Ramadan is the most keenly awaited month in the Muslim calendar. It is a time for fasting, spiritual reflection, prayers and doing of good deeds. The purpose of fasting in Ramadan is manifold and encompasses many important lessons for the believers.
♦ Submission to Allah
It is stated in the Holy Quran
"O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you so perchance you may attain Taqwa."
Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan in obedience to Allah’s command in the Quran. The main purpose of fasting is that Muslims attain taqwa or piety. Through fasting, a Muslim is tested twofold. One, he has to refrain from halal things that are allowed during other time of the year like eating, drinking and physical relationship with the spouse etc. Even with money in his pockets and food on the table, he stays aloof from pleasures of this life and this tests his obedience to his Creator.
♦ Moral benefits:
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)"
The Muslim is also tested by having to abstain most diligently from all things that are forbidden or haram. While fasting, a true believer makes a great effort to refrain from all major and minor sins so that they do not detract from the reward of fasting or blessings of Allah. Hence he strives to become a better Muslim by exercising self control and self restraint.
♦ Lessons in humility and compassion
Through fasting, Muslims learn to empathize with those who are less fortunate. Hunger and thirst due to fasting makes them conscious of the plight of millions of those people who do not have the means to feed themselves or their family a single square meal. Hence Muslims learn to be thankful for their provisions and are grateful to Allah for all the blessings that He has bestowed upon mankind. They also hasten to show compassion towards those in need and spend more freely on them.
♦ Distribution of wealth:
Fasting during Ramadan brings enormous economic benefits for the entire Muslim community. During the month of Ramadan, people with the means to do so spend generously on the poor and the destitute to seek Allah’s blessings. Those Muslims who are too old or too sick to fast have to give ‘fidia’ to the poor which means providing meals to them twice a day or giving grains or money equal to the extent of amount needed for the food. Giving sadqa-tul-fitr is also compulsory on all Muslims at the end of Ramadan and before Eid-ul-Fitr so that the poor can also join their rich brethren in the Eid festivities.
♦ Forgiveness from sins:
Abu Huraira related that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
“Whoever fasts during Ramadan with faith and seeking his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven. Whoever prays during the nights in Ramadan with faith and seeking his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven. And he who passes Lailat al-Qadr in prayer with faith and seeking his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven.” (Bukhari, Muslim).
In another beautiful hadith, it is stated that fasting during Ramadan will help the believer on the Day of Judgment in this way:
Abdullah ibn Amr reported that Prophet said “the fast and the Qur’an are two intercessors for the servant of Allah on the Day of Resurrection. The fast will say: ‘O Lord, I prevented him from his food and desires during the day. Let me intercede for him.’ The Qur’an will say ‘I prevented him from sleeping at night. Let me intercede for him.’ And their intercession will be accepted.” [Ahmad]
Muslims believe that on the Day of Judgment all living things will be resurrected and will be presented before Allah with the record of all their worldly deeds. Those who strive to live their lives according to the teachings of Islam and shun vices and sins in this world will go to heaven.
It is stated in a hadith:
“Fasting is a shield or protection from the fire and from committing sins.” (Bukhari)
Hence fasting in the blessed month of Ramadan is a great opportunity for the Muslims to seek mercy from Allah, repent from sins and find redemption from hell fire. This can be done by fasting with a sincere heart, praying a great deal, reading the Qur’an, being kind to others and giving charity to the poor and doing these deeds as acts of worship and not ostentation.