FASTING What it is, what it means.
Words by Faaiza Feroz
During the blessed month of Ramadan, Muslims all over the world abstain from all food, drink and certain physical activities during the daylight hours. QH finds out more about this sacred tradition.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan is considered one of the Five Pillars of Islam – the five activities that shape a Muslim’s life. It is an annual observance every year as Muslims take out an entire month from their lives to observe this strict fast and rededicate themselves to worship and faith.
The Arabic word for “fasting” literally means “to refrain”, and it not only means refraining from food and drink, but also from evil actions, thoughts and words. We are to make peace with those who have wronged us, strengthen ties with family and friends, and attempt to stop bad habits – essentially to clean up our lives, feelings, and thoughts.
Muslims feel the physical effects of the fast as a reminder of those who suffer throughout the year (such as the homeless, poor, refugees, etc.) and cannot meet their basic needs. It is a reminder to Muslims to not be wasteful and to feel empathy for those who face hunger on a daily basis. There is a multitude of people who have learned to survive without these basic needs, and Ramadan is a time for us to give thanks and reaffirm our commitment to helping those in need.
The fast must be observed by all men and women. Children below the age of 18 do not fast like adults, except for purposes of training and will be forgiven for breaking their fast mid-day if they can no longer continue.
It is not only children who receive some exemptions, however. The elderly, women on their monthly cycle, the terminally ill, and pregnant women are all exempted as well. Those exempted who can afford to feed the needy, can do so as part of the fulfillment of their duty.
The opportunity to compensate for any missed fasts due to unavoidable circumstances is presented the six days after Eid-al-Fitr or at any point during the year before the next Ramadan.
In preparation for a new fasting day, Muslims wake up as early as four o’clock to have souhour, their pre-dawn meal before commencing fasting. A heavy meal tends to be consumed because the energy from it needs to remain until the time of breakfast. The final week of fasting is filled with anticipation as people prepare for the day of Eid-al-Fitr.
Ramadan is a very important month in the mind and heart of every Muslim as it unites them and makes them experience how hunger feels for people living in the streets and who have nothing to eat. A sense of gratitude and appreciation is reinforced. Fasting is not merely physical, but is rather the full commitment of one’s body and soul to the spirit of the fast.