Associate Professor of Islamic Theology and Philosophy, The Muslim College London and Head of Interfaith, London Central Mosque and London Islamic Cultural Centre

Associate Professor of Islamic Theology and Philosophy, The Muslim College London and Head of Interfaith, London Central Mosque and London Islamic Cultural Centre

“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous (tattaqun)” (Al-Baqarah, 2:181). Righteousness (taqwa) or God consciousness is the main theme of fasting and indeed chapter of the Qur’an, the longest chapter of the Qur’an. At the beginning of chapter two of the Qur’an, God says “This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah” (muttaqin) (2:2) and He also says : “Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah , the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveller, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah; [those who] fulfil their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous” (2:177) (muttaqun).

From the above Qur’anic passages, we can notice that (taqwa) which is the theme of fasting transcends beyond the outwardly explicit ritualistic movements of the body to deeply spiritual teachings of Islam regarding consciousness of God and His Majestic presence in us thus kindling in us Islamic ethical values, Islamic humanism and compassion. The condition of the human heart that activates all righteousness is called (taqwa).  This sense of Divine presence everywhere inculcates in both the fear (khashiya) of God and love (mahabbah) of Him.

Being with Allah and reflecting on His divine attributes inculcate in us values of human morality and lofty ideals. In this way, it is believed that we can purify ourselves from aliments of the heart in terms of arrogance, sin, callousness and injustice. Qur’an states: “But those will prosper who purify themselves. And glorify the name of their Guardian-Lord, and (lift their hearts) in prayer” (87:14-15)

Indeed, the idea that God has established common moral values for all humans is in all major religions.  Humans share certain values, such as that murder is evil, justice as a good thing and certain basic institutions like family. The Qur’an declares with utmost emphasis and clarity: “O people! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that ye may despise each other).  Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous (atqakum) of you.  And God has full knowledge and is well-acquainted (with all things)” Al-Hujurat 49: 13.

The two ethical terms of Islam that frequently occur in the Qur’an  are ma‘ruf  good, virtue and munkar bad, evil.  Ma‘ruf is an action that is generally recognised and known to people as acceptable, good and hence virtuous.  Munkar is an action that is generally unacceptable to people and hence bad and evil.  The life that is worthy of man is one totally dedicated to the pursuit of the divine will in all its detail.

Fasting is in essence about purification of the soul from diseases in order to get acceptance of Allah of our deeds. This purification (tazkiyah) comes through doing good and charitable deeds to your fellow humans and the creation of God. Thus, fasting makes us feel the pain and hunger our fellow humans and indeed encourages one to help, give and share. Fasting is about spending on the path of God. Fasting is indeed to make us better people, better husbands, better wives, better children better parents and better leaders. Moreover, fasting is the month of Qur’an in that the devotees read and reflect on the universal moral teachings of the Qur’an and implement them in oneself.

In addition to the high spiritual and moral development associated with fasting, it also has physical medicinal benefits. It is an opportunity, I guess for us to renew and revitalise our cells. Indeed, fasting makes us manage our diets.

Finally, fasting makes us closer to God and deepens our sense of subservience to God. It is believed that this devotion of fasting will have a great impact upon us morally, spiritually, physically and indeed in terms of our human relations. Invariably, fasting is about consciousness of God, character building and checking of our vain passions. It is remarking, celebrating and demonstrating, philanthropy, humanism, selflessness and altruism embedded in Islam. Indeed, Allah sent the Prophet to be mercy for the entire humanity and universe.

I take this opportunity to wish all my Gambian brothers and sisters and indeed the people around the world Ramadan Kareem.

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