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MyLLife Digest: March 2024

Peace (Salam) & Greetings!

The month of Ramadhan is coming up in a few weeks (on March 10 based on lunar calendar) that 1.8B Muslims around the globe look forward to. Given that the practice of fasting is a major element of self-cleansing and healthy practice among all major religions and even among secular people, perhaps in our current divided world we can explore and engage in conversations around fasting to see this as one area where we all can agree to and appreciate our common purpose and shared goals as human beings.Verse 2:183 in the Qur’an inspires the faithful to observe fasting as follows – “Fasting has been prescribed for you, as it was prescribed to people before you for a certain number of days (29-30 days) so that you can achieve God consciousness and become responsible human beings.” 

This verse is then followed by a series of detail instructions about the physical aspect of fasting but more importantly about the moral and spiritual aspect of fasting that is often ignored in many conversations on fasting focused purely on its physical benefits. We exist on multiple dimensions – physical, mental and spiritual and fasting, as prescribed in the Qur’an, emphasizes these dimensions to be wholistic to our human needs and aspirations.  Besides the Qur’an, the traditions of Prophet Mohammad (hadith) add further details to fasting as an important practice and an element of foundation of Islamic faith.Ramadhan fasting involves voluntary refusal of food, drinks, and sexual intimacy from sunrise to sunset each day during the month of Ramadhan.  Given that the practice is based on lunar calendar, the actual month then rotates over all seasons causing varying length of daylights hours ranging from 12 to 16 hours across the globe to observe this fasting. For the moment, we ignore the extreme north or south polar areas where days can be even longer and, in some areas, where daylight may not be available for extended periods.

A meal an hour before sunrise is recommended to start the daily fast.  Breaking fast as soon as the sun sets is also recommended while normal eating, drinking and sexual intimacy is allowed during the evening and nighttime to minimize hardship on people of different ages, health conditions and childcare needs. A related hadith brings to life the real purpose of fasting where the Prophet said, “If you don’t stop lying, abusing people, avoiding altercations, etc., then God is not in need of your hunger.”  Exhibiting and practicing good behavior, improving our relationships with one another, feeding the hungry, practicing greater charity and generosity, and developing communal sharing of meal and goodwill are another aspect of fasting. Beyond that there is a third dimension of improving our relationship with God in parallel to our relationship with people and repurposing our lives help improve human condition in this life and the life to come (Afterlife).  In this regards, a verse (2:186) from the Qur’an is helpful - When my servants ask about Me (God), (O Prophet) inform them that I am (always) near! I (always) respond to the call (or supplication) of those who call on Me. (So it is important) that they should hear My call and believe in Me so that they may be rightly guided!” This level of heightened intimacy with God and our own inner conditions is what fasting calls for.  A hadith adds further color to fasting where God says – “Fasting is for Me and I will reward it personally!” – thereby elevating Ramadhan fasting as a special favor from God.

Renewing our focus on civil society, rule of law and sacredness of human life and property is another aspect of Ramadhan practice is evident from another verse (2:188) – “Do not grab the property of others by wrongful means nor seek access to judges so that you can gain (title to) the property of others wrongfully while you know (that it is wrong)” – the over-arching nature of this call is something we all need to focus on as we practice fasting in a world dominated by settlers-colonial mentality of certain groups since the seventeenth century, the extreme drive for profiteering by businesses and individuals, relentless exploiting of natural resources for the benefits of the few, wanton disregards of the poor, minorities and disadvantaged and abuse (or lack thereof) of public policies to safeguard citizens rights, freedom of expression and social and financial equity across the globe.

Let this Ramadhan be a global call of solidarity among people of faith and people of goodwill. Let’s fast together and focus on efforts to improve our human conditions with personal and communal practices wherever you live and whoever is your neighbor! If you would like to share your thoughts on how you practice fasting and the benefits you perceive, pls write to us and we will share with our readers.