Self-discipline is the essence of Ramadan |
Saudi Gazette - 20 July, 2012
Author: Khaled Al Maeena
With the advent of Ramadan - the month in which Allah "sent down the Qur'an as a guide to mankind, also clear (signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting. But if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful.”
The Qur’an makes it very clear that self-restraint is the very essence of fasting. Surah Al-Baqarah (Verses183-185) refer to the importance of Ramadan and emphasize the spiritual aspects of fasting - a month devoted to worship, but not one in which the believer renounces the world or runs away from his responsibilities. He abstains from food and drink for a limited period. The stress is on self-discipline.
Fasting is not meant to punish the body but to strengthen the mind, directing it to higher things. Scientists agree that machines require a rest period due to “metal fatigue”. Allah created us and knows that we are weak in body and spirit; we are in need of occasions to boost and revitalize our weak iman (faith) so that we may adhere to the commands of Allah in the way shown to us by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
During Ramadan, mosques are full of worshipers, and acts of charity increase, ties of brotherhood are strengthened, tempers are controlled and an atmosphere of peace prevails. According to psychologists, these are some of the beneficial aspects of conscientious fasting.
It is saddening to see that many people view Ramadan as a time for sleep or for remaining idle except for obligatory prayers. Inevitably this affects productivity. If you go to an office and ask for someone, you are often told to come back later or the next day.
Let us all once again pledge to follow the example of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) who was the most active during the month of fasting.
Many of us forget that fasting is an exercise in discipline. It is a total act of worship. You cannot fast and at the same time cause trouble to others. Employees who deal with the public should know that this is not a month to delay matters that are of crucial importance to other people’s lives and interests. Students should realize, or be told by their parents, that this is a great month to read about religion and to understand it.
They should not spend the day sleeping or sitting around and the night watching television, strolling in shopping malls or driving aimlessly about the city.
I think it is high time that the media as well as the family emphasized that Ramadan is a month of worship and active work, and that by adjusting our lifestyles properly we can do both and also be more productive. Turning night into day defeats the very purpose of the fast and goes against the spirit of Ramadan.
Indeed, this month should be used to reflect and to question whether we Muslims are really on the true path. An honest answer will show how far we are from the teachings of Islam. Muslims should be bold enough to admit that they themselves, not their supposed enemies, are responsible for many of their problems. To admit this is the first step toward solving the problems facing the Muslim Ummah. We are obliged to follow the teachings of the Qur’an and the life of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.). The only solution to our present difficulties is to read, understand and follow the teachings of the Qur’an in its proper perspective.
If we do that, we will realize that those of us who see dark conspiracies behind our ills are way off the mark. Let us put an end to this habit of blaming others for our shortcomings and inertia. Our enemies, real and imagined, can harm us only to the extent we remain lacking in initiative and outmoded in our thinking and way of doing things. What is needed is some soul-searching and a readiness to think and act differently.
Let us also remember, on this day and in all the days ahead, that our faith demands that our concerns go beyond our own selves and families to our brethren in faith and brothers in humanity. An increasing number of people are falling victim to wars, hunger, incurable diseases, internal strife, and genocide and human rights abuses. We should help them in whatever way we can.
Let us once again pray that this Ramadan all Muslims will make a sincere effort to come closer together and closer to Allah through fasting, prayers, zakah and charity. And, through hard work, let us make this a better world for us and our children. While doing our duty by our fellow men, our families and our community, let us pray as Abraham and Ismail did, while raising the foundation of the House (Holy Ka’ba): “Our Lord, accept from us, for Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing; Our Lord, make us Muslims, bowing to Thy Will.”
Ramadan, we must remember, is the month in which Allah “sent down the Criterion to His servant, that it might be an admonition to all worlds”.
Allah said, “When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them); I respond to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me; let them also, with a will, listen to My call, and believe in Me; that they may walk in the right way.”
I hope and pray that this Ramadan will be a time when He responds to our prayers. But we should remember that our duties don’t end with prayers. The Qur’an says: “Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves.”
If I have only one prayer, it will be to see no children anywhere in the world with fear in their eyes - the fear of losing their parents, of their homes being demolished because of man’s inhumanity toward man, and fear of the unknown.
We know that all major battles in Islamic history were fought and won during the month of Ramadan. There are still battles to be fought and won - against poverty, intolerance, prejudice, racism and terror.
This year Ramadan comes at a time of great upheaval in the Middle East.
There are hopes offered by the Arab Spring. There are forebodings, too. Will Syria drown the Arab Spring in the blood of its own children? Will Egypt and Tunisia become the stable democracies their people have fought so hard for? Will there be a just and honorable settlement to the Arab-Israeli dispute so that the long-suffering Palestinian people regain their freedom and dignity?
— The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org