Over 1.7 billion Muslims in almost every 193 world countries have completed the first week of their annual 30-day fasting. In many countries, Muslims have to abstain from food, drinks and some lawful human (sexual) pleasures in addition to the usual forbidden activities – between 17-19 hours under harsh summer conditions.
To most non-Muslims including some secularist Muslims, the fasting during the Islamic month of Ramazan is considered cruel. However, the Islamic agenda of fasting from early morning to Sun set has nothing to do with punishing the Believers with hunger and thrust. In fact, it’s an annual training course for Muslims to feel the pains of hunger and poverty which over two billion people around the world go through each day. That’s why Holy Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has attached more importance to sharing food and donating money to charities during the month of fasting.
Muslims greet each other before beginning and at the end of the month of “soul searching”, which usually confuses non-Muslims. American academic convert to Islam, professor Jeffery Lang tells his experience to explain it. On hearing one of Muslim student greeting Lang by “Ramazan Mubarak” (happy month of fasting) shocked one of Lang’s non-Muslim colleague. He asked Dr. Lang, “the student congratulated you on having to suffer a month of hunger? I could understand him congratulating you at the end of Ramazan when it is over, but not in the beginning!“
The common sense says that in order to grow in virtues, one needs to experience and strive against hardships and adversities in life. To be compassionate, one needs to experience suffering and vow to eradicate it by helping the victims. To be grateful, one needs to experience deprival of some basic human needs for a while to understand the real blessings of not being one of those victims of deprivation.
In addition to spiritual benefits of Islamic fasting, it also provides many health benefits, such as, detoxification, digestive system, inflammatory response, reduces blood sugar, reduces blood pressure, weight loss, etc. Dr. Shahid Athar explains both these benefits here.
Yuram Abdullah Weiler, an American writer, journalist, who has converted to Islam, explains the virtues of Islamic fasting and the current Zionist-generated Islamophobia in United States in his recent article, entitled Ramazan: A month of self-restrain.
“Perhaps most indicative of the level of Islamophobia in the US was the position reversal by the US President on the Park 51 Islamic Cultural Center, which was to be built near the site of 9/11 attacks in New York. At first, Obama expressed support for the project. “I believe that Muslims have the same rights to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and community center on private property in Lower Manhattan.” Then backpedaling the very next day, he equivocated, “I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put the mosque there”, wrote Weiler.
Thanks to the Jewish Lobby’s grip over American politics, US-taxpayers have spent $700 million to build a new 9/11 Holocaust Museum at Lower Manhattan.
Weiler also said that fasting in the month of Ramadan is commanded by Holy Qur’an 2:183: “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may learn self-restraint.” Verse 185 clarifies that the month of Ramadan is intended: “The month of Ramadan that in which Holy Qur’an was sent down as a guidance for mankind.” In their Quranic commentary, Agha Pooya and Ahmed Ali explain that “The main object of the Islamic fast is to purify the conduct and character and get the soul charged with divine attributes of God in the practical life for one complete month.”
He also adds that scientists have also learned that restraining oneself by fasting has the side benefits of reducing the risk of cancer and the onset of geriatric diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and dementia. Studies in peer-reviewed journals have even indicated that fasting may be an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, help reduce epileptic seizures, and lower the risk of coronary artery disease. And fasting is, of course, not unique to Islam, as it is practiced in almost every religion. Among Hindus, fasting is done for penance or for spiritual strengthening; the Sabians, the oldest of the Chaldean religions, also prescribed fasting for an entire month.
In Judaism, fasting is prescribed on Yom Kippur, the annual Day of Atonement, as well as on other days of the year. Fasting on Yom Kippur is commanded in Leviticus 16:29: “On the 10th day of the 7th month you must fast.” And again in Leviticus 23:27-32: “Also, on the 10th day of this 7th month there shall be a day of atonement. It will be a holy gathering to you; you shall afflict your souls.” The prohibited acts for Yom Kippur are remarkably similar to those for Ramadan and include eating, drinking, washing or anointing the body, wearing leather shoes and marital relations.