Those are blessed who are rewarded with yet another Ramadan. There are many who experienced the blessed month last year but are no more in this world. So, God has offered us yet another golden opportunity to seek rewards from Him if we practise what has been ordained for us to do in this Holy Month.
With Ramadan on let us get started with the rudiments of Islam and fasting. Fasting in Ramadan is one of the five pillars upon which the edifice of Islam is built. The declaration of one's belief in God's oneness and in the message of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), regular attendance to prayer, payment of zakah (i.e. compulsory charity), and the pilgrimage form the other four declaration.
The month is considered an opportunity for Muslims to draw near to Allah, reinforce his God consciousness in order to gain abundant rewards from the Creator. The word sawm which has been used in the Holy Quran and Ahadith for fasting means "to abstain". In Islam fasting is primarily an institution for a spiritual discipline and self-control. It is in fact an exercise in religious devotion in the form of cheerful and willing renunciation, for a definite period, of all the appetites of flesh lawful in themselves (the unlawful ones being ruled out of course). The Holy Quran says: "O you who believe! Observing As Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al Muttaqun (the pious)(2:183)."
Mozzammil Siddique, noted writer and a scholar, writes, "Ramadan is meant for our moral and spiritual training and for the purification of our bodies, minds and souls. This is an annual training programme for all believers. It is a special time to get closer to Allah and to seek His blessings and bounties. It is a time to learn taqwa (God-fearing), piety, self-discipline and patience. It is a time to give more charity and become more generous. It is a time to seek Allah's forgiveness and to forgive each other."
The greatest achievement is that a man's soul is liberated from the shackles of his wishes and desires and moves a step further towards the lofty summits of knowledge and intellect. He moves a step closer to the Kingdom of Allah by rising above all mundane needs.
For this purpose, fasting puts a restriction on all such things which cause an increase in our desires and incline us towards pleasure. When a person endures such constraints, he is able to break his bond with this world and come closer to his Creator. It is this aspect of fasting because of which God says that fasting is for Him and He alone will bestow the reward for it.
The second achievement of fasting is that the doors of temptation and revolt are closed to a great extent. It is the tongue and the private parts on which the devil attacks the most. Fasting puts a check on both these instincts and weakens all inclinations of going overboard with these two. It makes it easy for a person to do all things that are pleasing to Allah and refrain from those which are displeasing to Him. It is this fact which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has stated by saying that Satan and his army are chained during the month of Ramadan.
The third aspect which a person gains from fasting is that his actual distinction — freedom of will — is given a great chance to develop and strengthen so that his character becomes adorned with the qualities of resolve and determination. He gets disciplined enough to control all sorts of emotions and reactions rising in his self. If a person's will power is weak he can neither control his wishes from exceeding the limits nor can he remain steadfast on the Shari'ah.
The fourth thing a person attains from fasting is that it inculcates and strengthens the spirit of sacrifice in a person and urges him to show compassion to people who are less fortunate than him. To experience hunger and thirst in a fast brings him closer to the poor and makes him realise their needs. Fasting affects everyone according to his own disposition.
The fifth thing that a person achieves in Ramadan is that the solitude and isolation he has in this month inclines him to spend more time in reciting the Holy Quran with a view to understand and practice its teachings.
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 Muslim is 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 zeal and fervour in this month.
Thus the whole Muslim society is inspired by the love of Allah. Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) as saying: 'When Ramadan begins, the gates of Heaven are opened, the gates of Hell are locked, and the devils are chained.' This is the month of the Holy Quran, and in this month is the Night of Qadr, which is better than one thousand months. Allah chose this month and a particular night in this month to grace humanity with His Final Testament. The moment of this revelation became a sacred moment, and that time and month became an eternal time for us. Allah chose this time, and He has filled it with His countless blessings.
Wishing you all a blessed Ramadan.