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  Roza and Quran  

Roza or fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. Sawm as it is called in Arabic is an exercise in self-discipline. According to the Quran believers should keep fasts in the entire month of Ramadan. Abstaining in the daytime from food and drink of their own free will, believers practice self-restraint and control for one month in a year so they are able to lead a life of self-discipline in all matters for the rest of the year. Since the Quran was revealed in the month of Ramadan there is a special association between Quran and Ramadan.

The fact that the Quran was revealed in the month of Ramadan shows a special relationship between Quran and Ramadan. What man does by fasting is engage himself more and more in the recitation of the Quran and the remembrance and worship of God. Thus fasting serves as a strategy to vie one time to understand of the Quran and come closer to God Almighty.

Apart from man, there are in the universe innumerable other things, all of which—having no free will of their own—adhere strictly to God’s law. Man, however, is not in the same category as these things, for God has given him the freedom to choose which path he will tread. Notwithstanding this divine gift of freedom of will, it is still the desire of the Almighty that man should, by his own choice, tread the path of obedience.

It is therefore to condition him to follow the path of restraint that the rule of fasting has been laid down. No mere annual ritual, fasting is a form of training undergone every ninth month of the Muslim year. It is not just a matter of temporarily enduring hunger and thirst; it is a lesson in the permanent practice of patience and tolerance throughout one’s entire life.

While on a fast, a man may have food and water before him but, despite his hunger and thirst, he will make no move to eat or drink. He exercises self-control. God desires that he should also exercise the same restraint whenever he has the opportunity to display his ego and his arrogance. He must not fall into unjust ways just because the bait is tempting and all doors have been opened for him. If man is to earn God’s favour, he must eschew the path forbidden by Him, and set his feet firmly on the path of modesty and humility.

The path followed perforce by the universe has to be adopted by man of his own free will. That is why it is desirable that he should lead a life of self-imposed curbs. The unflinching self-restraint, which prevents him from eating or drinking while on a fast, is the virtue which will guarantee moral behaviour throughout his life.

Moral Piety

In the Hadith, Ramadan is called “the month of patience” (Mishkat al-Masabih, 1/613). This month is meant to serve as a training course which will enable the individual to lead a successful life in this world by keeping his negative feelings under control. Negative feelings, it must be remembered, present the greatest obstacle to human progress. Fasting is the pious way to solve this biggest of human problems.

As the Hadith says: “There is a Zakat for all things, and the Zakat of the body is fasting. (Mishkat Al-Masabih, 1/639). Here, the expression Zakat is used in the sense of purification. There is, indeed, a way of purifying everything. Just as bathing purifies the body, so fasting purifies the soul.

According to a Hadith, the Prophet Muhammad observed: “Whenever one of you is invited to a meal while he is on a fast, he should inform his host that he is fasting.” (Mishkat, 1/651). According to another tradition the Prophet gave this very sound advice: “Whenever one of you is on a fast, he should be soft in his demeanour. In the event of being abused or provoked, he should simply say that he is on a fast.” (Mishkat, 1/611).

Leading a life of restraint for a whole month produces a transformation in one’s thinking. It enables one to offer a positive response even to another’s negative behaviour. Even strong abuse and other types of provocation will not goad the fasting believer into retaliating in the same coin. Rather than sink to that level, he will simply explain that he is on a fast. His own heart tells him that by observing a fast he has pledged himself to piety and that, in view of that, he cannot contemplate any evil action.

In this way, fasting inculcates in man the necessity to abstain at all costs from anti-social activities, and from all ungentlemanly words and deeds. He is thus brought to a life of moral restraint in this world.

 A Month of Sympathy and Compassion

According to a tradition, the Prophet Muhammad observed: “The month of fasting is the month of compassion.” (Mishkat al-Masabih, 1/613). That is, it is a month in which people are helped and shown compassion. This is the human aspect of fasting. That is why the Prophet and his followers used to be generous in giving alms to the poor and needy during this period. No one who asked for anything was ever turned away without his needs being met. One Hadith is to this effect that whoever feeds the hungry in the month of Ramadan will be forgiven by God on the Last Day. According to another Hadith, one who feeds the fasting person at the time of breaking his fast will share his spiritual reward.

One very significant thing about the month of fasting is that it affords a personal experience of the nature of hunger and thirst. Rich and poor alike go through this trial. And it is not a temporary, one-day rigour; it amounts to a special training course which one has to go through, without a break, for a whole month.

In this way, through fasting, one experiences what it is like to be in need. One finds out what hunger and thirst are like. The well-off who, in normal circumstances, are never obliged to suffer the pangs of hunger and thirst undergo this experience personally in the month of Ramadan. In this way, fasting brings everyone to the same level. The rich, for a time, descend to the level of existence which is the normal lot of the poor. Ramadan, as a training course, awakens the sense of humanity in all human beings. People are then able to share their feelings and have the urge to do the utmost to assist their fellow-men in distress. In this way, fasting for the month of Ramadan produces a general awareness of the necessity to extend a helping hand to others. This consciousness lasts for many months until, on the completion of the year, another month of Ramadan is before us once again to renew and refresh our humane inclinations.

To sum up, fasting produces an atmosphere of generosity. Well-wishing and compassion—an atmosphere in which people’s needs in society may be happily fulfilled. It is a means by which society may be turned into a truly human brotherhood.

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