distinguishable for you from its black line; then complete your fast till (the arrival of the night); (2: 187)
You are permitted to be in the company of your wives in the nights of the fasts. They are your garments and you are their garments. God knew what you used to do with one another in secrecy; He has therefore turned to you in forgiveness and has pardoned you; now, freely lie with them, and strictly follow what God has mandated to you. (2: 187)
….and do not be in the company of your wives during the period when you “retreat” in the mosques. They are the boundaries of God; do not closet with them (in that period). This is how God clarifies His arguments for the mankind so that they remain reverent. (2: 187)
(Aitakaaf or retreat is a special kind of meditation when during the last part of Ramadhan a person secludes himself from all other activities to devote to the glory of God for a few days,) 
Just as Salat, fasting (Saum) has immense physical, mental, spiritual and social benefits. Fasting of one kind or the other is prescribed in almost all the religions of the world. It symbolises self-sacrifice, devotion, discipline, patience, control, generosity and purification. Fasting of all kinds has a soothing and purifying effect on the body, mind and soul. In Islam however, it becomes a much more comprehensive exercise:
(1)   Islamic fasting is directly related to the beginning of the revolution of Islam. Its observance in the month of Ramadhan marks the beginning of the dispatching of the messages of God to Muhammad (Peace be upon him!), Quran, the Final Testament, being the collection of these messages. This also means it also marks the beginning of the Prophet’s mission. This is why, there are strenuous efforts to recite the whole of Quran at least once in the month of Ramadhan. People do it individually as well as collectively. This refreshes the whole mission in the minds of followers; they get an annual reminder of what is expected from them, how they must conduct and what is their ultimate mission: mission of Peace. They are told in categorical terms that the best form of Jihad isJihad against Nafs (soul) and the best way to do this is to engage in an intellectual and ideological Jihad with the help of Quran.
(2)   Islamic fasting is a much better organised and disciplined activity. It is obligatory on all Muslim adults to fast for the whole month of Ramadhan every year. Rules are much more precise. Nothing can be taken, not even water, during the fast that lasts the whole day. Having sex is not permitted during the fast, but is allowed in the night after the fast has ended. Twenty nine or thirty fasts in continuation, along with stress on the spiritual enlightenment through recitation of Quran, have a rectifying and purifying effect on the whole personality. This is a sort of strict training period, which reconditions the body for virtues and against vices. It also helps a person to curtail his weight, increase his resistance and immunity, give up his addictions and forsake his moral weaknesses. After each Ramadhan, many people give up smoking and drinking and become better Muslims. During Ramadhan at least gambling and drinking show a steep decline in Muslim community. In pure Islamic states, of course, the problems are minimal even in the ordinary days.
(3)   Fasting also brings with it the month of charity; most people try to distribute the obligatory Zakat in this month among the poor and the needy. Fitra is also distributed at the end of the month before Eid prayers.
(4)   The month of fasting each year also reminds Muslims that though Jihad against self and through Quran are the best in normal circumstances, in certain situations, armed Jihad becomes mandatory. It was on the 17th of this month that Muslims had been permitted to take up arms against the aggressors after a fourteen year long period of patience against severe persecution. Muslims led by their Supreme Commander Muhammad (SAW) fought the Battle of Badr on that day and emerged triumphant paving way for a long, successful and powerful Islamic state.
(5)   Fasting month in Islam ends at Eid, the festival of thankfulness to God, peace, brotherhood and equality. The populace of the area or city gathers at one place to pay obeisance to God and listen to the sermon of Imam. They hug one another, exchange visits and gifts and help their poor brothers and sisters; each one pays a certain minimal amount, Fitra to the needy. At a larger scale functions are organised to promote communal harmony, especially in areas where diverse religious communities cohabit.
In Islam, fasting has the following features:
·       A full month every year is specified for fasting; fasting in other months is not obligatory.
·       Fasting is only for the day and the average duration of a fast varies from 11-15 hours, being obviously longer in summers.
·       During the period of fasting, no food or drink can be taken;
·       The believers have been advised to take a wholesome food just before the start of the fasting time as well as immediately after the expiry of the fasting time.
·       During the month of fasting, food (lot of milk and fruits) rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals is preferred.
 Fasting also revolutionises comprehensive health. It is important to note that:
·       Fasting technically commences within the first twelve hours of the fast when the consumption of the stored carbohydrates begins. Once the fasting goes for a long enough period to consume all the stored carbohydrates and fats, the consumption of proteins starts. This stage in fact signals the beginning of starvation. Islamic fasting being only about 11-15 hour long, it in fact has a minor depleting effect on the storage of the carbohydrate and no starving effect at all. But with as many as 29-30 fasts in continuation, the net effect is some loss of stored carbohydrate; there is hardly any possibility of protein depletion particularly because protein rich diet is taken in plenty during the month.
·       Fasting is said to increase the process of detoxification. Detoxification is a normal body process of eliminating or neutralizing toxins; the elimination normally takes place through the colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph glands, and skin. Fasting precipitates detoxification, as with no food entering the body, the accumulated fat starts getting used. The utilization of fat releases harmful chemicals in the blood that are then excreted through the above mentioned organs. Even harmful chemicals like DDT that have entered the body are excreted.
·       Hunger is a natural healer, which is the reason why a person develops loss of appetite when ill.
·       Abnormal growths within the body are not protected to the extent the normal tissues are protected and are therefore more likely to be autolysed in order to fulfill the energy needs of the body.
·       Growth hormones are also known to be released more during fasting.
·       An anti-aging hormone is also released more rapidly. Researchers have argued that the only reliable method of increasing age is under-nutrition without malnutrition. This is exactly what the Prophetic traditions prescribe.
·       During fasting, the energy consumption is reduced in the gastrointestinal system and is partly diverted to the Immune system strengthening its effectiveness.
It is also important to note that Ramadan falls in different seasons, as the Islamic calendar is shorter by about 10-11 days than the international calendar. So not only every person experiences fasting in different seasons during different parts of his life, the inhabitants of different regions on the earth also experience fasting in different seasons at the same time. Furthermore, Islamic fasting is different from that in other religions in many ways. First, the rules of fasting in Islam are distinct and elaborate. It is obligatory on every adult and healthy woman; it is only for the daytime; it forbids all forms of solid and liquid intake unlike fasts in some religions where certain food items are permitted. Second, it is also associated with spiritual training. Third, it is of social significance too as Zakah(Obligatory Charity) is normally paid in this month.
There is another aspect of the month of Ramadhan, which may mean something huge for the sustained harmony of the universe since its creation billions of years back despite the Law of Disorder (Second Law of Thermodynamics) continuously in place. Relating to a specific night at the fag end of the month, Quran says:
We, of course We dispatched this (Quran) in the Night of Power (or Destiny). And what can make you understand what the Night of Power is? The Night of Power is superior (in effect) to one thousand months. The Executive Angels and the Spirit descend during this (night) at the Command of their Lord accompanied with parts of every Law:  all Peace; this (night) lasts till the time of the emergence of Dawn.” (97: 1-5)
I will dwell in some detail on the possible explanation of these verses in terms of what effect the Night has on the universe or the earth in my coming book, “Quranic Paradigms of Sciences & Society” (Part 2: Physics). Insha Allah
In short, the month of fasting does everything that wholesome peace necessitates. It strengthens physical, mental and spiritual health of individuals; increases their awareness and knowledge about the injunctions of God; involves practical steps to reduce economic disparities in society; promotes equality, brotherhood and communal harmony; and reminds the followers of Islam their duty to combat the acts of aggression against them and those by the forces of evils against mankind.


*Dr Javed Jamil is India based thinker and writer with over a dozen books including three of his his latest masterpieces, “Muslim Vision of Secular India: Destination & Road-map”, “Muslims Most Civilised, Yet Not Enough” and  “Qur’anic Paradigms of Sciences & Society” (First Vol: Health). Other works include “The Devil of Economic Fundamentalism”, “The Essence of the Divine Verses”, “The Killer Sex”, “Islam means Peace” and “Rediscovering the Universe”. Read more at http://www.worldmuslimpedia.com/dr-javed-jamil. Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/javedjamil2015; also http://javedjamil.blogspot.in/. He can be contacted at [email protected].