Firstly, I would like to introduce the ayah (chapter) from Quran that mentions the month of Ramadan; Juz 2 Surah al –Baqarah, Saheeh international;
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.”
“[Fasting for] a limited number of days. So whoever among you is ill or on a journey [during them] – then an equal number of days [are to be made up]. And upon those who are able [to fast, but with hardship] – a ransom [as substitute] of feeding a poor person [each day]. And whoever volunteers excess – it is better for him. But to fast is best for you, if you only knew.”
Ramadan is a period of fasting for 30 days, from sunrise to sunset which is compulsory to every Muslim. This is a celebration of the Quran being revealed.
The concept of Ramadan is pretty straightforward but in many cases not understood in depth. Every Muslim is supposed to fast and abstain from harmful activities, but it seems like it’s more about appreciation of food and water rather than control other habitual actions which hurt others or us.
But is there anything more to obtain from Ramadan? Is the purpose to feel the hunger on behalf of people who cannot afford food?
In the ayah mentioned in the beginning it says that if a person is not capable of fasting then they should feed the poor. Would it not be better if every Muslim in the world gave money to a poor or needy family every day so they could have dinner on their table without a hustle?
Muslims fasting would not help the poor anyways because the point of getting the feeling of not having to eat or drink whenever you want to would only be for oneself in order to be more self-conscious either way the poor would not receive any benefit of it. Moreover, people who think they already are sincere and ‘down-to earth’, for them the purpose of fasting would be to feel guilty.
Also, fasting long hours as 20 hours can be difficult for people who work. They could not possibly have energy of fasting and working and not to forget having the spiritual life for 30 days.
It can be difficult to focus 100% on work when you are submitted to other daily tasks. The same is for children or students, who attend classes and lectures where they cannot fully concentrate when they lack nutrition, fasting cannot be a healthy solution.
Some Muslims may even make hold of the 30 days by recitation of Quran and prayers. But even then it would be a struggle to try to please God when you cannot keep your eyes open and prevent yourself to fall asleep every time. To make a living while fasting can be more of a burden than a relief of that much amount of a time.
However, the fast can be beneficial in which the result is acknowledged in the end. In the Quran fasting is prescribed as “O you who believe, the fasts have been enjoined upon you as they were enjoined upon those before you, so that you may have taqwa” (2:183). As explained by Nouman Ali Khan, the main purpose is to gain ‘Taqwa’. This word simply means ‘fear’ which comes from ‘waqaya’ meaning protect yourself.
Moreover, in his lecture of ‘relationship between fasting and taqwa’ he mentioned that you should keep an eye on yourself. When fasting the body screams for food and linger for water or anything to drink, even if a piece of bread that has gone ‘bad’ after its expiry date would be alright as long as the headache and hunger goes away.
It is narrated by Abu Huraira; ‘He or she who observes fasting within the month of Ramadan with faith while seeking the reward from Allah, he will have his past sins forgiven’, which is also understood as mentioned by Nouman Ali Khan in ‘relationship between fasting and taqwa’; ‘If we can stop ourselves from having something that is halal, it should become a lot easier for us to help us to stay away from haram’. The result after fasting would be worth the effort one had made.
Therefore, the 30 days would be a training for the rest of the year just like working out in the gym, it would take weeks before you see the results and be easier to stay away from junk food and sweets because the results of exercising motivates to continue as you did before.
For some people it is enough by fasting and performing the obligatory prayers or so, whilst some people part themselves from other worldly things that occupy their time such as videogames, watching T.V etc. or even going to work along with the fasting and prayers, this depends on the individuals capacity and how they plan to achieve taqwa whilst fulfilling duties they are responsible of.
A factor that can prevent gaining taqwa can be if a person does not feel the spirituality of Ramadan and goes back to their forbidden habits. The chance is given from Allah (Glory to Him, the Exalted) and it’s up to us how we interpret it.
The fast is not supposed to be a punishment or torture and therefore it is allowed to pay for food for the needy or poor rather than fasting if you cannot go through with the fasting.
Also, a person who has a mental disorder is not obliged to follow this rule. However giving zakat is another pillar of the five in Islam, which covers the part where every Muslim gives money to the needy and poor families.
By fasting one is giving zakat of the body so that cells use energy to maintain and strengthen the body from within. That being said, a person would know if they can give 100% at work whilst fasting or not which is an individual opinion.
The way a person decides to spend their Ramadan is up to them. Either way, the result of your action will count and you will be able to protect yourself from wrongdoing.
Ramadan concerns fasting from various things but the biggest challenge can be to take control of many desires and get hold of one’s self. This comes as a relief that one is working towards a bigger goal than this worldly life and that there is yet more to come – simply told to have faith and believe in yourself of becoming a better person.
Aizah Khan studies psychology at University of Essex and is Vice-President of Islamic Society
Quran, Saheeh International, (English translation)
Abu Huraira, (1901) Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 30, Hadith 11
USC-MSA web (English reference): Book 31, Hadith 125
Khan N. A, 2013, link