Wishing peace and happiness to our Muslim friends and contributors during this holy month of Ramadan. This feature article is by guest contributor Imen Benyoub (Algeria). It is from the February issue (theme: abundance/lack of abundance) of The BeZine. The first illustration is courtesy of American multimedia journalist and novelist (Bagdad Fixer), Ilene Presher. She found it online and shared it on her Facebook page. Ilene hosts a weekly radio show, TLV1Radio, Weekend Edition. The second illustration is courtesy of Russian photographer, Petr Kratochvil, Public Domain Pictures.net. J.D.
Ramadan is the month of light, the month of reflection, blessings, generosity, devotion, change and sacrifice and a pillar of Islam as Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said: “Islam is built upon five pillars: testifying that there is no God except Allah and that Mohammad is the messenger of Allah, performing prayer, paying the Zakah (charity), making the pilgrimage to the sacred house and fasting the month of Ramadan.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is called the sacred month because it is observed worldwide by all Muslims as the month of fasting. It’s twenty-nine or thirty days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon.
Fasting in Islam means “to abstain.” When you fast, you completely abstain from food, drinks, smoking and sexual intercourse from the break of dawn until sunset with an intention. This is not, however, all of it. Real accomplished fasting is when you abstain from every behavior that is considered bad behavior in general. It is something we share with Christianity and Judaism but with a lot of difference in details.
Who must fast? In general it is obligatory upon every Muslim, male or female, who is adult, sane, not sick or in a journey (traveling more than eighty kilometers). The exceptions to this are women who are in period or post-natal bleeding days, pregnant women and mothers who are beast-feeding. These women are expected to make up the fast when they are in a condition to do so. Those who are terribly sick, need constant medications, and those whose illness may be exacerbated by fasting.
When you fast, you will have two essential meals, sahur ( a pre-dawn meal). The Prophet Mohammad talked a lot about the reward and blessing of this meal, preferably left ’till the last half hour before dawn. This meal will help you resist during the long hours of fasting during the day. The second meal is iftar or break-fast, you take it immediately after sunset.
Along with exceptions mentioned above, there are a lot of permissible things a person can do that will not invalidate his or her fasting, like swimming in the sea when it’s too hot, with caution of not swallowing water, taking injections, doing blood tests, using toothpaste and eating or drinking unintentionally when someone forgets.
Fasting is a school of wisdom. It has great spiritual and moral meaning too long to be listed in a few lines. Beside its health benefits, it teaches patience and utility. It makes us closer to Allah because we are doing it out of love and seeking spiritual reward. It cleanses the soul from grudge and hatred. It teaches self-control and maturity. Through fasting we learn to be selfless because we feel the pain of the poor and the hungry.
There is a beautiful sense of solidarity and community in Ramadan when everyone is helping, when mosques are filled, when relatives visit each other, when people forgive and start a new page, when a person vows to be good to others and when people stand in one line to pray.
Fasting can truly change a person’s heart when done with utter sincerity. It fills the heart with satisfaction, happiness and light because you’ll be rewarded double fo revery deed of goodness, every charity, every nice word you say, every verse of the Quran you read. When you realize that Allah gave hose who fast a special door in Heaven because of its holiness and significance.
Every country celebrates Ramadan differently. Traditions and customs change. The only thing that connects us all together is that magic that everyone feels during the month. The one I truly love is when the family celebrates the fasting of a child, encouraging him and helping him to understand what fasting truly is. It is like a recharge for the year, a self-nourishing experience and one of the most exquisite a person can have.
Some sayings about Ramadan: on Prophet Mohammad (PBUH):
“When Ramadan enters, the gates of paradise are opened, the gates of hellfire are closed and all the devils are chained.”
“Every action a son of Adam does shall be multiplied; good action is by ten times its value up to 700 times. Allah says: with the exception of Fasting, which belongs to me, and I reward it accordingly for, one abandons his desire and food or my sake.”
“Whoever observes fasts during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven.”
– Imen Benyoub
© 2015, feature article, Imen Benyoub, All rights reserved; 2015