It’s that time of the year again. Today marks the beginning of Ramadan. I’m currently sitting in my cubicle at my internship and pondering on the purpose of Ramadan, and everything else that goes along with this sanctified month. Oh, by the way, I’m not ignoring my responsibilities; things are kind of slow in the summer plus it’s a Friday so I don’t have a lot to do.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar, and everyday of this month, Muslims around the world refrain from eating, drinking, and other physical needs from dawn until sunset.
This holy month is venerated by Muslims because of several reasons. Fasting during Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam. The Holy Quran was revealed in this month. Rewards are given and sins are forgiven for those who spend the days fasting and the nights praying. The gates of paradise are opened, the gates of hell are closed, and Satan is fettered. All rewards and sins in this month are believed to be multiplied.
The practices in Ramadan include: fasting, increased prayers and recitations of Quran, and charity. We offer iftaar (the evening meal with which we break our fasts) to those who are fasting.
What is the purpose of Ramadan?
Ramadan is much more profound than simply abstaining from eating and drinking. It is a time of spiritual reflection and worship, a time to purify the soul, refocus attention to God and our faith, and practice self-sacrifice.
In this month, we re-evaluate our lives under the light of Islamic guidance. The underlying purpose of Ramadan is to strengthen our powers of self-control, so that we may resist all evils.
Every part of the body must be restrained during Ramadan. The tongue must be restrained from backbiting and gossip. The eyes must be restrained from looking at unlawful things. The hand must not touch or take anything that does not belong to it. The ears must refrain from listening to idle talk or obscene words. The feet must refrain from going to sinful places.
It’s 1:00 PM right now, the last time I had food/drink was at 5:00 AM, and the next time I will have food/drink will be at 8:45 PM tonight. So, here in America, it ends up being over fifteen hours. Ramadan, however, is not merely a physical sacrifice. Ramadan is the total commitment of our body and soul to purify ourselves.
My personal take on Ramadan is that it’s all about sacrifices and self-growth. It’s about being able to resist the pressures in life. It teaches us to appreciate what we have. It shows us what hunger feels like, and to be thankful for the food and luxury we take for granted. I plan on doing some interesting things this month that will require stepping out of my comfort zone. Reports on that will be coming soon.
Until then, Ramadan Mubarak everyone, and have a blessed month!
P.S. Read this great article on The Huffington Post about making Ramadan more than an exercise in empathy.