By Irfan Sheryar
Month-long process benefits individuals, society
The month of Ramadan this year started July 20 and Muslims fast from dawn to sunset abstaining from consuming any kind of food or drink.
This process continues for 30 days, then the joyous occasion of Eidul Fitr is celebrated.
Those who are sick or are travelling are exempted and can make up for any lost days of fasting later.
Many people are curious and want to know the purpose and benefits of fasting. A simple answer is that by depriving oneself of the basic necessities of life during the day, a sense of realization develops about the immense blessings we enjoy in our daily lives which, at times, we take for granted.
At the same time, fasting reminds us about the condition of those who are less fortunate and may not be able to afford even one square meal a day.
The month-long routine enhances self-control, patience, tolerance, determination, humility and concern for others.
Ramadan is also a month that reinforces an individual’s responsibilities to share and care for society and give to charity. But there are deeper levels of benefits for the human soul.
In Chapter 2 Verse 183 (2:183) of the Quran, God says: “Oh believers, fasting has been made obligatory on you just as it was ordained for the followers of the prophets before you, so that you remain conscious of God.”
The aim is to be conscious of God’s commandments and instructions contained in the Quran.
The month of Ramadan provides a focused opportunity to each individual for self-accountability and to analyse his or her weaknesses and shortcomings, and then to rectify them in order to become a better human being.
Fasting has been practised in almost all the religions in one form or another for self-control and atonement.
In the Bible there are references to Moses and Jesus fasting, confirming this practice was ordained in earlier times.
There is a saying of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) that fasting develops tolerance and whoever develops tolerance, he is gifted with many virtues. Ramadan is thus a sort of annual physical of the inner self.
Ramadan is marked the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is considered one of the most sacred because the revelation of the Quran on Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) started this month and continued for 23 years.
The Quran was revealed as guidance for mankind to answer man’s quest to learn about the Creator of the Universe and to understand the reason for human creation.
The Quran provides the criterion between right and wrong, good and bad, honest and hypocrite, permitted and forbidden, virtuous and sinful. The consequences and end result of following either of the two paths are clearly described and thereafter it is left to the individual to choose, since there is no compulsion in religion (2:256).
Quran’s guidance for mankind includes young and old, rich and poor, weak and strong, black and white, men and women. The Quran guides toward the most stable and smooth life, free from troubles, disturbances and stresses, making a person peaceful, balanced, confident and respectful — an asset to any society because of positive and productive contributions.
The message of the Quran is universal and applicable for all times and all places as God never changes or backs away from His words and His promises.
For Muslims, Ramadan is another opportunity to raise their consciousness level about the instructions of Allah (all praise to Allah) and become more focused to overcome the weaknesses of character and emotions such as anger, greed, intolerance, arrogance, self-indulgence, prejudices, hatred, lust, extremism and, above all, care and concern for all those living in their communities.
The cleansing of one’s inner-self during Ramadan helps a person spend the rest of the 11 months of the year as a righteous and noble person.
Irfan Sheryar came to Richmond Hill with his family from Pakistan in 2004. A former navy helicopter pilot, he now works as an aviation consultant, volunteers with Arrahman Arraheem Network promoting peace and interfaith harmony and is a member of The Liberal’s Community Links group.