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Ramadan: Not just Abstinence from Daily Intakes
By Abdellatif Oudra
Rabat - The observance of Ramadan, one of the five pillars of Islam, compels Muslims to fast from sunrise to sunset. But it is not just about abstaining from food or drink.
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is observed in commemoration of the revelation of Qur’an to the prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him. Muslims all over the world observe the sacred month to model themselves on the prophet Mohammed as commanded by God. Thus, Ramadan is a multidimensional observance that has wide ranging effects on the life of a Muslim.
Generally, during Ramadan Muslims must abstain from eating, drinking and having sexual relations from sunrise to sunset. Muslims fast for 29 to 30 days depending on the sighting of the crescent moon.
Fasting is compulsory for every sane, adult Muslim. Those who are sick or elderly and women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating are exempted from the fast, but are expected to fast at a later time.
Muslims must also refrain from gross misconduct. It is unacceptable to swear at others, backbite, or insult anyone. But does this mean that Muslims are permitted to act otherwise after Ramadan?
As is said, “to err is human.” Muslims, like all humans, occasionally get angry, insult or belittle others, act selfishly and may suffer from addiction to bad habits such as smoking, drinking or robbery. During Ramadan, however, the conscience of a fasting person pricks them anytime they try to misbehave because God feels much closer.
By showing their commitment to God’s commands every Muslim gets closer to God during Ramadan. Therefore, fasting Muslims should pray and help the needy, whenever possible, during Ramadan thereby gaining blessings from Allah. Put briefly, Ramadan readies Muslim to act as true Muslims in their entire life.
Almost every day we enjoy sumptuous meals with our families. While we eating we often lack sympathy for the underprivileged throughout the world, both Muslims and non-Muslims. While we may sympathize for a few seconds with them when we come across a picture or a video on TV or on the internet, we do not truly feel their constant empty stomachs.
Ramadan is a chance for Muslims to genuinely experience the hardship the poor lacking sustenance face in their entire life, and find practical means to help them.
This month is also an occasion for Muslims to strengthen the ties of fraternity, as the holy month emphasizes forgiving and helping each other. In addition, Ramadan strengthens family bonds. Families make use of the time to gather around the table to break their fast in an atmosphere of spiritual comfort and fun.
I still remember when I was a child, my mother would ask me to give to those living nearby a pot of soup, a piece of cake or whatever delicious food we had in our house. This simple act of sharing food strengthens community ties and cultivates a sense of good neighborliness.
According to Islamic law, it is not compulsory for children to fast because of their inability and vulnerability. Parents, however, ought to encourage, but never force, their children to fast even for couple of hours. This helps to prepare them for the future and let them appreciate the sacred month at an early age.
Many children fast voluntarily and particularly when they take up a challenge with others of the same age. These children often look forward to fasting for the first time because their families prepare a special table of mouth-watering food in honor of such memorable day.
I fasted for the time at the tender age of seven. It was a very long and difficult day for me, but the prize made it worthwhile. I was treated like a champion who won a golden medal, and my parents were delighted and overjoyed. After two years then, I managed to fast for nine days. Eventually, at the age of ten I could fast a month but a day, because I got used to it thanks to my parents’ encouragements and the friendly rivalry among my peers.
Ramadan is also a good opportunity to practice good health. It is the perfect time to cut down on weight. It’s also a great chance to give up smoking as smoking is prohibited during the daylight hours. This leads many people to permanently quit smoking.
Furthermore, studies were conducted on the effect of fasting, even intermittently, and proved it to be unquestionably healthy if done in the right way.
Ramadan transcends abstaining from food and drink. It teaches self-control, piety, togetherness, steadfastness, brotherhood and sisterhood. It also promotes sympathy for the poor and encourages helping less fortunate members of society.
The holy month compels us to behave properly toward each other and thus cultivates a sense of love, mercy, tolerance, coexistence and sacrifice. Ramadan is the perfect way to strengthen the ties of blood and neighborliness.