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Ramadan, The Month We Are the Guests of God

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Samaneh Nazerian

Fasting has very serious benefits for the mind, body, and spirit. It’s a great healer; it strengthens and purifies us. It’s a redeemer; it removes us from worldly concerns. It redirects the hearts away from worldly activities toward the Divine.

Fasting in the holy month of Ramadan is one of the pillars of Islam. Purity of both thought and action is paramount. And like other divine commands, knowing all aspects of fasting is not possible for ordinary people. The limited knowledge of humans cannot discover and learn all its wonderful secrets; all the philosophies of life cannot be explained by the human mind -- it is not able to answer all the questions.

So, not knowing the philosophy of divine commands should not prevent us from obeying them. It’s not only slavish adherence to the religion but is also based on knowledge and certitude; Muslims know that the Lord of the Universe is well aware of all things and has no needs and weaknesses.

He is the source of kindness and righteousness and wants human beings to be righteous as well. Anything that God ordains has benefit for us. Thus, if He gives us an order to do something, we merely make a virtue of necessity.

Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan is obligatory for men and women once they attain respectively the age of 15 and 9. Pregnant women, the elderly, and the ill are all exempt from fasting as lack of food could damage their health.

Physical benefits of fasting  

Yes, fasting has great spiritual benefits but there are very real and tangible rewards in the flesh, or shall I say for our flesh. Fasting, when properly done, can provide great benefits for our physical bodies.

Scientific studies have shown that fasting can improve health and help to eliminate a variety of diseases.

Major health benefits of fasting include a reduced risk of cancer, the slowing of the aging process, and the potential to increase the maximum life span. Currently, the reduction of caloric intake is the only proven method of increasing the lifespan of an organism.

Fasting is a way of cleansing the body of toxins and dead or diseased tissues, and giving the gastro-intestinal system a rest.

Not only does it detoxify cells and rejuvenate organs, but it can actually cure several diseases and conditions, including cardiovascular diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, colitis, psoriasis, lupus, and some other autoimmune disorders. Scientists believe that “Fasting is Nature’s Restorer.” And there is empirical evidence to corroborate their statements.

Recent studies have shown that fasting led to improved insulin and blood sugar control and neuronal resistance to injury.

The speeches of Islamic religious leaders also clearly reflected the physical effects of fasting. They have said: “The stomach is the home of various diseases, and abstaining from all food and drink is the best treatment for them.”

Prophet Muhammad (S) also strongly recommended: “Fast in order to be healthy.”

We should bear in mind that during Ramadan, our diet should not differ very much from our normal diet. It should be as simple as possible. The ideal diet should maintain our normal weight, neither decreasing nor increasing it during the month. During iftar (the evening meal for breaking the daily fast) and sahar (the pre-dawn meal) we should not overeat.

Spiritual benefits of fasting

Fasting redirects the heart away from worldly activities and cleanses our soul from sins and impurities. It induces a comfortable feeling of peace and calm.

We draw closer to the Lord by abandoning the things we enjoy, including food and drink. This makes the sincerity of our faith and our devotion to God all the more evident.

By fasting, we learn to restrain our low desires. In other words, we gain taqwa, which can be described as the care taken by a person to do everything God has commanded and to keep away from everything that He has forbidden.

Through taqwa we suppress our inordinate desires and demands of nafs-e-ammarah (man’s base carnal propensity). The carnal desires are perpetually in collusion with Satan to spiritually and morally ruin the believers.

It allows us to gain control of carnal desire. When we can develop the discipline to fast, we automatically develop the discipline not to overeat. When we can control our strongest carnal desire (the desire for food) then we can gain control of the other carnal desires as well.

It is more than abstaining from food and drink. It also inculcates a sense of fraternity and solidarity, we feel and experience what our needy and hungry brothers and sisters feel. We become more conscious of our less fortunate brethren and their hardships. We thus learn the lesson of sacrificing some of our wealth to aid others in need. It inculcates in us a feeling for humanity.

Sin and futile actions negate the beneficial effects of fasting. It is therefore essential for us to exercise utmost care and abstain from sin and all futile actions.

Should we not be heedful of this important condition, our mere abstention from food and water will be akin to a chained animal which is denied food. Spiritually, such abstention from food and drink is of no value. We should therefore understand well the purpose of fasting and transform our abstention from food into a higher achievement of abstaining from sin.

Ramadan is a month of self-regulation, self-training, self-purification, sacrifice, and sympathy for those who are less fortunate. It’s the best opportunity to show our generosity, with hope that this training will last beyond the end of the year.

Source: http://www.mehrnews.com/

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