"Oh Muslims, fasting is prescribed to you just as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may guard against evil.
(Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (with hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will, it is better for him and it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.
Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Quran as a guide to mankind, also clear (signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So everyone of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting. But if any one 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.
When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them); I respond to the prayer of every suppliant when he callth on Me; let them also, with a will, listen to My call, and believe in Me; that they may walk in the right way.
Permitted to you on the night of the fasts, is the approach of your wives. They are your garments and ye are their garments. Allah knoweth what ye used to do secretly among yourselves; but He turned to you and forgave you so now associate with them, and seek what Allah hath ordained for you and eat and drink until the white thread of dawn appear to you distinct from its black thread; then complete your fast till the night appears; but do not associate with your wives while ye are in retreat in the mosques. Those are limits (set by) Allah; approach not night thereto. Thus doth Allah make clear His signs to men: That they must learn self-restraint."
Today is the first of Ramadan. The above quoted Quranic verses (183-187) from Surat Al-Baqarat refers to the importance of the holy month of Ramadan and emphasizes the spiritual aspects of fasting. Allah has blessed us with the month of Ramadan wherein the rebellious devils are chained and we abstain from food and drink which gives us the maximum opportunity to discipline and control ourselves.
As we know, the Muslim fast is not meant for self-torture. Instead, it is a beautiful gift from Allah. Fasting is not merely abstention from food and drink; it is a temporary cessation of eating and drinking which enables attention to be directed to higher things and thus making the fast more meaningful.
Even modern scientists agree that machines require a rest period due to "metal fatigue". Almighty 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 our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
During the holy month of Ramadan, because of the mercy of Allah, all mosques are full of prayers, contemplation and acts of charity increase, ties of brotherhood strengthen, angers and tempers subside and an atmosphere of peace prevails. According to psychologists, these are several good aspects of conscious fasting.
We should also resolve to be steadfast in the good habits acquired during the holy month of fasting. Let us all once again pledge ourselves to follow the example of the Holy Prophet who was the most active among people during the month of fasting.
One is saddened to see today when all the comforts of life are available, many people view the month of Ramadan as one of sleep, laziness and, therefore, of decreased productivity.
For example, we go to an office or workplace and ask for someone and we are told to approach them later - maybe after prayers or the next day. At times if someone loses his temper, we are told he is edgy because he is fasting. We notice that many shortcomings and many lapses in discipline are attributed to fasting.
We should remember that fasting itself is an exercise in discipline. It is a total act of worship. You cannot fast and at the same time trouble other people. This is what must realize. Employees who deal with the public should realize that this is not a month to delay other peoples' interests. The student should realize, or be told by his parents, that this is a great month to read about religion and to understand it and not to spend the day sleeping, sitting idly and the night watching television, strolling in shopping malls or driving aimlessly about the city.
I think it is high time that the media, parents, the family and sociologists emphasize strongly that Ramadan is a month of worship and active work and that by adjusting our life styles in the proper way we can do both and also be more productive. The turning away from Islamic precepts and teachings has ushered in a host of problems. And turning night into day defeats the whole purpose of the fast.
Indeed the month of Ramadan should be used to reflect and to contemplate in order to determine whether we Muslims are really on the true path. An honest answer will clearly reveal how far we are from the teachings of Islam.
Muslims should be bold enough to admit that many of their problems are created by themselves. To admit this is the first step toward solving the numerous problems facing the Muslim Ummah. We, as Muslims, are obliged to follow the teachings of the Holy Quran and the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). I believe that the only solution to our present difficulties is to read, understand and follow the teachings of Quran in its proper perspective.
Let us pray that in this holy month of Ramadan a sincere effort will be made by all Muslims to come closer to Almighty Allah through fasting, prayers, Zakat and charity. And, through hard work, let us make this a better world for us and our children.
And while doing our duty by our fellow man, our families, children and community, let us pray, as Abraham and Ismail did, while raising the foundation of the House (Holy Ka'aba): "Our Lord, accept from us, for Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-knowing; Our Lord, make us Muslims, bowing to Thy Will."
Let us also pray to Almighty Allah to help us attain the true spirit and essence of Ramadan and also to accept our fasting.