Do you know or have seen muslims around you fasting lately? Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar during which muslims abstain from food, water, sexual activity, swearing, lying, and other sins. Fasting from sunrise to sunset, during this month is a compulsory act for muslims and is one of the five pillars of Islam.
“The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Quran; a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the criterion (of right and wrong). And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, a number of other days. Allah desires for you ease; He desires not hardship for you; and that you should complete the period, and that you should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that perhaps you may be thankful.” (2:185)
During Ramadan muslims increase their devotion and worship as the sawaab (merit) for these actions is magnified. They also take part in spiritual reflection, self improvement and increasing their efforts to follow a more islamic way of life.
Muslims abstain from eating and drinking but also must refrain from sexual relations and generally sinful speech and behavior. Fasting aims to redirect the heart away from worldly activities and therefore cleanse the soul from impurities and repriotise an Islamic focus.
Through Ramadan Muslims learn to have empathy for those less fortunate by learning self-discipline, self-control, and sacrifice which in turn encourages them to partake in acts of generosity and compulsory charity (another pillar of Islam).
Fasting is compulsory for Muslims who have reached puberty, as long as they are free of illnesses and disabilities, and healthy and sane. Younger children, however, are encouraged to fast as much as they are comfortable with to practice for later life.
However there are exceptions as everyone’s unique situations and circumstances are considered. People who are traveling, pregnant, breast-feeding, ill, or menstruating are exempt from fasting. Yet some elders for instance with medical conditions insist on fasting to cater to their spiritual needs, despite Islamic scriptures recommending against it.
The previously non long term, health related exemptions however, do imply that once feasible the fasts missed perhaps due to travel or a short term illness be made up at a later time so as to complete the full month duration of fasts.