The Ramadan Experience

Ramadan is a special month of the year for over one billion Muslims throughout the world. During this month adult and healthy Muslims fast which lasts the entire month.

The daily period of fasting starts at the break of dawn and ends with the setting of the sun. During the daylight hours, Muslims totally abstain from food, drink, and smoking. At the end of the day the fast is broken with a meal called the iftar.

Ramadan is a time of intensive worship and devotion to God, a time of reading the Qur’an and inner reflection, of comprehensive thanksgiving, of self­control and kindness, of training oneself to be a good, moral person, and a time for doing good deeds.

Fasting during Ramadan is an act of obedience. It breaks the illusory lordship of the carnal self and, reminding it of its helplessness, convinces it that it is a servant, not a lord.

To non­Muslims, it may appear to be a time of hardship and deprivation, but that is not our experience. Muslims think of Ramadan as a kind of tune­up for their spiritual lives.

As the third “pillar” of Islam, fasting has many special benefits. Among these, the most important is that it is a means of learning self­control.

As a secondary goal, fasting is a way of experiencing hunger and developing sympathy for the less fortunate, and learning to thankfulness and appreciation for all of God‘s bounties. It increases people’s sympathy and compassion for people who are deprived of the daily means of survival.

Fasting is also beneficial to the health and provides a break in the cycle of rigid habits or overindulgence.

Perhaps fasting in Ramadan is the most widely practiced of all the Muslim forms of worship. Yet, it does not prevent Muslims from conducting their day­to­day work, or business, as usual.

It is also a time of generosity. People are more generous, and more ready than at other times of the year to do good and charitable work. Muslims often invite one another, friends and guests to share the evening meal and to exchange gifts and best wishes. Fasting establishes a continuity of practice with religions such as Judaism and Christianity, in which fasting is recognized as an important element.

During fasting not only are Muslims obliged to restrain the stomach, but also the tongue, eyes, ears, other limbs, and the heart and mind. Just as we control our physical appetites, we must also control our negative emotions and actions.

The Messenger of Islam, Muhammed, pbuh, expressed that fasting is not refraining from eating and drinking; fasting is also refraining from unpleasant, repulsive acts. He added that if someone verbally

abuses you, acts ignorantly towards you, or even hurts you, you should respond to them, saying only, ‘I am fasting; I am indeed fasting.’

As we see from the above prophetic narration, like in many others religious practice is meant to establish inner, individual, and outer collective peace and prosperity within society. We believe that any conflict between the members of the religions and communities is due to misunderstandings for political or other purposes and we should beware of those who use religion to divide. The world today needs peace more than at any other time in history. To avoid clashes among communities and to establish peace, the true believers should come together upon their common values and references, while acknowledging the variety of belief and practice. For this reason, people, like you here give priority to love, compassion, dialogue, respect for others’ rights, positive action and non­violent methods and means. Being loyal to a particular faith and its essence does not prevent its members from understanding contemporary values.

By coming together here, at one table, we can prove that this is a situation of great richness, with remarkable opportunities for mutual understanding and for creating a society rooted in common values. We can demonstrate to society the idea that people can live together, regardless of group, faith, or ideology.

As F Gulen, whom Turkish Muslims are greatly encouraged and inspired by, said, “We have a great deal to learn from one another. Together, listening and responding with openness and respect, we can move forward to work in ways that acknowledge genuine differences but which are built on shared hopes and values, to attain peace and to help bring about the long­awaited cooperation of world civilizations, and to encourage justice, love, respect and altruism.”

The views and opinions expressed on The Falls are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Niagara Foundation, its staff, other authors, members, partners, or sponsors.