Have you ever wondered why Ramadan was such an important aspect of Islam? This post will focus on shedding some light to those who are curious about this blessed month. It will also serve as a reminder to those of you who are familiar with Islamic knowledge.
I’ll briefly discuss the 5 pillars of Islam, the revelation of the Quran, the reason why Muslims fast, how this month coincides with a crisis and why we try our best to revive our spirituality.
[This is based on my understanding and the research that I have done. Please consult literature or a scholar for more detailed and authentic interpretations.]
Ramadan is the 4th Pillar of Islam
Islam is constructed on the 5 pillars shown below. Each have a significant contribution to one’s faith and need to be consistently adhered to. The 1st pillar is the Shahadah, which is professing that there’s ‘No God but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger’. It’s considered the foundation of Islam, because everything builds upon that testimony.
The 2nd pillar is Salaah (prayer), which is expected to be performed 5 times a day. This consistency in prayer has always been remarkable to me, as it truly keeps the 1st pillar in place and reminds me of my true purpose in life. It forms a beautiful structure to the day and allows us to frequently remember God.
The 3rd pillar is Zakaat, which is a form of giving charity. This needs to be performed annually, where we’re expected to give 2.5% of our monetary wealth to those who are less fortunate (There are more specifications to this, I’m merely giving an overview). This is such a beautiful pillar because it indicates that giving to others and being considerate is part of the religion.
The 4th pillar will be my focus today; fasting the month of Ramadan. It is the 9th month of the Hijri calendar, where we’re expected to abstain from food and drink for 29 or 30 days every year (depending on the sighting of the new moon). There’s more to it than just the abstinence of food and drink however, which I’ll also discuss.
The final pillar is Hajj; the pilgrimage to Makkah. There are roughly 2 million pilgrims on average who embark on this journey every year. This year will be the first time in history where the pilgrimage would be extremely restricted, possibly even cancelled.
The Revelation of the Quran
One of the most interesting aspects of Ramadan is that it’s the month in which the Quran was first revealed to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH). He was 40 years old when he was blessed with prophet-hood and when the angel Jibreel first revealed to him the Holy text sent by Allah. It was a constant stream of verses that spanned 23 years, which started around the year 609 CE.
The Quran contains timeless wisdom and is memorized by Muslims all over the world. It is what we recite during prayer and it has remain unscathed since it was revealed (Nothing has been edited). It’s as relevant to us today as it was when it was sent over 1400 years ago.
There’s a lot of emphasis for us to recite the Quran during Ramadan. It’s the one time of the year where everyone is a lot more focused and dedicated to their spirituality, making it a lot easier and enjoyable. Rewards for performing good deeds are multiplied by over 10 fold, which is motivating and encouraging.
Allah’s Prophet said, “Fasting is a shield (or a screen or a shelter). So, the person observing fasting should avoid sexual relation with his wife and should not behave foolishly and impudently, and if somebody fights with him or abuses him, he should tell him twice, ‘I am fasting.”
Why do Muslims fast during this month?
You may have encountered the buzzword ‘Intermittent fasting’ over the past few years. I’m proud to say that Muslims have been doing that consistently over the past 1400 years. Let’s discuss what fasting in Islam entails, whilst looking at the scientific benefits behind it.
The infographic above shows a number of health benefits associated with fasting. From an Islamic point of view however, there’s much more to it than that. The fasting starts at the Fajr prayer and ends at the Maghrib prayer. Essentially from dawn till dusk.
The fasting includes abstaining from food and drink, keeping the stimulation of senses to a minimum and staying away from sexual activity. It’s a time to practice self-control, not to indulge in the usual luxuries of life and to focus on your blessings.
The reason behind fasting is for us to become empathetic with those who are less fortunate than us. Many people live without sufficient food or water their entire lives. For those of us who are blessed with a variety of food choices every day, it gives us time to reflect on that and understand how circumstances are for others.
We often complain about the most trivial aspects of our luxurious lives, without realizing that others would be extremely grateful for a mere fraction of what we have.
We’re without a doubt, living through one of the most unique Ramadans in history. It’s no coincidence that this blessed month coincides with a global pandemic. People have the opportunity to focus more on their spirituality, to reflect, to grow and to become compassionate.
The lock down restrictions have forced us to gain a few realizations. We need to understand that everything happens for a reason. Whether you see it as a blessing or a curse, entirely depends on your perception.
I say this again and again, but it’s an important reminder. Life is short and we are all temporary. Look at how quickly time is passing. Before you know it, your time will be up and you’ll spend the rest of your days in the grave (until Resurrection). Keep that in mind often. It’s not something to be bleak about, it’s part of the circle of life.
You should try and feel motivated by how fleeting this all is. You’re not here for nothing. This isn’t a coincidence. It’s all part of the plan.
The reason I wrote this post was to remind myself of why I focus so much during Ramadan. I also hope to have inspired you in some way, or to have helped you understand it a little better. I really enjoyed writing about this, if you’d like me to discuss the 4 other pillars of Islam, please let me know!
I hope the rest of your month and days ahead are blessed InshaAllah. Stay strong, stay thankful, stay present. Everything happens for a reason, don’t forget that. The more struggle you have to endure, the more you are rewarded. Alhamdulillah for everything.