Quranic Reflection No. 469. Āyat 2:183 – Fulfilling the purpose of Fasting

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
Yā ayyuhalladhīna āmanū kutiba ‘alaykumus-siyāmu kamā kutiba ‘alalladhīna min qablikum la‘allakum tattaqūn
O you who have faith! Fasting has been prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those who were before you, so that you may be God wary.
‏(Sūrat al-Baqarah, No.2, Āyat 183)

As we prepare ourselves for the Holy Month of Ramadan, it goes without saying that there are a lot of mixed emotions accompanying it this year.  This is the first time we will not be able to participate in communal programs and share this blessed month with our fellow believers at our centers.  However, if we look at this verse, we understand that regardless of the ways in which we will need to adapt this year, our end goal from the holy month should remain the same.

Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā in this verse, orders the believers to fast, and immediately follows the command with the philosophy of this form of worship – to become God-Conscious and guard ourselves from anything that may take us away from Him. According to the tafsīr of this verse, the main object of fasting is to purify our conduct and character.  The act of fasting helps us become stronger in control over the desires of the soul. It builds character and nobility, helping the human being incline towards that which really matters. The inner and outer purity that can be brought about by fasting is the philosophy behind the obligation. It leads to Taqwa which leads to purity. Imam Ali ‘alayhis salām has said: Through God-wariness, actions become pure. [Ghurar Al-Hikam H. 10686].

Note how the command to fast is immediately followed by the reassurance that this rule is not only for the Muslims of the Prophet (s)’s Ummah. Other people before us have also been commanded to fast. This tells us that it is a common practice for believers, and we should not be unduly apprehensive of the obligation. Commonality brings comfort, knowing that others also went through it.

Although our Month of Ramadan this year is unprecedented, and we will miss the social gatherings and communal worship, He in is Infinite Wisdom knows exactly why we must experience this month in our homes.   While the doors of our masājid are closed, the doors of the Blessings of this Month and His Mercy remain open.  The Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam said: Verily the gates of the heavens are opened on the first night of the month of Ramadan and are not closed again until the very last night. [Mīzān al-Hikmah, H. 3349]

Here are some ways in which we can maximize the month of Ramadan in our homes:
1.     Establish Daily Prayers on time – Make it a point to recite Adhān out loud and perform Salāt in congregation when possible.
2.     Focus on the Quran, recite, ponder, and even memorize verses if you can. Do some activity with the Quran as a family. There are many creative ideas such as Quran journaling, scrap booking etc.
3.     Take extra time to read and understand the Du‘ās recommended to recite this month.
4.     Tune in to selected virtual programs.
5.     Be mindful of consuming less and sharing more with the less fortunate.
6.     Spend the nights, or at least a part of the nights, in prayer and seeking forgiveness.
7.     Manage your time well – plan out your days so that you are productive and reasonably well rested and nourished.
8.     Stay connected with family and community members especially those who may be alone.

Although it may seem daunting, use this unique opportunity to learn more about yourself and connect with Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā.  You will now have the time that you have been craving. He knows that is what you need for self-realization.  Do not let this month of Ramadan slip away without it changing you and bringing you closer to the Creator.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī, Al-Amthal fí Tafsīr Kitāb Allah al- Munzal, ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān.