By Prof M Aslam
The Ramadan gets manifested through a month-long annual fasting ordained on Muslims throughout the world. Unfortunately, the essence of this Ramadan fasting is not understood by many including a good number of Muslims. It is considered either a physical fasting from dawn to dusk or a period of extensive prayers to wash off sins. While both these attributes does remain a part Ramadan fasting but it involves many other aspects of life.
It is an elaborate process of self-reform, self-restraint and involves a wide range of responsibilities on the part of those who observe fasting. It also helps strengthen powers of self-control, refrain from the natural human urges by exercising our ability of self-restraint, leading to self-improvement. Spiritually, it helps one to attain nearness and closeness to God. It is a form of self training with the hope that these qualities will extend beyond this month and stay with us throughout the year.
Psychologically, I firmly believe that this, month long process is the best instrument to mould the behavioural patterns of its practitioners in such a way that they turn out to be an ideal human beings. It essentially implies that a person observing fast will not only observe abstinence from eating and drinking but will get into a sublime state of mind in order to develop positive feelings. Therefore, fasting strengthens control of impulses and helps develop good behaviour. This purification of soul and body harmonizes the inner and outer spheres of an individual. The true observance leads to a feeling of inner peace and tranquility, so badly needed during Carona lockdown..
Additionally, one has to restrain oneself from listening, speaking, hearing or thinking negatively about others. The expectation is that if one applies such a restrain and passes through this process of self-purification for a period of one month, its impact will at least last for the remaining 11 months, when this process will be again repeated. Unfortunately, we take it as physical fasting only and do not strive to achieve what is expected of this great month of significance.
Solidarity with the poor
Sociologically, speaking, fasting is an expression of solidarity with the poor. It is manifested through the concept of charity, neighbourhood and hospitality. Apart from helping to purify body and soul through the process of self-purification, addressing these areas of social significance are bound to help people to shed all those things, which are not socially desirable.
Charity is highly encouraged during the month of Fasting. It includes helping the poor through giving of alms. It is believed that if one gives away even a small amount during this month, he/she will get 70 times more blessings in return .
Similarly Zakat is another religious obligation, under which a Muslim is expected to take stock of his personal wealth both cash and kind and calculate ‘zakat’ @ about 2.5%, which is to be earmarked for distribution among the poor and needy. In return, God is expected to safeguard his wealth and property. What a wonderful scheme to bring about social justice. If all the rich and well to do Muslim families practice this with full sincerity, there will be few dying of hunger in the colonies inhabited by desperately poor people.Invariably, most of the Muslims calculate Zakat during the month of Ramadan to receive more blessings.
The practice of the concept of neighbourhood is equally important and has been given highest priority in Islsm. It has wider connotations than its literal meaning. A true Muslim is not expected to see a human being in pain or misery, irrespective of caste or religion. What we are witnessing nowadays around us in the name of Islam is most unfortunate. In essence, Islam in general and ‘roza’ in particular teaches a person to address human concerns and values.
I believe that Muslims need to demonstrate through observance of ‘roza’ (in its totality), Islam’s relevance in today’s world. We have to learn to respect all religions. No one has attempted to understand the essence of various religions and Islam tops the list Negativity about Islam has to be responded by demonstrating true observance of fasting to be manifested through the habit of speaking the truth, remaining patient, practising the concept of hospitality and neighbourhood and give charity to the needy.
Prof. M. Aslam is a Social Scientist and a former Vice Chancellor of IGNOU. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.