By Mahmood Jawaid
Muslims all over the world will be starting the month of Ramadan on Friday evening. It is the most blessed month in the Islamic calendar.
During this time, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. They abstain from food, drink and conjugal relations during the days and spend the nights in prayers.
Fasting is Muslims’ way of celebrating the occasion when God the Almighty revealed the Holy Quran. The revelation of the Holy Quran began about 1,400 years ago in the month of Ramadan and continued for 23 years. It is a collection of the statements of God the Almighty revealed to the Prophet Muhammad through angel Gabriel. It teaches us how we should fashion our life, how we can promote peace and tranquility in our society and how we can achieve eternal salvation.
Ramadan also is the month of thanksgiving for Muslims, thanking God the Almighty for bestowing the Holy Quran on humanity.
The holy book states: “O you believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, so that you may learn piety.” (2:183)
The Arabic word for piety in the Holy Quran implies “being aware of the presence of God the Almighty.” Whatever we do in our daily life, we should do it with the awareness that God the Almighty is watching us, and we will account for our actions to Him on the Day of Judgment.
This attitude makes us question if our actions are right and justified. If an act is wrong and unjustified, this awareness should prevent us from committing that act. During the fasting, this awareness is raised to a higher level.
Many sages have suggested a strong relationship among thought (awareness), action (behavior) and habit. For example:
“The thought manifests as the word; The word manifests as the deed; The deed develops into habit; And habit hardens into character. So watch the thought and its ways with care, and let it spring from love born out of concern for all beings.” (attributed to Buddha)
Or, Stephen Covey wrote, “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
Thus, doing something at a higher level of awareness of God for 30 consecutive days of Ramadhan makes it a habit.
Whether we are dealing with our spouses, children, parents, relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers or even strangers, we end up improving our behaviors and relationships. Fasting in the month of Ramadan thus provides an occasion for Muslims to practice good behavior and turn it into habit.
In order to emphasize this aspect of fasting, Prophet Muhammad has made the following statements:
“Whoever does not give up false statements
(i.e. telling lies), evil deeds and speaking bad words to others, God is not in need of his (fasting) leaving his food and drink.” (Bukhari 8.83)
The Prophet also emphasized that if our worship does not translate into a good behavior, our worship may not lead to salvation: A man said, “Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), such and such a woman has a reputation for engaging to a great extent in prayer, fasting and alms-giving, but she annoys her neighbors with her tongue.” He replied, “She will go to Hell.” He said, “Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), such and such a woman has a reputation for engaging to a small extent in fasting, almsgiving and prayer, but she gives pieces of curd in charity and does not annoy her neighbors with her tongue.”
He replied, “She will go to Paradise.” (Tirmidhi 4992)
What a better way of turning a good behavior into a good habit than fasting.
Mahmood Jawaid is a chemical engineer by profession and writer by avocation. The list of his books and published articles can be found on MahmoodJawaid.com.