Jalees Ahmad, Al Hakam
It was in this very month of Ramadan that Allah the Almighty revealed the Holy Quran to the Holy Prophetsa and began a spiritual revolution for mankind which became a means to eradicate darkness and misguidance that had plagued the world.
The link between the Holy Quran, which is the final book and blessing for mankind, and Ramadan is unique. Ramadan is a month in which “the gates of mercy are opened”. It was also in this very month that Allah manifested a sign of the advent of the Promised Messiah – who was to rejuvenate faith and dispel darkness and misguidance – when the solar and lunar eclipses took place.
Shedding light on this, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa states:
“[…] God Almighty sent the Promised Messiahas for our reformation, for the propagation of the Holy Quran and for drawing our attention towards acting on its teachings and also to reveal the paths for us to follow. Furthermore, he has granted us the opportunity to accept him. Thus, it is a huge responsibility upon us Ahmadis that we understand the essence of fasting and try to attain its true objective during the month of Ramadan; which is to adopt taqwa and continuously progress in it.” (Friday Sermon, 18 May 2018)
So, Ramadan is a very blessed month; a month wherein we seek God’s blessings, mercy and increase our bond with our Creator.
It is recorded that the Holy Prophetsa, with regard to observing fasts during the month of Ramadan, said:
“Whoever observes fasts during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards, will have all his past sins forgiven.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Iman, Hadith 38)
This hadith itself highlights the importance and grandeur of fasting in Ramadan.
Below is presented the importance of Ramadan through the lens of the Holy Quran and various extracts underlining the importance of fasting in Ramadan.
يٰۤاَيُّهَا الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا كُتِبَ عَلَيۡكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَي الَّذِيۡنَ مِنۡ قَبۡلِكُمۡ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَتَّقُوۡنَ
“O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.184)
The commandment of fasting, in one form or another, is found in most religions. The book of Exodus (34:28) mentions the fasting of Prophet Mosesas; and the book of Mathew (4:2) mentions the fasts of Prophet Jesusas.
The act of fasting is not something unique to religion alone. “Fasting”, as stated by Encyclopedia Britannica, “has been used therapeutically since at least the fifth century BCE, when Greek physician Hippocrates recommended abstinence from food or drink for patients who exhibited certain symptoms of illness.”
(To read about the benefits fasting has on our health, see: “Health benefits of fasting in Ramadan”, Al Hakam, 24 April 2020, p. 18: www.alhakam.org/health-benefits-of-fasting-in-ramadan)
The Holy Quran has explained the importance and philosophy of fasting in this very verse. Through fasting, God Almighty states one is able to attain righteousness.
The Promised Messiahas, whilst emphasising the importance of taqwa, stated that tawqa is a necessary condition for the discovery of Quranic knowledge. He states:
“The Holy Quran is the book of Allah the Almighty and the knowledge contained within it is in the hand of God; righteousness serves as a staircase leading to this knowledge. How then can the faithless, evil and corrupt, and those who are slaves of earthly desire be fortunate enough to receive this knowledge? For this reason, a Muslim, who is a Muslim by name, could well be the greatest scholar of Arabic morphology, syntax, etymology, literary critique, and other such sciences, and in the eyes of the world, could well be the greatest expert in all fields of knowledge, but if such an individual does not purify their soul, the knowledge of the Holy Quran is not granted to them.”
Huzooras further states:
“[…] it ought to be remembered that until an individual brings about a pure transformation and purifies the soul, one cannot gain an understanding of the insights and excellences of the Holy Quran. The points of wisdom and divine verities comprised in the Holy Quran are ones which quench the thirst of the soul. Alas! If only the world knew of that which brings pleasure to the soul, and then came to realise that what they require is comprised within the Holy Quran, and the Holy Quran alone.” (Malfuzat [English], Vol. 2, pp. 140-144)
Thus, Ramadan is indeed the perfect opportunity for Muslims to strengthen their relationship with Allah and increase their righteousness, which can then aid them in acquiring Quranic knowledge and lead them on the “right path”.
The Promised Messiahas, while explaining the spiritual superiority of fasting and Salat, states:
“Both fasting and Salat are forms of worship. The fast affects the body powerfully and Salat affects the soul powerfully. Salat generates a condition of burning and melting of the heart, and is, therefore, a higher form of worship than fasting. The latter fosters the capacity for visions.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 7, pp. 378-379)
Hence, during the month of Ramadan, we must strive to lay greater focus on our Salat and help inculcate within us habits as can please God.
Hazrat Abu Hurairahra is reported to have said in Sahih al-Bukhari that the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:
“Whoever prayed at night in it [the month of Ramadan] out of sincere faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all their previous sins will be forgiven.” (Sahih al–Bukhari, Kitab Salat al-Tarawih, Hadith 2008)
اَيَّامًا مَّعۡدُوۡدٰتٍ ؕ فَمَنۡ كَانَ مِنۡكُمۡ مَّرِيۡضًا اَوۡ عَلٰي سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنۡ اَيَّامٍ اُخَرَ ؕ وَ عَلَي الَّذِيۡنَ يُطِيۡقُوۡنَهٗ فِدۡيَةٌ طَعَامُ مِسۡكِيۡنٍ ؕ فَمَنۡ تَطَوَّعَ خَيۡرًا فَهُوَ خَيۡرٌ لَّهٗ ؕ وَ اَنۡ تَصُوۡمُوۡا خَيۡرٌ لَّكُمۡ اِنۡ كُنۡتُمۡ تَعۡلَمُوۡنَ
“[The prescribed fasting is] for a fixed number of days, but whoso among you is sick or is on a journey [shall fast] the same number of other days; and for those who are able to fast only with great difficulty is an expiation – the feeding of a poor man. And whoso performs a good work with willing obedience, it is better for him. And fasting is good for you, if you only knew.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.185)
This verse emphasises how Islam is a practical religion. Islam does not command that which is impossible to abide by and comply with. Therefore, where the Holy Quran has mentioned fasting, it has also clarified the requirements and conditions one must meet to fast and undergo this spiritual task.
Hazrat Amrra ibn Umayyah reported:
“I came to the Holy Prophet Muhammadas from a journey, and he said, ‘Stay, so that we can eat, O Abu Umayyah.’ I replied, ‘I am fasting.’ The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa stated, ‘Come close to me and I will tell you about the traveller. Surely, Allah the Almighty has relieved him from fasting and half of the prayer.’” (Sunan al-Nasai, Kitab al-Saum, Hadith 2267)
In another hadith, Hazrat Jabirra relates:
“The Holy Prophetsa was on a journey and he saw a crowd and a person, over whom a shade had been erected. The Holy Prophetsa asked ‘What is the matter?’ to which the people replied that the man was fasting. The Holy Prophetsa said, “It is no virtue to keep a fast while travelling.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Saum, Hadith 1946)
Therefore, through the verse of the Holy Quran and hadith, it is evidently clear that to observe a fast, one must first fulfil the conditions.
In this day and age, we find some who choose to ignore this verse of the Holy Quran and force themselves to fast, whereas this is clearly disobeying God’s word.
On one occasion, shedding light on this point, the Promised Messiahas states:
“It is an act of taqwa to follow the leniencies mentioned in the Holy Quran. God has granted permission to those who are sick or on a journey to fast on other days, which is why one must also act upon this commandment. I have read that many great men held the view that if one is to fast during sickness or on a journey, then this is disobedience [to God] because the purpose [of fasting] is to please Allah and not oneself. Obedience to Allah is to follow all the commandments and not apply one’s own notation to it.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 5, p. 67)
Our refraining from food will not benefit us, nor God. Fasting has been prescribed for our purification. Therefore, in order for one to be purified and attain true taqwa, one must show true obedience and submission to Allah in all His commandments.
Explaining the benefits of fasting, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra said:
“Due to fasts, one safeguards themselves from carnal pleasures and abstains from spiteful words. Fasting produces generosity in a person; it produces perseverance and courage. It enables a person to tame themselves. Thus, if a person fasts during Ramadan, fulfilling all its conditions with a pure heart, the month of Ramadan can cleanse all the sins they ever committed.” (Al Hakam, 7 June 1918)
شَهۡرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِيۡۤ اُنۡزِلَ فِيۡهِ الۡقُرۡاٰنُ هُدًي لِّلنَّاسِ وَ بَيِّنٰتٍ مِّنَ الۡهُدٰي وَ الۡفُرۡقَانِ ۚ فَمَنۡ شَهِدَ مِنۡكُمُ الشَّهۡرَ فَلۡيَصُمۡهُ ؕ وَ مَنۡ كَانَ مَرِيۡضًا اَوۡ عَلٰي سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنۡ اَيَّامٍ اُخَرَ ؕ يُرِيۡدُ اللّٰهُ بِكُمُ الۡيُسۡرَ وَ لَا يُرِيۡدُ بِكُمُ الۡعُسۡرَ ۫ وَ لِتُكۡمِلُوا الۡعِدَّةَ وَ لِتُكَبِّرُوا اللّٰهَ عَلٰي مَا هَدٰٮكُمۡ وَ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَشۡكُرُوۡنَ
“The month of Ramadan is that in which the Quran was sent down as a guidance for mankind with clear proofs of guidance and discrimination. Therefore, whosoever of you is present [at home] in this month, let him fast therein. But whoso is sick or is on a journey, [shall fast] the same number of other days. Allah desires to [give] you facility and He desires not hardship for you, and that you may complete the number, and that you may exalt Allah for His having guided you and that you may be grateful.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.186)
Alluding to this verse and explaining the grandness of this month, the Promised Messiahas states:
“This verse indicates the greatness of the month of Ramadan. The sufis have recorded that this is a good month for the illumination of the heart. The one who observes fasts has frequent experience of visions in this month. Salat purifies the spirit and the fast illuminates the heart. The purification of the spirit means that one may be delivered from the passions of the self that incites to evil, and the illumination of the heart means that the gates of vision may be opened so that one may be able to behold God.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 4, pp. 256-257)
Here, in this verse, God Almighty highlights that the month of Ramadan was the month “in which the Quran was sent down”. Thus, where we are reminded of God’s favours, bounties and guidance He bestowed upon the world, we must express our gratitude to God for His blessings and act upon the teachings He has laid out for us which, in actuality, benefits and illuminates our hearts.
Contrary to what most people assert, fasting is not simply abstaining from food; the essence is far greater. Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra states:
“The purpose of fasting is not to starve. If one could enter Paradise by starvation, then in my view, disbelievers and hypocrites would be ready to do so, as it is not so difficult. In reality, the challenging thing is moral and spiritual transformation. People starve themselves for the most trivial of matters; prisoners go on hunger strikes; Brahmans famously stop eating when they are not listened to. Thus, it is nothing extraordinary to remain hungry, nor is it the purpose of Ramadan.” (Al Fazl, 17 December 1966)
In a hadith, recorded in Sahih al-Bukhari, we read:
الصَّوْمُ لِی وَأَنَا أَجْزِی بِهِ
“The fast is for Me, so I will give the reward for it.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Tawheed, Hadith 7538)
Analysing this hadith and following on the path taught to us by the Holy Prophetsa, we are told and made aware of the importance of fasting. Through taking on the spiritual task, man is able to reach God Almighty and strengthen his connection with Him and also intensify one’s love for the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophetsa.
Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IIra states:
“So many centuries have passed between us and the Holy Prophetsa and so many years continue to pass. Every passing day separates us from his time, but with the coming of Ramadan, it feels as though this month has wrapped up all those centuries and brought us closer to the Holy Prophetsa. In fact, not only the Holy Prophetsa, but since the Quran has been revealed by Allah the Almighty, it feels that Ramadan has shrunken this vast span of time and brought us closer to God. The distance that exists between man and God, between the Creator and His creation, between a frail being and the Creator of the whole Universe all contracts and vanishes, just like the rays of the sun eliminate the darkness of the night.” (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 2, pp. 393-394)