Ramazan [Ramadan] Fasting

by Dr. Allah Bakhsh

The Light (Pakistan), 8th August 1980 Issue (Vol. 60, No. 15, p. 3–4 and 6)

The month of annual Fasting is coming to a close. Devout Muslims celebrate solely the last ten days in Itikaf when they spend their days and nights in a mosque, reciting the Holy Quran and otherwise praying and worshipping God. During the hot and summer days, especially in tropics, it is indeed an ordeal to go without food and drink from dawn to dusk, a period of about sixteen hours. Voluntarily undergoing the rigours of the fasting regime is a feat of performance which the ease-loving and soft-minded non-Muslim nations of today would indeed regard as a miracle.

As a matter of fact, even the outward fulfilment of the five Islamic fundamentals have often elicited admiration. The daily congregational prayers, the Zakat, the Fasting and Jihad, all have elicited praise from the non-Muslims. The peculiar distinction of these injunctions is that they are a combination of both worshipping the Lord as well as of serving the purpose of social and public institutions.

There may lurk doubts in some minds as to Ramazan [Ramadan] Fasting being a relic of the olden times when the primitive idea was to please an offended deity by self-immolation practices and that such hardships are injurious to health. We wish most earnestly to state that fasting is for man’s own good, not only good for his moral and spiritual development but also beneficial to his healthy and long living. This has now been confirmed by modern medical research.

Fasting has been prescribed for man’s own benefit says the Holy Quran:

“If you fast it is good for your own sake, only if you were to realize.” (The Holy Quran, 2:184)

The idea of torturing oneself has been contradicted by the Holy Book when it says in connection with Fasts:

“Allah does not wish to impose hardship on you but He wishes ease for you.” (The Holy Quran, 2:184)

Here the ease means exempting the ill and traveller to postpone their observance for other days and for the permanently incapacitated to feed a person as a redemption. No hard and fast rules have been laid down for such exemptions but has been left to one’s own honest judgment.

Now let us enumerate the great benefits of the fasts as prescribed. In the very first place let it be remembered that this practice of voluntarily undergoing the hardships by millions of Muslims each year has never been experienced to have caused any injury or ill-health to any of them. We have witnessed Muslim farmers of tropical countries observing fasts during the hot and long summer days while fully engaged in reaping their harvests and thrashing of crops and without the least ill-effects to their health.

The beneficial effects of Fasting may in short be described under four categories:

They induce and cultivate habit of self-restraint and help gain mastery over one’s emotions as well as restrict habits of self-indulgence. Let it be remembered that the present-day general custom of enjoying feasts during Sehr and Iftar ill-accords with the spirit and good effects of fasting. The idea is to accustom a Muslim on living frugally with simple, and ordinary diet taken at odd times. It is meant to train and discipline him. To cultivate in man the powers of self-endurance, patience, and self-restraint are the main aims, the basis of all civilisation.

The second purpose is moral. Man may be awakened by self-deprivation to realise the condition of his less fortunate fellows. It is for sharpening this sense that feeding of the poor is made obligatory on those who are unable to fast and optional for others. The main object has been explained by the Holy Quran in the words:

“Do not devour each other’s riches between yourselves by false means, re-referring them unjustly to rulers so that you may eat of peoples’ wealth through unfair methods.” (The Holy Quran, 2:188)

Obviously one who can willingly impose restrictions on himself not to eat lawful things because of God’s injunctions, how can he resort to swallow unlawfully the moneys of other peoples? The spiritual aspect of Fasting is to concentrate on remembrance of the Lord, reciting the Quran and otherwise worshipping Him. This reaches its culmination during the last ten ltikaf days. Focussing one’s attention on any subject needs abstention from all other engagements. Hence, in connection with fasting the Holy Quran says:

“When my servants ask about Me, I am near. I bear the call of one who makes calls upon Me. Therefore they should answer Me and have full faith in Me.” (The Holy Quran, 2:186)

Lastly, the modern medical research has revealed that fasting is not only beneficial to health but is essential in certain ailments. During the present-day civilisation with habits of regularly partaking rich diets and dainty dishes combined with sedentary occupations, has greatly increased the number of diseases such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart and head failures, due mostly to habits of self-indulgence. For their prevention as well as treatment measures are prescribed by all medical men for restriction and limitation of quality and quantity of foods. Thus experience has set a seal of confirmation upon the Quranic truth,

“But if you fast, it is all the better for your own sake, only if you know.”