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Ramadhan - Getting nearer to God by abstinence

With the advent of the new moon of Ramadhan on or about the 18th of this month, Muslims all over the world will begin yet another month of fasting - not only abstaining from consuming food and water from dawn to dusk, but also foregoing some of the physical pleasures that they would normally enjoy and permitted at other times. All this purely in obedience to Allah's will and to please Him.

The purpose of this abstinence and its objectives are very clearly stated in the Quran as for the believer to become 'Muttaquoon' - variously defined as 'God conscious', or 'pious.' Allah says in the Holy Quran "Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Muttaquoon".

In explaining this the Prophet (PBUH) asserted that "Whoever fasts during Ramadan with faith and seeking his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven. Whoever prays during the nights in Ramadan with faith and seeking his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven. And he who passes Lailat al-Qadr in prayer with faith and seeking his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven (Related by Abu Hurairah (RA) and recorded in Bukhari and Muslim).

The aims of this abstinence therefore is clearly seeking the rewards from Allah. Allah further commands the Prophet to explain to his followers "And when My servants ask you (O Muhammad) about Me, tell them that I (Allah) am near (to them); I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls on Me.

Therefore, let them answer my call (by obeying my command), and let them believe in Me, that they may be rightly guarded"*(Al-Qur'an Surah 2, Verse 186). Allah, the most Gracious the Most Merciful, guarantees His creations the reward of right guidance. What better reward can one expect? As for Allah's rewards for the fasting Muslim, : The Prophet (PBUH) confirmed thus

"Abu Huraira related that the Prophet said: Allah the Majestic and Exalted said: "Every deed of man will receive ten to 700 times reward, except Siyam (fasting), for it is for Me and I shall reward it (as I like). There are two occasions of joy for one who fasts: one when he breaks the fast and the other when he will meet his Lord" (Muslim).

Self-denial, prayers and austerity

Allah does not desire hardship for the fasting person. The self-denial of food, water and other pleasures is only for a period of time - from dawn to dusk. When one breaks his or her fast at Ifthar time (at dusk), thereafter all those acts that were forbidden are permitted, as Allah says "It is lawful for you to lie (have sex) with your wives on the night of the fast.

They are an apparel to you as you are an (apparel to them) ................. Therefore, you may now lie with your wives and seek what Allah has ordained for you. And eat and drink until you can tell a white thread (of the dawn) from the black one (the darkness of the night)........... (Al-Quran Surah 2, Verse 187).

Abstention, does not mean that one must completely deny food and drink for the whole day. The Prophet (PBUH) has emphasised the excellence of the early morning Suhoor meal and the meal at breaking the fast as important events, thus: Anas related that Rasulullah said: Take the Suhoor meal, for there is blessing in it (Bukhari, Muslim), and Salman ibn Amir Dhabi related that the Prophet said: Break your fast with dates, or else with water, for it is pure (Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi).

During the month of Ramadhan a fasting person is required not to be wasteful and practice an austere way of life as he or she is expected during every day. They are expected to engage in prayers and the recitation of the Quran during the day and as much as they can during the night. The blessings one derives from these acts of worship and numerous without limitation.

However, it is not expected that the person who fasts during the day should let loose everything and go berserk in consuming food and indulging in other activities willy nilly.

The Prophet (PBUH) has warned thus: "Many people who fast get nothing from their fast except hunger and thirst, and many people who pray at night get nothing from it except wakefulness" - related by Abu Hurairah and recorded in Darimi.

And he further said in a Hadith related by Abu Huraira "If a person does not avoid false talk and false conduct during Siyam, then Allah does not care if he abstains from food and drink" (Bukhari, Muslim).

Therefore, what is desired of a fasting Muslim is absolute sincerity and an exemplary conduct that is accepted by Allah.

That does not mean that the Muslim is required to observe these codes for and of "exemplary conduct" only during the month of Ramadhan per se - Ramadhan is supposed to be "workshop" for one to train him or herself to observe the practices throughout one's life.

Another aspect of the fast in Ramadhan, is the aspect of caring and sharing that is promoted during this time as the Prophet (PBUH) has emphasised in a hadith related by Zaid ibn Khalid Juhni "He who provides for the breaking of the Siyam of another person earns the same merit as the one who was observing Siyam without diminishing in any way the reward of the latter"(Tirmidhi).

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