2 The Review of Religions – September 2007 Bockarie Tommy Kallon – London UK EDITORIAL The Significance of Fasting in Ramadan Once again we have entered into the Holy Month of Ramadan to which Muslims the world over always look forward with a joyous surge of anticipation that inspires the hearts of the young and the old alike. During Ramadan, the ninth month of the lunar calendar current in Islam, fasting – complete abstention from food, drink and conjugal relations from dawn till sunset – is obligatory upon every adult Muslim, subject to certain permissible exemptions, notably for the sick, infirm, pregnant women, nursing mothers and those travelling on a journey. The purpose of the fast, as of all forms of Islamic worship, is to draw people closer to Allah. It is a physical, moral and spiritual exercise designed to promote righteousness and guard against evil. By abstaining from the lawful, it becomes much easier to avoid the unlawful. Among other things, the Muslim learns, through personal experience, discipline what hunger, poverty and discomfort mean to the less fortunate sections of society and is better able to empathise with them. Thus fasting goes a long way to minimise and remove the pains and sufferings of humanity. Ramadan is a season of closer communion with Allah Almighty, providing numerous opportunities to seek His pleasure. As such, the birth of the new moon which signifies the start of the lunar month is greeted with excitement. Felicitations are exchanged all around as mosques begin to be filled with eager worshippers. An extra prayer service is held every evening during which the congregation is privileged to listen to the recitation of the Holy Qur’an from beginning to end over the course of the month. Numerous people read the Holy Qur’an through by themselves. Others hear it inter-preted and expounded during discourses held and a reflection over the Divine signs contained therein take up a large Sept 2007.qxd 10/10/07 22:11 Page 2 portion of one’s time. Abandoning the comforts of beds, most of the night is passed in supplication and glorification of Allah. The day may be spent in worldly pursuits as usual but, more than during other months, the hearts remain tied in the remembrance and praise of Allah. Greater attention is directed towards philanthropic causes such as caring for the poor, the needy, the widow, the orphan, the sick, the distressed, the neighbour and the wayfarer. Towards the close of each day, the heart experiences a glow of gratitude to the Divine that His grace has enabled one to approach the end of the fast having spent the night and the day striving to conduct oneself in conformity to His will. Numberless people experience closer communion with their Maker and Creator during this blessed month, the intensity and frequency of which continue to increase as the month progresses. During the last ten days of Ramadan, many people go into retreat, as it were, into a mosque, devoting their entire time not occupied by obligatory and volun- tary prayer services, to the study of the Holy Qur’an and the remem- brance of Allah. This period of complete devotion is the culmi- nation of the physical, moral and spiritual discipline instituted by Islam. Fasting is the only form of worship in which the only audience is none other than God himself. In other forms of worship, one could allege that someone is praying or giving alms to be seen as amongst the faithful but a fast is only undertaken for God – there is no showing-off. The spiritual recompense of the Islamic fast and its con-comitant activities is beyond the fancy of the materialist. The Holy Prophet of Islam(saw) is reported to have said: “There are appropriate spiritual rewards for all worship and righteous action; the ultimate reward of a person who observes the fast solely for winning the pleasure of Allah is Allah Himself.” 3 EDITORIAL The Review of Religions – September 2007 Sept 2007.qxd 10/10/07 22:11 Page 3