Fasting takes discipline, inspires us to be thankful | Worship

By Aziz Junejo | May 24, 2017

Ramadan this year will begin on Friday evening, May 26 – a time when Muslims around the world are required to fast from pre-dawn to sunset for 30 days as a form of worship.

The Qur’an says: Ramadan is the month during which the Qur’an was revealed, providing guidance for the people, clear teachings, and the statute book. Those of you who witness this month shall fast therein (2:185).

Until the sighting of the next new moon, from before the break of dawn until sunset, Muslims must abstain from food, drink, and smoking, think righteous thoughts and speak kind words to everyone they come into contact with.

But it isn’t all physical deprivation. When Muslims come together in the mosque many times during the day for the required five daily and supplemental prayers, Ramadan provides us with the spirit of social belonging, a feeling of unity and confirmation that we are all equal before God. It may sound strange, but we look forward to Ramadan every year.

During this month, we detach ourselves from material desires in an effort to reflect on our spiritual progress over the past year. With passions curtailed, lighter bodies and clearer minds, we are able to feel at peace with humanity as we strengthen our relationship with the Creator.

For non-Muslims, this month of sacrifice may seem very difficult. I am convinced that the world will be a better place if only we take it upon ourselves to research and learn about traditions and view points that are practiced and yet foreign to us.

As a genuine effort to better understand Islam, think about how anyone can survive fasting from dawn to sundown for a whole month and why Ramadan is characterized as a time to focus on charity and prayer, end bad habits, increase study of the Qur’an and practice self-restraint.

This year, Ramadan has moved into summer, which reminds me of my boyhood Ramadans. Breakfast began at 3 a.m., and we did not break fast until around 9 p.m. because of the late summer sunsets. Thirst was the major summertime challenge.

To inspire me during the day, my mother would remind me of the countless blessings and rewards a fasting person receives from God. Then she always prepared mouthwatering Ramadan dinner menus as encouragement: deep-fried, spicy meat pastries, and roasted lamb and saffron rice, served with an iced yogurt-mint drink that refreshed and soothed me after a hot day.

My parents would explain that the fasting was for God alone, that He sees me at all times and that I should have Taqwa – the Arabic word for God consciousness. All Muslims believe that God is ever present, and this belief motivates us to seek His pleasure at all times with good behavior, actions and deeds.

Fasting is a unique act of worship; it’s between God and me since no one else knows whether I am fasting.

I characterize Ramadan as a month of self-purification. To complete it is a spiritual achievement, and it gives us spiritual strength to live virtuous lives until the next Ramadan.

Muslims around the world will use this month as an opportunity to perform extra prayers and be more charitable while seeking God’s forgiveness for past mistakes. If one does these things in complete devotion to God, we believe, her or his sins will all be forgiven.

Some say fasting is one of the most difficult disciplines on the planet, but as a Muslim, I learned early on that self-control, humility, thankfulness for all our blessings and cultivation of a deep love for God really inspire us to keep our fasts.

 

Aziz Junejo has served as a representative of the local Muslim community for 30 years. He is the host of the cable TV show “Focus on Islam,” and frequently writes and speaks on Muslim topics.

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