Someone once sent out a question on why we fast during Ramadan. Some of the replies were: to detox, to gain rewards and to lose weight. There was little talk of the spiritual aspects to it. This got me thinking that throughout the passage of time, misinformation and lack of knowledge, we have lost the meaning of Ramadan and it has now become just a routine for many of us.
Many who don't understand Ramadan see it as a yearly hardship and are relieved when it ends. On the other hand, if we were to ask non-Muslims what Ramadan means to the Muslims, they would guess that it is the month of feasting and socialising.
Instinctively, any Muslim would know that this is not what Ramadan is supposed to be about. This series takes you back to the basics, and insha Allah, if you understand what a privilege Ramadan is, you will be crying with joy every time it approaches and weeping with sadness every time it ends.
Every act of worship in Islam contains four elements – purpose (why we have to do something), regulation (the rules in doing it), manner (the adab or protocol in doing it) and reward.
Naturally, we want the rewards attached to an act of worship. However, we cannot achieve it if we lack the underlying manner, wisdom and most importantly, the purpose. Performing rituals without understanding the objective will render our worship worthless, simply because it does not get us to where Allah intended us to be.
All the pillars of Islam, including fasting during Ramadan, exist to enable us to get closer to Allah. The main purpose of fasting is to achieve closeness to Allah, from which we may gain taqwa (God consciousness) and piety. Allah tells us:
"O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous –" (Al Baqarah 2:183)
The closeness we get to Allah enables us to better understand His message to us, for the closer we are to Him, the more of His message He allows us to comprehend. The core of the message is that our lives, and even dunia (the worldly life) is temporary. Dunia is our farmland, from which the good and bad deeds we sow will yield results in akhirah.
Allah knows that human beings have various weaknesses, and that our hearts are neglectful. For eleven months of the year, the majority of us are immersed in our dunia affairs. During this time our hearts and souls become afflicted with the diseases of the material world. We become infused with bad qualities such as greed and selfishness, and the diseases of the heart that can destroy a human being.
When we accumulate dunia, we tend to lose sight that we are slaves of Allah, not kings of His kingdom. When one gives dunia precedence over all else, the forgetfulness and even denial of the power of Allah seep in.
Visualise dunia as termites, eating us from within until our core is destroyed. Externally, a termite infested building appears to be in sound condition, but the reality is that its internal structure is weak and due to crumble at any time. It is similar to the corrosion of our souls, when it is eaten away by the various sicknesses we accummulate when we subordinate the message to our pursuit of dunia.
Ramadan is an invitation and even a rescue package from Allah to cleanse and purify our spiritual and physical selves and to unchain our hearts from the captivity to dunia. It is a one month retreat from the whirlwind of the material life and indulgence, a physical and spiritual bootcamp during which time we rehabilitate our souls.