“O’ you who believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you, just as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be God-conscious. [Fasting] for a fixed number of days. But if any one of you is sick or on a journey, then [let him fast] an equal number of other days. For those who can fast [with extreme difficulty], compensation should be made by feeding a needy person [for every day not fasted]. Whoever volunteers to do good, that is better for him. And to fast is better for you, if only you knew” (Quran 2:183-184).
I pray that you all and your families are staying safe and are in the best state of health and faith. I would like to congratulate the Muslim community on the spiritual journey they are all about to embark on with the coming of Ramadan. Allah says in the Holy Quran about the journey of fasting Ramadan:
﴿يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ (183)﴾ البقرة
“O you who believe! Fasting is ordained for you as it was ordained for those before you so that you might remain conscious of God” (2:183)
Ramadan is not only a month for fasting, but it is also, an important time for deep reflection on our spiritual connection with Allah and with the people around us. It is meant to cultivate in us a quality of God-consciousness and compassion towards our fellow human beings. Through fasting and avoiding sinful deeds and thoughts, we train ourselves to gain control not only over our actions but also gain control over our thoughts and our desires.
The significance of Ramadan to Muslims was summarized by Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him when he said, congratulating his companions for the coming of Ramadan:
“أَتَاكُمْ شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ، شَهْرٌ مُبَارَكٌ فَرَضَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمْ صِيَامَهُ، تُفْتَحُ فِيهِ أَبْوَابُ السَّمَاءِ وَتُغْلَقُ فِيهِ أَبْوَابُ الْجَحِيمِ، وَتُغَلُّ فِيهِ مرَدَةُ الشَّيَاطِينِ، لِلَّهِ فِيهِ لَيْلَةٌ خَيْرٌ مِنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ مَنْ حُرِمَ خَيْرَهَا فَقَدْ حُرِمَ”
“The month of Ramadan has come to you, a blessed month which Allah, the Mighty and Sublime, has enjoined you to fast. In it, the gates of the heavens are opened, whereas the gates of Hell are closed, and the rebellious Shaytans are chained. In it, there is a night better than a thousand months. Whosoever is deprived of its blessings is indeed deprived.”
Imam Al-Ghazali categorizes fasting into three levels
1- Layperson’s fastingصوم العوام : This is the beginners’ level and the easiest fasting. It consists of abstaining from food, drink, and intimate relation during the days of Ramadan.
2- Professionals’ fastingصوم الخواص : This is the intermediate level and it is relatively harder than the previous level. It consists of keeping one’s ears, eyes, tongue, hands, and feet free from sin during the days and nights of Ramadan.
3- Experts’ fastingصوم خواص الخواص : This is the advanced level and the most difficult fasting. It consists of focusing on nothing but Allah and fasting with the heart and mind by abstaining from worldly thoughts and concerns during the nights and days of Ramadan.
Let us all try this year to rise above the layperson’s fasting and aim at achieving the professional’s fasting. Let us also remember that Ramadan forces us to experience hunger so that we can put ourselves in the shoes of those who are in need. So, with the coming of Ramadan let us all race towards goodness and compassion towards others.
The doors to goodness are numerous as Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him said.
Removing harm from the middle of the road, assisting a person who is in need, maintaining the ties of kinship, and checking on family members and friends. Even smiling at others is regarded as a good deed and carries the same weight as giving to charity.
Finally, let us be mindful that Ramadan is not only about improving the relationship between Allah and man, but it is also about improving the relationship between human beings and their fellow human beings.
Ramadan Kareem and as-salamu alaykum