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Ramadhan: The Month of Revolution

Ramadhan: The Month of Revolution
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DR JAVED JAMIL explains how the month of Ramadhan revolutionises the life of an individual as well as Muslim society by bringing about spiritual, mental, social and physical changes in it. 

Ramadhan can very well be regarded the Month of Revolution. Not only did the revelation of Qur’an, and therefore the revolution of Islam begin in Ramadhan, every Ramadhan brings a new revolution in the life of those who observe it. And as it is observed by a big section of the world population, the effects would obviously be experienced by the whole world.  Ramadhan is not just about fasting; it is also about Qur’an, Jihad, spiritual strengthening, Charity and Peace.

Fasting is the third pillar of Islam. Daylong fasting is obligatory on every adult and healthy Muslim in the Islamic month of Ramadhan. The Qur’an says:

 

O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you…(2: 183/A)

Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgement (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting…(2: 185/A) …(Fasting) for a fixed number of days. (2: 184/A) {NOTE: Fasts are 29 or 30 depending on the visibility of moon.)

..but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later. God intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful.(2: 185/A)

For those who can do it (with hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. (2:184/A)

..eat and drink, until the white thread of dawn appear to you distinct from its black thread; then   complete your fast till the night appears…(2: 187/A)

Permitted to you, on the night of the fasts, is the approach to your wives. …” (2: 187/A)

…. but do not associate with your wives while ye are in retreat in the mosques.( 2: 187/A)

Just as Salat, fasting (Saum) has immense physical, mental, spiritual and social benefits. Fasting of one kind or the other is prescribed in almost all the religions of the world. It symbolises self-sacrifice, devotion, discipline, patience, control, generosity and purification. Fasting of all kinds has a soothing and purifying effect on the body, mind and soul. In Islam however, it becomes a much more comprehensive exercise.

Islamic fasting is directly related to the beginning of the revolution of Islam. Its observance in the month of Ramadhan marks the beginning of the revelation of the messages of God to Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless and greet him), the Qur’an being the collection of these messages. This also means it also marks the beginning of the Prophet’s mission. This is why, there are strenuous efforts to recite the whole of the Qur’an at least once in the month of Ramadhan; people do it individually as well as collectively. This refreshes the whole mission in the minds of followers; they get an annual reminder of what is expected from them, how they must conduct and what is their ultimate mission: mission of Peace. They are told in categorical terms that the best form of Jihad is Jihad against Nafs (soul) and the best way to do this is to engage in an intellectual and ideological Jihad with the help of Qur’an.

Ramadhan is not just about fasting; it is also about Qur’an, Jihad, spiritual strengthening, Charity and Peace.

Islamic fasting is a much better organised and disciplined activity. It is obligatory on all Muslim adults to fast for the whole month of Ramadhan every year. Rules are much more precise. Nothing can be taken, not even water, during the fast that lasts the whole day. Having sex is not permitted during the fast, but is allowed in the night after the fast has ended. Twenty nine or thirty fasts in continuation, along with stress on the spiritual enlightenment through recitation of Qur’an, have a rectifying and purifying effect on the whole personality. This is a sort of strict training period, which reconditions the body for virtues and against vices. It also helps a person to curtail his weight, increase his resistance and immunity, give up his addictions and forsake his moral weaknesses. After each Ramadhan, many people give up smoking and drinking and become better Muslims. During Ramadhan vices like gambling and drinking show a steep decline in Muslim community. In pure Islamic states, of course, the problems are minimal even in the ordinary days.

Fasting also brings with it the month of charity.

  Having sex is not permitted during the fast, but is allowed in the night after the fast has ended.

The month of fasting each year also reminds Muslims that though Jihad against self and through Qur’an are the best in normal circumstances, in certain situations, armed Jihad becomes mandatory. It was on the 17th of this month that Muslims had been permitted to take up arms against the aggressors after a fourteen-year long period of patience against severe persecution. This will also be discussed in detail in a later section.

Fasting month in Islam ends at Eid, the festival of thanksgiving to God, peace, brotherhood and equality. The populace of the area or city gathers at one place to pay obeisance to God and listen to the sermon of Imam. They hug one another, exchange visits and gifts and help their poor brothers and sisters; each one pays a certain minimal amount, Fitra to the needy. At a larger scale functions are organised to promote communal harmony, especially in areas where diverse religious communities cohabit.

In Islam, fasting has the following features:

1.     A full month every year is specified for fasting; fasting in other months is not obligatory.

2.     Fasting is only for the day and the average duration of a fast varies from 11-15 hours, being obviously longer in summers.

3.     During the period of fasting, no food or drink can be taken;

4.     The believers have been advised to take a wholesome food just before the start of the fasting time as well as immediately after the expiry of the fasting time.

5.     During the month of fasting, food (lot of milk and fruits) rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals is preferred.

It is important to note that

1.     Fasting technically commences within the first twelve hours of the fast when the consumption of the stored carbohydrates begins. Once the fasting goes for a long enough period to consume all the stored carbohydrates and fats, the consumption of proteins starts. This stage in fact signals the beginning of starvation. Islamic fasting being only about 11-15 hour long, it in fact has a minor depleting effect on the storage of the carbohydrate and no starving effect at all. But with as many as 29-30 fasts in continuation, the net effect is some loss of stored carbohydrate; there is hardly any possibility of protein depletion particularly because protein rich diet is taken in plenty during the month.

2.     Fasting is said to increase the process of detoxification. Detoxification is a normal body process of eliminating or neutralizing toxins; the elimination normally takes place through the colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph glands, and skin. Fasting precipitates detoxification, as with no food entering the body, the accumulated fat starts getting used. The utilization of fat releases harmful chemicals in the blood that are then excreted through the above mentioned organs. Even harmful chemicals like DDT that have entered the body are excreted.

3.     Hunger is a natural healer, which is the reason why a person develops loss of appetite when ill.

4.     Abnormal growths within the body are not protected to the extent the normal tissues are protected and are therefore more likely to be autolysed in order to fulfil the energy needs of the body.

5.     Growth hormones are also known to be released more during fasting.

6.     An anti-aging hormone is also released more rapidly. Researchers have argued that the only reliable method of increasing age is under-nutrition without malnutrition. This is exactly what the Prophetic traditions prescribe.

7.     During fasting, the energy consumption is reduced in the gastrointestinal system and is partly diverted to the Immune system strengthening its effectiveness.

It is also important to note that Ramadan falls in different seasons, as the Islamic calendar is shorter by about 10-11 days than the lunar calendar. So not only every person experiences fasting in different seasons, the inhabitants of different regions on the earth experience fasting in different seasons at the same time. Furthermore, Islamic fasting is different from that in other religions in many ways. First, the rules of fasting in Islam are distinct and elaborate. It is obligatory on every adult and healthy woman; it is only for the daytime; it forbids all forms of solid and liquid intake unlike fasts in some religions where certain food items are permitted. Second, it is also associated with spiritual training. Third, it is of social significance too as Zakah (Obligatory Charity) is normally paid in this month.

Thus the month of fasting does everything that wholesome peace necessitates. It strengthens physical, mental and spiritual health of individuals; increases their awareness and knowledge about injunctions of God; involves practical steps to reduce economic disparities in society; promotes equality, brotherhood and communal harmony; and reminds followers of Islam of their duty to combat acts of aggression against them and those by the forces of evils against mankind.

Dr Javed Jamil is India based thinker and writer and Head of Chair in Islamic Studies & research, Yenepoya University, Mangalore,  with over a dozen books including his latest, “Muslim Vision of Secular India: Destination & Road-map” and  “Qur’anic Paradigms of Sciences & Society” (First Vol: Health), “Muslims Most Civilised, Yet Not Enough” and Other works include “The Devil of Economic Fundamentalism”, “The Essence of the Divine Verses”, “The Killer Sex”, “Islam means Peace” and “Rediscovering the Universe”. Read more about him at http://www.worldmuslimpedia.com/dr-javed-jamil. Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/javedjamil2015; alsohttp://javedjamil.blogspot.in/. He can be contacted at doctorforu123@yahoo.com

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