Ramadan is with us again and millions of Muslims the world over are fasting. Fasting for an entire month is difficult, very difficult, even in the best of conditions. Yet we undergo it with a glad heart. Let us then do it for the right reason.
First of all, we fast because Allah Suhnahu wa ta'la has commanded us to fast in the month of Ramadan. We want to be among those who 'hear and obey'. We do not ask why. We do not want to be arrogant and rebellious. We have accepted the Qur'an as the true revelation from Allah (swt), preserved in its original form. So we go by what is in it. We have also accepted Muhammad Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam as the true Messenger of Allah (swt). We have no doubt about him. We have seen him fasting in the month of Ramadan. So we do what he did and do it the way he did it. This is enough justification for a Muslim; we do not need or care about anything more.
Allah has also told us that the month-long fast in Ramadan is a means toward an end, a means through which He wants to elevate us to the level of the Muttaqi (Quran 2:183). These are people who remember Allah (swt) in all His Power and Glory every moment of their waking life and fear His displeasure in every situation. This remembrance and fear purify them of all the dross in their soul. Allah (swt) loves such people. Only Allah knows what good really consists of and where our good lies We will be doing ourselves good beyond measure if we accept Allah's guidance.
The question then is this: How can we be Muttaqis through this month-long fast? There is only one answer. We have to fast the way Muhammad (saws) has taught us. He has clearly detailed for us the ways and means that guard, strengthen and beautify our fasting. If we carefully and wholeheartedly strive to follow them, our fasting will carry us to its intended destination. It is like nourishing and nurturing a plant; if we do it with love and care in the proper way, it will grow healthy and bear fruit insha'Allah. Following the sunnah of Allah's Messenger in our fasting will ensure that the sting of hunger, thirst and all other deprivations endured for the sake of Allah (swt) sharpens our consciousness of Allah (swt) and raises us to the level of the Muttaqi, who remember Allah (swt) as He should be remembered and fear His displeasure as it should be feared. Allah (swt) will then be pleased with us and love us and bless us with mercy, forgiveness and salvation from Him. That will be the finest and the unending harvest for us to reap. That will be our supreme success in this world and the next, a success beyond measure.
|Iftar: Breaking fast after sunset|
Since the state of the Muttaqi is what Allah (swt) wants us to attain through the month of fasting, we need to recognize the marks of the Muttaqi and constantly keep them in mind. It is easy to find out what the marks are because every page of the Qur'an has something to say about them and everything Muhammad (swt) said or did also bears those marks. We are fortunate that Allah (swt) has blessed us with the clear example of the Prophet (saws) which we can safely emulate. He scaled the summit of Taqwa and stands on its pinnacle.
However, it is also true that Allah's (swt) blessings have many dimensions, far more than we can count or measure. Every good brings other good in its wake, as barakah from Allah (swt). In today's lingo they might be called 'by-products'. They are additional benefits for us, which we can enjoy in gratefulness to their Giver, Allah (swt). It is not possible to number the bounties of Allah (swt) nor is it for any mere human to attempt to define the limits of those Bounties. There surely are benefits from Allah (swt) that we will never even be aware of as well as those that come in unexpected ways and are often unnoticed.
However, while fasting in Ramadan we should keep our goal firmly fixed on what Allah (swt) has set for us, that is to acquire taqwa. All the other benefits will follow automatically. It would be a mistake to let ourselves be distracted by aiming for those benefits rather than fixing our attention on the main goal of Ramadan.
Let all Muslims pray to Allah (swt) to grant us the taufiq, or ability, to fast with hearts that are obedient, grateful and trusting. Let us fast with careful attention to our Noble Benefactor Muhammad (saws) who has shown us the most fruitful way to fast and be grateful to him and love him with all our heart.
Let us do the right thing for the right reason and in the right way.
A. K. M. Mohiuddin is a retired university professor of English literature living in Bangladesh. He can be reached at this address: akmm45 [at] yahoo [dot] com
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