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Rotimi Bello: Ramadan Fasting – a significant act of worship

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By Rotimi Bello

Once again the month of Ramadan is here. It has been described by various scholars as a special month in the Islamic calendar for Muslims throughout the world. It is a time of inner reflection, devotion to God and self-control. Muslims think of it as a kind of tune-up for their spiritual lives.

It is a great opportunity for goodness, blessings, worship, obedience and attaining closeness to Allah. It is a month in which rewards for good deeds are multiplied, the gates of paradise are opened, the gates of hell are shut and the sinners’ repentance to Allah is accepted.

It is a month whose beginning is mercy, its middle is forgiveness and its end is redemption from the hell fire. Fellow Muslims, let us make the most of this blessed time by filling it with acts of worship and distance ourselves from everything that Allah has forbidden us from.

Fasting means abstaining from several things from just before the starting of dawn (i.e. just before the start of Fajr) until sunset, with the intention of fasting. Allah (S.W.T) enjoined Muslims in the Holy Qur’an (2:183), “O you who believe, fasting is decree for you, as it was decreed for those before you, that you may attain salvation”.

A Muslim fasting must abstain from the following: 1) Food and drink, 2) Sexual intercourse in day time, 3) Masturbation (most scholars say this is not allowed even when not fasting). If these three things listed above are done deliberately, a person’s fast will be invalid.

During and after fasting, Muslims should stay away from getting angry or throwing tantrums; using vulgar language; engage in backbiting and gossip; arguing and fighting with Muslims and non-Muslims; being rude and impolite; amorous looking, touching and flirting with the opposite sex; lying and cheating; allying with enemies of Islam against the Muslims and basically Muslims should stay away from anything that is Haram (illegal).

Allah has made fasting in the month of Ramadan obligatory upon every adult, sane, settled (i.e. not travelling) Muslim who is able to fast and has nothing such as al-hayd (menstruation) or nifas (post natal bleeding) to prevent him or her from doing so.

Children should be instructed to fast at the age of seven, if they are able to and some scholars said that a child may be smacked at the age of ten if he does not fast, just as in the case of salat (obligatory prayer).

The child will be rewarded for fasting, and the parents will be rewarded for bringing him up properly and guiding him to do well. If a Kafirun (unbeliever) becomes a Muslim, or a child reaches puberty, or an insane person comes to his senses during the day, they should refrain from eating for the rest of the day, because they are now among those who are obliged to fast, but they do not have to make up for the days of Ramadan that they have missed, because that time they were not among those who are obliged to fast.

People who are sick or travelling and pregnant or nursing women, are exempted from fasting, but they must later make-up any missed days upon recovery or return or after weaning. Women who are menstruating or bleeding after childbirth are not allowed to fast, but they too must make up missed days. The elderly and incurably sick need not fast, but they are expected to feed one poor person for everyday of fasting they miss.

In the event of any sickness that makes people feel unwell, or travelling, the Holy Qur’an in Surat (al-Baqarah 2:185) permitted Muslims to suspend fasting “and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number (of days on which one did not observe Sawm must be made up) from other days.” Those who have become senile and confused do not have to fast or do anything else, and their family do not have to do anything on their behalf, because such people are no longer counted as responsible.

The following things vitiate fasting in any circumstances. Menstruation (al-hayd), post natal bleeding (nifas), sexual intercourse during day time, deliberate vomiting, intentional eating and drinking, kidney dialysis, blood transfusion, taking of drugs, and injection of nourishing substances. Injection that are not given to replace food and drink, but are used to administer medications such as penicillin and insulin, or tonics, or vaccinations, do not break the fast regardless of whether they are intramuscular or intravenous. (Fataawa Ibn Ibraheem 4/189). To be on safe side, injections should be given during the night.

To Muslims, fasting is a means of learning self-control, because of abstinence from food, drink and sexual intercourse. It is also a time of intensive worship, reading of the Holy Qur’an and giving charity. It is the time that the adherents of Islam purify their behaviour and involves in doing good deeds.

Fasting is a way of experiencing hunger and developing sympathy for the less fortunate, and learning to show thankfulness and appreciation for all of God’s bounties.

Prophet of God reportedly said, “He who does not abandon falsehood in word and action in accordance with fasting, God has no need that he should abandon his food and drink” Bukhari and Muslim.

Tarawih is the special supererogatory evening prayers performed during Ramadan. During each night’s prayer, one juz (1/30) of the Qur’an will be recited, so that by the end of the month the entire Qur’an will have been read.

When the month of Ramadan begins, Muslims enter into a period of discipline and worship; fasting during the day, and praying throughout the day and night. During Ramadan, special evening prayers are conducted during which long portions of the Qur’an are recited. It is recommended that Muslims attend the Taraweeh prayers in the mosque (after I’sha, the last evening prayer), to pray in congregation. These prayers are voluntary, but are strongly recommended and widely practiced.

Similarly, “I’tikaf” is a spiritual retreat in the mosque, usually performed during the last ten days of Ramadan. A person making “I’tikaf” will spend the evening and night in the mosque, devoting his or her time to worship and reading the Qur’an. It is observed that many people perform i’tikaf, spending a whole night in worship in the mosque during that period.

The Night of Power or Destiny (Laylat al-Qadr) is an extremely important night for Muslims. It is the night in which our code of guidance, the Holy Qur’an was revealed to prophet Muhammad (S.A.W). The Qur’an was revealed in Ramadan (Qur’an 2:185).

The Holy Qur’an revealed that worship on this night is better than worshiping for a thousand months. It is beneficial for the Muslims to look out for this night that comes once in a year. May Allah bless us and enrich our soul with the abundant blessing of Night of Laylatul Qadr.

Ramadan is another time for personal evaluation of our relationship with Allah and fellow humanity. Muslims should take advantage of this great month to do away with fornication, adultery, corruption, drinking habit, lying, fraudulent activities and other vices that are forbidden by Allah for the benefit of the society and the entire humanity.

ROTIMI S. BELLO wrote this piece via: rotimibello_69@yahoo.com