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perfect reflections about the meaning of fasting

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Category: Religion - Islam
Forum Name: Islam for non-Muslims
Forum Discription: Non-Muslims can ask questions about Islam, discussion for the purpose of learning.
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Topic: perfect reflections about the meaning of fasting
Posted By: cleese
Subject: perfect reflections about the meaning of fasting
Date Posted: 05 August 2011 at 2:06pm
warning : this post is not preaching at all
dear respectful thinker :
answering whys, is the most difficult job, and the most rewarding one too. so:
1 - why muslims fast?
2 - why fasting ramadan is a pillar of islam?
3 - why muslims fast that specific islamic way they do ?
4 - why fasting the islamic way generates piousness?
5 - why specially fasting is prescribed in Ramadan, not in any other month?
why ... why ... why

In brief :
a- the purpose of all islamic worships, is piousness (within the heart , and in acts) :
(kindly review 2/21)
b- Fasting Ramadan specifically, was the milestone of that piousness , (2/183) where it is directly associated with it,

the muslim might wonder : when fasting ramadan became a compulsive worship for the first time(and why)?, in the following, the writer details the context within which the first compulsive fasting taken place ....
we are in Shaban (one month before Ramadan) ..... , the second year after emigration to Madina (after about 16 years of the begining of revalation) , an event is about to emerge as a turning point, that changed the course of islam as a religion and a state, and changed the way muslims ever since dealt with the world around them, and have been dealt with. it is Badr Battle.
later, we will detail how Badr Battle changed that course, but for now, we will just designate Badr as the event that made a great difference in the islamic life, stating that such great transformations , require a special "paving way" period as a must .
in that Shaban , three major changes dyed the "paving way" period for Badr .
the first : announcing Ramadan from now on as a compulsive 30 continuous days of fasting, without any previous preparation. (such a tough examination that was) with a command to avoid the intercourse between couples at first, (which was lifted later) ,
2- announcing Zakat Almal (mandatory alms-giving) as a compulsive islamic worship, in addition to detailing its proportion (2.5% on cash and working capital),
3 - The earthquake: changing the direction to which muslims pray, from Aqsa in palastine, to Kapa in Meca. which was the toughest examination for who pretended that they are submitted to Allah's command, and faithful to him only , not to any form of paganism that might have remained from before islam, and represented in a stone whether in palestine of in meca . (kindly read 2/142-143),
but why ... why should all this precedes and takes place in ramadan ?

first :
* to purify the islamic group : those who will submit to these heavy commands (women and men alike) , and refrain from lawful things (we will detail why they should be lawful, the wisdom), will show the real faithfulness, and will be practically (not theoretically) trained on the times of adversity even before they come, while they still live their normal lives,
* being compulsive, fasting represents a burden upon the ego "the human self", that always looks for luxury, ease and satisfaction, in addition its upnormality pertaining eating and sleeping times (we will detail why), represented a major effort that will be exerted to train the human self to swim upstream when truth and virtue require that, no matter how fallacy or falsehood are easy,

second: aiming the distinction
* before that ramadan , muslims were fasting (compulsively) the day of kebor, celebrating the occassion where Allah (God) saved the beloved prophet in islam (Lord Muses peace be upon him and upon all prophets and messengers) and his believing followers, from the egyptian tyrant and sunk him and his soldiers. prophet mohammad said " we are more authenticated to Muses" and commanded muslims to fast it. it had kept that way till ramadan in the second year of emigration, where muslims were commanded to fast ramadan as the only compulsive fasting , with keeping fasting kebor day in addition to a day before or later, as just a favorable islamic worship, celebrating the pleased occasion of saving lord muses and the faithful followers, in one bond with all believing nations.
* the earthquake in question, represented another distinction and uniqness of the islamic group. now they have their distinctive way of prayer, because that a nation that feels dependency, or became familiar with other nations' customs and habits, will never prevail or lead. from now on, muslims feel one destiny with each other , a destiny they must defend whatever that costs them...,and what a strengthened bond this creates.

third: a new type of raising and education:
the muslims who are going to sacrifice for their principles in Badr Battle -and they did- and what follows Badr , are in need for a special type of reformation, to fulfill the requirements of sacrifice and fixation . only Ramadan can reform muslims that way, but how? , here is the answer :
1- the full submission before Allah's (God) commandments, no matter whether their purposes are known (at once) or not. here we cant understand how some one annouces that he is a muslim , says as long as he shows mercy on the poor or the indignant , he is no more in need for fasting (kindly review deeply:4/60-65),
2 - recreating a muslim who is able to rationalize his instincts and needs whenever the circumstances require so, or whenever he cant satisfy them the virtious way:
in a hadith of prophet mohammad PBUH, he says "both Quran and Fasting intercede on the judgment day, where quran says: O'God , i deprived him sleeping at night allow me to be his intercessor, and fasting says: O'God , i deprived him food and instincts at the day, allow me to be his intercessor, then Allah accepts their intercession" . a muslim who awakes to worship when he loves sleeping most , also trained to eat when he does not want to , and who is trained to rationalize and organize his customs when necessary. that way, there is no separation between building life and strengthening faith. both are one same beautiful thing, to work for.
that way the muslim was prepared for many battles faught against him and other muslims , for just believing in a new religion. how many times muslims were besieged for just choosing to believe in islam, but they succeeded in the exam? (as example, they were besieged for 3 years in the narrow valley of Abutaled, where they were fully boycotted and embargoed, deprived even from food and water for long hot days in that spot of desert).
further : fasting is a marvelous preparation not only in the face of adversities, but also as a way of rationalization in the case of extreme luxury and victory. and lets take the example from great number of crimes that history documented committing them after a victory?.
in germany e.g, allies and soviets rapped over than 50.000 women during few days that succeeded the surrender of the country. the same thing taken place in bosnia on the eye of the civilized world, and by the civilized europians during the period 1990-1995 .
but what about the victories the muslims are about to have (we are still in the year two after emigration) , and how quran dealt with these victories and prepare muslims to deal with?
* - the prophet states the islamic way of fasting in general ( not only in ramadan) by saying : " when it is a day of fasting, no indecency, no vulgar acts. and if you were offended or faught against, say i am a fasting man , i am a fasting man" . in addition, kindly review how islam coerced his followers to treat captives and POWs in a chapter named "Man", that chapter which was revealed 1400 years before the announcement of human rights and Geneva treaty. (kindly review 76:8). here is the core of islamic fasting , as the prophet states "no need for who does not refrain from saying or acting evil , to refrain from eating or drinking". that is because they did not acquire the sense that fasting was mainly revealed to give them. can we here understand why the prophet said "o 'you youth, you should mary when you are able to, but those who are not should fast, where fasting would protect you from sin" ?. and tell me my respectful reader, if you have been trained half of every year of your life (fasting every monday and Thursday -132 days a year- in addition to fasting 30 days in ramadan - 162 days a year , which represents about 44% of its days- to act that decent way (even with who offend or fight you), and were trained to (willingly) prohibit your major instincts, needs and normal reactions (when prohibition is necessary), would you rape women who belong to a defeated country in a war ?, would you be reluctant to endow your POW with your food despite its scarcity?. would you mistreat your captives?.
so , islam is a reformation of the muslim in luxury and victory, as well as in adversity and crisis.

fourth: honoring that superior creature : we might wonder , what is that kind of fasting , that bans these things for 12 hours only of the day , then permit them?. would not it be more logic to prevent the intimate intercourse (e.g) for the continuous 30 days?.would not it be more logic if muslims refrain from eating luxurious foods during that month, instead of limited refrain from dawn to dusk then eat every thing? the answer is no. the purpose of ramadan and fasting is not to completely repress the needs and the desires of the human being, but only to rationalize their activity. islam differs in this point, where it announces that the human creature (such an honored creature , please review : 45-14) is equipped with these honorable instincts and desires not as barriers to his virtuous course to perfection, but rather as motivating tools for going and moving on in life. besides, why would a pious person refrain for 45 days or for months from lawful and useful foods like meats and fish (as long as he is not an extravagant) ?. what connects that refrain with piousness?

fifth : a smooth reminder of the daily gifts, that we became blind to.
fasting is a way to remind you of the duty of appreciating and gratefulness for these daily gifts, where it deprives you from them for a while . missing the gift generates recognition of it, and so thanking upon it, which is one of the most beloved islamic worships. "praise to Allah who fed us food and water, make them swallowable, and paved them an outlet of the body", a gifts that might not be appreciated, except by those who are deprived from going to the bathroom and use it normally. if that became clear, then listen to the Prophet says "there are two times of joy for the faster, the first when he eats, he feels joy for eating, and when he meets his God, he feels joy for the reward".

sixth : growing faithfulness in the heart of the muslim, and perseverance for fulfilling the duty, no matter appreciated from people around him or not.
fasting teaches the Muslim the perseverance for fulfilling his duty, disregarding appreciation or disappointment received from people. the Muslim can easily abandon his fasting duty,when he is alone at home, or travelling abroad ...etc, where there is neither an eye to judge him nor to reprimand him. but if he fulfilled his fasting duty, he is then a real faithful man, a man who would go on seeking for all the forms of Good and virtues, disregarding the attitude of people around him.

(هذا الجزء السابق مقتبس من ثلاثة محاضرات للدكتور راغب السرجاني , مذكورة بنهاية المقالة)

article two

the wisdom of fasting the islamic way ,
and its purposes in islam
the Whys

first of all , islamic fasting is not confined on a physical practice only , since its deepest purpose is to teach Muslims piousness . but the questions might pose them selves here are :
1 - what is the relationship between piousness and fasting ?,
2 - what is the relationship between piousness and fasting the islamic way?,
3 - why the revelation of Quran taken place specifically in the fasting month (Ramadan),why did not it take place in any other month ?. here are the answers :
1 - refraining (willingly) from some things sometimes , is similar to the use of car's breaks . this use should not be seen as a barrier before the car, that blocks it from moving on its way, but as a tool that enables the driver to make the useful stop, and might save his life. the physical part of the islamic fasting , requires refraining from food , drinking and marital intercourse from dawn to dusk . if you scrutinize these three things , you would see that they are all lawful things in islam (the refrain is not from drinking wines, eating swine meat nor fornication), but this is the point. if you trained your self (willingly) and when there is no one watching you , to refrain from the lawful that what you desire , you will have the strong will that will break ..... , i mean will enable you easily to refrain (willingly too) from what is banned upon you . take the marital intercourse as an example , if you willingly trained your self to refrain from having it during the fasting time ( 16 continuous hours for continuous 30 days at least) you will be more capable of refraining from it when it is time you were exposed to the seduction of fornication, specially under hard contidions (travelling alone abroad e.g) . this will make you a more faithful (more important : real) husband . apply it similarly with water and wine ....
2 - if you analyzed the activity of the islamic fasting , you would find that it is
Refraining from food and water when they are most desired , specially during the working days ,
waking up most of the night praying and reading Quran as it is the way of the Muslims’ prophet , then keep awoken till the time of the meal (at Sohoor meal's time before dawn) when sleeping is most desired ,
eating that Sohoor meal when you not only lacking the appetite for eating fully, but also when eating is most undesirable . this is what so called "pushing the human limits further" ,
Going on with analyzing the activities that were revealed as a complementary duties associated with fasting , there is “Zakatt Alfitr” which means paying charity to the poor at the end of the month (knowing that Zakatt with its various forms, is another pillar of islam. so fasting the islamic way represents a sample of variety of islamic worships) and before the last of its rituals “prayer of Fitr” (prayer is an islamice pillar too) . so as has been illustrated here , that ritual (fasting the Islamic way) in addition to the complementary duties associated with it , represents a sample of most of the pillars of the religion, and many of its worships (prayer , zakat , reading quran , connecting with relatives , refraining from all the forms of falsehood such lying , cheating …etc , otherwise wasting such great efforts without avail according to the prophets instructions*), and so , fasting the islamic way represents a fine preparation for the Muslim for proceeding his islamic life after Ramadan .
furthur , when it is the time the Muslim society faces crisis or catastrophes (provided that it is committed to fasting the islamic way), it is the best society that has been prepared and capable of managing these crisis (men and women alike, with all required manners : patience , stamina , compassion**, donation, carrying on for long continuous periods exerting efforts without food , water and sleeping) .

3 - there is an inextricable bond between quran and fasting (according to quran it self , review the quranic verse 2/185).
but why ?
first of all, we see in the second verse of the chapter within which fasting was prescribed, that Quran is a book of conversion, but only for pious people. given that quran was revealed with a comprehensive set of commandments that covers the whole life of the believer (the Muslim) , from scrutinizing every single item of creation (as a way to know the respectful Creator of the universe : chapter 7-185), to paving the way even for strangers and showing mercy for animals (where a woman deserved the hellfire for mistreating a cat, while a prostitue deserves the gratefulness of Allah and his paradise for giving a thirsty dog some water) , such a responsibility requires a great virtue called piousness, which icludes patience for doing Good, perseverance as a result of faithfulness.... etc. and piousness is what you get from fasting the islamic way (2-183).

article three
the quranic and the social contexts

the Quranic context
fasting is aiming to strengthening faith, and to growing piousness (how?)
the verse that announces fasting Ramadan as a compulsive duty, is a part of a long chapter, that begins with detailing the characteristics of the believers as the following :
A :-
" And who believe in the Revelation sent to thee, and sent before thy time, and (in their hearts) have the assurance of the Hereafter".
(chapter2, verse 4).
and ends (we are talking about the same chapter) with a declaration of the unity of faith , that encompasses the previous nations and prophecies as follows:
The messenger believeth in what hath been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the muslims . Each one (of them) believeth in God, His angels, His books, and His messengers. "We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His messengers." And they say: "We hear, and we obey: (We seek) Thy forgiveness, Our Lord, and to Thee is the end of all journeys." (2-285)
then comes the verse, in which fasting was stated, as follows:
"O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) piousness" (2-183)

here, we can see how the Quranic context (through fasting Ramadan) sheds light to the strong bond that connects Muslims with that long raw of previous believing nations, reminds muslims of their experiences of faith , urges them to respect these experiences, and to follow them on the same bath of faithfulness and response to Allah's commandments.
if it became obvious how that long raw of believing nations is connected to the same mission, and the same purpose of worshiping the one only God that created them all, if that became clear, no wonder then that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) starts (before prescribing Ramadan) with fasting a day that represented a celebration of the salvage of prophet muses (PBUH) and his followers (sons of israel) from the tyrant Pharon. there has been a saying of a wise man that says " the *****s are two, one who says : this is old, so it is all evil. and one who says: this is newer, so it is better than the old".

the social contexts
We have seen how Fasting Ramadan represents a preparation for Muslims, in the face of the state of victory and luxury, as well as in the face of adversity and crisis**. now, one last thing needs indication. ones might say : yes yes, fasting came just as a result of torture and starvation Muslims suffered from during the Meca epoch.
surely this is not correct at all , i refer who says this to the first sentence i wrote in this context**, and to the whole article.
Fasting Ramadan became compulsive in Madina, where Alansar "Muslims of Madina" lived an easy life, most of whom were rich and own fertile gardens of Dates, wide substantial markets....etc.
الجزء السابق مقتبس من محاضرة للشيخ محمد اسماعيل المقدم عن فضائل الصيام))
so it did not became a temporary procedure to in the face of adversity. because there were many temporal worships and rituals were abrogated when the circumstances had required them vanished.
in brief, there is one only purpose for presenting Fasting Ramadan as a pillar of that religion ...... piousness

Ramadan, and fasting the islamic way, re-form the Muslim, by enabling him to become a real civilized human being, in the face of adversity and crisis, as well as in the face of the seductions of powers, luxury and victories.
for that, it deserves to be a prestigious pillar of islam. Prophet Mohammad says " Allah (God) says ... every deed or act of son of Adam will be counted for him to be rewarded for. except fasting, it is for me, and i reward with it".
have a pleased Ramadan.

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