The holy month of Ramadan: Time to nourish the soul

Published 04.06.2017 22:59
Updated 06.06.2017 01:04

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is upon us again. Fasting from dawn to sunset throughout Ramadan is an important part of Islam. The pre-dawn meal before the fast is called "sahur," while the meal at sunset that breaks the fast is called "iftar." Muslims are obligated to fast for the entire month, unless they are sick or traveling. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, children, the elderly and people who have heart or diabetic conditions are generally excused. Ramadan is the ninth lunar month in the Islamic calendar. Since it is a lunar calendar, Ramadan moves back in the solar calendar by about 11 days every year. Thus, a Muslim experiences fasting in all seasons during their lifetime, even in the longest and hottest days of summer. The Holy Quran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) during the month of Ramadan. The first revelation, which begins with the exhortation, "Read! In the name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists)," was sent down on Laylat al-Qadr (the night of power/the night of decree), which is considered the holiest night of the year for Muslims and traditionally celebrated on the 27th day of Ramadan.

The Quran says in Surat al-Qadr, "We have indeed revealed this (message) in the night of power. And what will explain to thee what the night of power is? The night of power is better than a thousand months. Therein come down the angels and the spirit by Allah's permission, on every errand: Peace! This until the rise of morn!"

According to the hadith (words of Prophet Muhammad), all holy scriptures, i.e. the tablets of Abraham, the Torah, the Psalms, the Gospel and the Holy Quran were sent down during Ramadan. Fasting (Sawm) is one of the five pillars of Islam; the other four are Shahada (testimony of faith), Salat (prayer five times a day), Zakat (fiscal care of the needy), and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca).

The Quran says, "O you who have attained to faith! Fasting is ordained for you as it was ordained for those before you, so that you might remain conscious of Allah."

Although fasting is beneficial to the health, Ramadan is regarded principally as the month of self-restraint, self-purification and increased spiritually. By abstaining from worldly comforts such as the intake of solid food, the drinking any kind of liquids, including water, and partaking in sexual activities while fasting, a person gains growth in their spiritual life. It is more than experiencing hunger and thirst, but is practice for the human spirit. Muslims hope that the discipline they get in Ramadan will hold them on the right path for the rest of the year. They practice the fact that they can choose not to be slaves of their physical impulses. Muslims are expected to control their tempers, be more charitable, enhance their human qualities and seek connection with Allah through extra praying and additional effort to do good deeds during this month. They make an effort not to see, not to say, not to hear or not to touch anything that will break their fast. Lying, hurting others with your words, smearing people can break one's fast; that's why the hardest part is to keep one's tongue under control.

In addition, one will empathize with the poor and gain compassion towards those who face hunger due to their unfortunate circumstances.

However, it's interesting that 22 of the world's 48 poorest countries are Muslim majority countries. Those countries hold 90 percent of the world's energy resources but have failed to prosper. Many Muslim-majority countries fail to add up to the German economy. Nearly half of the 8 million Muslims living in the United States are poor, or dangerously close it.

According to the Pew Research Group, 45 percent of Muslim Americans have a household income of less than $30,000 per year, a figure that closely corresponds to the legal poverty line. Almost half of the British Muslim population resides in the bottom 10 percent local authority districts for deprivation, according to data from the Muslim Council of Britain.

Findings from 2001 to 2011 show that despite an increased level of education over the past 10 years, Muslims have a higher rate of unemployment than the average. Today, there are more than 65.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, 21.3 million of whom are refugees, the highest number on record since the United Nations Refugee Agency began collecting statistics, and around 80 percent originate from Muslim countries.

For those Muslims, fasting is not an opportunity to empathize with the poor, but a routine and daily reality. However, from the poorest to the richest, fasting is a special relationship between Allah and his believers. It comes from the heart; believers fast for their Creator. Believers ask Allah to forgive them for their sins in this world, not to forsake them and to accept them into heaven. In the end, this world is a temporary destination for both the poor and the rich.

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