Ramadan – An Exercise in Self restraint
By Sarah Siddiqui, Engage Minnesota
Ramadan is a sacred month for the Muslims. Muslims believe that this is the month in which the first revelation of the Quran, Muslims’ holy book, came down to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In Ramadan, Muslims are required to fast from dawn to sunset. Fasting is not just refraining from eating and drinking, but also staying away from acts such as cursing, backbiting, and so on. It’s the time of the year when Muslims try to become closer to God and try to humble themselves.
I think Muslims are the only people who actually look forward to a month where they can’t eat or drink, sunrise to sunset. But, there are many reasons as to why Muslims look forward to this month of fasting. Fasting in Ramadan helps them become more patient, and allows them to learn self-restraint. Food is everywhere. Literally! So, it requires a huge amount of restraint in order to not be tempted to break their fast. Also, people around them, like at work or school, would eat in front of them, which also aids in strengthening their resistance to give in. As said earlier, fasting for Muslims does not only mean no drinking and eating, it also means no bad habits like backbiting, cursing, or fighting. So, Muslims use this month to get rid of their bad habits. For example, if someone has a really bad habit of cursing and a situation in which they would usually curse comes up, he/she would restrain him/herself from cursing. This way, their resistance towards the bad habit will build up and, by the end of the month that habit will be gone. This is one of the biggest reasons why Muslims look forward to the month of Ramadan: to get rid of bad habits.
Nouman Ali Khan, a well-known scholar, explains an ayah in the Quran that speaks about Ramadan and fasting. The ayah is: “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) taqwa ,” (2:183; Yusuf Ali). In this verse, he explains that God gave Muslims fasting so that they may attain taqwa (piety/self-restraint) , which means an urge to protect yourself and watch out for trouble. He explains that God gave the Muslims fasting so that they can develop a sense of protecting themselves and that, hopefully, by the end of the month, they will develop the urge to always protect themselves. He then presents the viewers with the question, “protect ourselves from what?” He answers the question by saying God wants us to protect ourselves from putting ourselves in trouble, or in loss, and protect ourselves from disappointing God and his messenger Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). So, fasting helps you protect yourself from all the negative things.
Muslims also have to be patient and wait until sundown to eat and drink. They have to be patient with people who are giving them a hard time. This helps them build up patience, which is highly encouraged in Islam. The Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, taught his followers to have patience and to trust God at all times. The biggest realization that Muslims go through while fasting is that God has blessed them with so many blessings, for example food and water. Fasting is a way of temporarily experiencing what the people who do not have the means to get food go through. This makes them even more grateful towards Him, and because they are grateful they become closer to God.
There are many reasons as to why Ramadan is so sacred to Muslims. Way more than what I have mentioned in this article. Training on how to be more patient, and developing restraint is just the tip of the iceberg.
Sarah Siddiqui is a Freshman at St. Thomas University and the current president of the Muslim Youth of Minnesota. She is a life-long Minnesotan and lives in Blaine.