As the thin crescent appeared on the horizon last evening, joys erupted. It heralded the arrival of Ramadan, the month every Muslim looks forward to with zeal and fervour. Fasting, one of the five pillars of Islam, is an occasion for earning maximum rewards for our good deeds and provides us an opportunity for forgiveness and emancipation from our sins.
Ramadan is not a month of mere fasting, but a time to reassess our commitments to Allah for upholding and practising His directives as revealed in the Holy Quran and following the Sunnah of Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him).
Fasting offers us opportunities to strengthen our God-consciousness and take care of our less fortunate brethren. In this month, Allah has promised us to forgive all our past sins if we devote our time fully engaged in good deeds, worship and charity-giving.
Ramadan is the month "in which the Holy Qur'an was sent down as a guide to mankind and as clear (signs) for guidance and judgment between right and wrong." This month calls upon us, yet again, to reflect on our lives and judge for ourselves to what extent we have lived, and live, by the Divine Guidance. Ramadan is one of the sacred observances of Muslims as it is the month in which the Almighty Allah revealed the Holy Quran to Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) as guidance for all mankind, and not just to Muslims alone.
The month is considered an opportunity for Muslims to draw closer to Allah, and reinforce their God consciousness in order to gain abundant rewards from the Creator. The word sawm, which has been used in the Holy Quran and Hadith for fasting means "to abstain".
Ramadan is a time to reap; and every obligatory good deed increases seventy fold; a voluntary one becomes like the obligatory; the doors of hell are closed and the Satans are chained, doors of Paradise are opened. It has a night better than a thousand months. It is a period of heightened devotion and quickened piety, of self-discipline and generous sharing.
Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), once addressing Muslims on the eve of Ramadan, proclaimed: "O people! Indeed ahead of you is the blessed month of Allah. A month of blessings, mercy and forgiveness. Its days the best of days, its nights, the best of nights, and its hours, the best of hours. It is the month which invites you to be the guests of God and invites you to be one of those near to Him."
Each breath you take glorifies Him, your sleep is worship, your deeds are accepted and your supplications are answered. So, ask God, your Lord, to give you a sound body and an enlightened heart so may you be able to fast and recite the Holy Quran. Remember the hunger and the thirst of the day of Qiyamah with your hunger and thirst; give alms to the needy and poor, honour the elderly people and show kindness to the young ones, maintain relations with your blood relations; guard your tongues, close your eyes to that which is not permissible for your sight, close your ears to that which is forbidden to hear, show compassion to the orphans of people so compassion may be shown to your orphans."
The social aspect of fasting in Ramadan is that the whole atmosphere is suffused with religious piety and devotion to Allah. There is one extra congregational prayer, Taraweeh, during the night, in which the Holy Quran is recited and the Muslims are reminded of the fact that it was in the month of Ramadan that the revelation of the Holy Quran commenced.
The sadaqat are also given with greater zea