Oh, ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn piety and righteousness (self-control, or restraint)
Today is the fourth of Ramadan 2020 and it has now sunk in. I think… What I mean is, it is easy to forget you’re fasting for the first few days. You might accidentally reach for some food or drink. It happened to me two times already.
While cooking our Iftar, (sunset meal, ‘breakfast’) I dipped my finger in the bowl, to see if I’d salted the flour enough. The moment I put my finger in my mouth, my brain kicked in or the angel on my right shoulder said: ‘You’re fasting!’ I went to the sink and rinsed my mouth. I didn’t swallow anything but it was the second time this had happened to me this Ramadan-while cooking. The kitchen is a temptress.
Because it was unintentional, my fast was still valid. Even if I had swallowed it (unintentionally) my fast would have still been valid and still better: if it was accidentally swallowed, it was a gift from Allah! I think that is so cool.
When you understand Islam, you realize nothing in it is without merit and love. Allah addresses our frailty. Allah’s foremost nature is patient and forgiving. Allah is lenient and kind. Allah knows our intention and that counts for everything.
As the quote says, the fast is to teach us ‘piety and righteousness’. Two antiquated words, ‘piety’ means one who is devoted to one’s religion and having humility, not pride. Righteousness means one who strives to be decent. One who leads with integrity; a moral person.
Everything in Islam is centered on intention and teaches discipline. The fast must first begin with, the intention to fast. You’re making a pledge. Although fasting is as the verse says, “prescribed” it is a pillar of Islam; as such it is expected from all Muslims who are healthy as it helps one attain righteousness. The only Muslims who are exempt from fasting are: the very elderly, people who are ill, pregnant or nursing mothers, women on their menses, and people who are traveling away from home (and this has stipulations).
The Islamic fast is not about dieting. It’s about learning piety, humility, and self-control. No one can be ‘righteous’ if they haven’t learned to control their strongest desires.
The fast requires you to put nothing in your mouth, not even medication. That must be taken before the fast begins or at the end of the fast, at breakfast time (at sunset). The first time I fasted, I didn’t know very much about Islam, so I asked, ‘Can I have a piece of gum? Or a lifesaver to help the dry mouth?’
‘No,’ was the answer and a longer discourse ensued. It is a strict fast.
I didn’t care. I knew Jesus fasted. I was in.
Experience is the best teacher
Fasting teaches at a first-hand level, in experiencing hunger and thirst. Can you come up with a better way to make anyone more sympathetic toward the poor, homeless, or jobless? This is one of the many signs I know the Quran came from Allah. A man would never establish something like fasting.
Nothing in Islam is without merit. There are many millions in the world who are hungry and starving. Fasting also makes us appreciate the food we have; we don’t want to be wasteful with it; we want to share our abundance.
Fasting changes your perspective. You won’t be able to see and pass by a hungry person, without giving them something to eat or money to buy food with.
Going without food or drink is not all the Islamic fast entails. Sexual relations are also prohibited as is smoking. The punishment for having any type of sexual stimulation is to fast three months consecutively. Of course, no one is standing over anyone. If you break your fast by committing a prohibited act, it’s between you and Allah. Everything we do is in the eyes of Allah.
To explain further what fasting is about, this is from Hadeeth:
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil, (lying, stealing, abusing someone, cheating) actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e., Allah will not accept his fasting.)” (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 127)
Here, we see that Allah is not impressed if we give up our food, drink, sexual enjoyment, or our silly smoking, if we are doing so while abusing someone around us, for example. The true fast is about restraining ourselves for Allah, and doing it with good intentions and conduct.
The Islamic fast for some Muslims can last fourteen hours or more depending on where they are on Earth, according to time zones. Our fast begins at 4:36 a.m. and ends at 6:47 p.m. People have made erroneous comments about fasting, claiming it is harmful or tortuous. They obviously aren’t keeping up with modern science…
Scientists have determined that eating less and being thin is health-wise, heart-friendly. We weren’t made to gorge on animal protein, sugar, and fat all day. Fasting lowers blood pressure and gives the entire body and organs a rest. If you maintain your daily activities and don’t indulge in sugary sweets or fried foods, you can lose weight during Ramadan. Fasting sharpens the digestive system and detoxes the body.
Part II to follow later.