Every year, for one complete lunar month-the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, you as an adult Muslim are required to fast. From dawn to sunset in the month of Ramadan, you are required to refrain from all food and drink and sexual relations with your spouse.
If you are sick or on a journey you are allowed not to fast but you must make up for it by fasting the same number of days missed during Ramadan.
Main Purpose of Fasting
The main purpose of fasting is described in the Quran as "so that you may attain Taqwa or God-consciousness." Fasting is thus yet another instrument for bringing us closer to our natural state, our state of Fitrah and for cleansing this state from the dross of any disobedience and corruption.
"Fasting is a shield," said the noble Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) so simply and eloquently. And he also said: "Whoever spends the month of Ramadan in complete faith and self-rectification, his previous sins will be forgiven."
More devotion, closer to the Quran in Ramadan
Ramadan is a month of heightened devotion. In it, Salat is performed with greater intensity. There are extra Sunnah Salat on Ramadan nights called Salat at-Tarawih.
In the last ten days of Ramadan, some retreat to the mosque to perform Itikaf, a period of intense reflection and devotion, seeking guidance and forgiveness, and reading the Quran.
Ramadan is a great opportunity to get closer to the blessed guidance of the Quran which was revealed in this month. Ramadan is also called the month of the Quran.
Ramadan's effect on our body and behavior
The month of Ramadan is an opportunity to develop qualities of endurance and self-restraint, to control anger and a fiery or malicious tongue.
It is an opportunity to fine tune the body and shed it of obesity and sloth, and to benefit from any therapeutic effects fasting may have.
Generosity in Ramadan
Ramadan is a time to awaken compassion and solidarity with others and in particular with the poor. We are urged to be more liberal in giving during Ramadan and are required at the end of fasting to give Sadaqatul-Fitr, an amount to enable all to share in the spirit of warmth, affection and brotherhood.
Ramadan is above all an opportunity to reorient oneself to the Creator and the natural path of goodness and God-consciousness.
Ramadan is not related to God's wrath
Fasting in Islam is in no way related to penance for sins nor is it regarded as a means of appeasing God's wrath as in some religions.
The Ramadan spirit
Although Ramadan may appear to be a hard and difficult month, it is in fact an enjoyable time.
A special atmosphere prevails in homes, in mosques and in Muslim communities as a whole. Muslims look forward to the coming of Ramadan with great longing and expectation and feel a certain sadness when the month is at an end.
Ramadan is not about overeating and laziness
It is possible that too much emphasis is sometimes placed on the preparation of food during Ramadan.
In fact a greater variety and quantity of food may be consumed during the month of Ramadan at nights than in other periods.
And some of us may end up weighing more at the end of the month than at the beginning.
It may also be possible that Ramadan be taken as a time when normal work during the daytime is reduced or suspended.
It should be borne in mind that normal work activities should continue during Ramadan and it should not be taken as an excuse for sluggishness and idleness.
You need to be careful that the true benefits of fasting, of self-restraint and control, are not lost through gluttony on the one hand or idleness on the other.
Photo Attribution - Jenny Mackness - http://www.flickr.com/photos/53375223@N00/2418281969/