Last time we talked about a few of the features of the holy month of Ramadan: the purpose of the fast, the sighting of the new moon, the length of the fast, those that are obligated to fast and who is exempt from fasting, in addition to how we celebrate the ending of the fast.
This week I would like to discuss some aspects of Ramadan I didn’t note last time, such as the many blessings that are available to those that fast during Ramadan and to those who fast voluntarily throughout the year: for fasting is encouraged as a means to draw closer to God.
In the Holy Quran, Allah clearly equates fasting with other good deeds. “For the Muslim men and women, the believing men and women, the men and women who are obedient, (to Allah), the men and women who are truthful, the men and the women who are patient, the men and the women who are humble, the men and the women who give charity, the men and the women who fast, the men and the women who guard their chastity, and the men and the women who engage much in Allah’s praise, for them has Allah prepared forgiveness, and a great reward” (33:35).
Although the challenges of fasting are great, we are encouraged by the numerous rewards God has in store for us.
For example: in a hadith (recorded saying or tradition) of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), one of the companions asked, “Oh Messenger of Allah, tell me of an action by which I may enter paradise.”
It is recorded that the Prophet recommended fasting.
Also throughout the Quran, Allah encourages fasting for expiation of sins, amongst other things.
For example: “Allah will not punish you for what is unintentional in your oaths, but He will punish you for your deliberate oathes; for its expiation . . . fast for three days
. . .” (4:92).
In chapter 5:95, again fasting is recommended as expiation for sin.
There are many blessings from Allah to the individual as a result of fasting during this holy month, but there are also blessings for the larger community because fasting encourages empathy in the hearts of Muslims for those that do not have sufficient food to eat.
As a result, believers are more generous this month in giving charity to those in need. I have solace in knowing that although I am hungry, it is by choice, and I know I will eat at the end of the day, unlike those that are hungry involuntarily.
Again, throughout the Holy Quran Allah encourages feeding of the poor, and giving to the needy, not only during Ramadan, but also throughout the year.
Unfortunately, here in Bermuda the international recession has hit us hard; more and more local families are finding it increasingly difficult to fulfil the basic need of feeding themselves.
Faith communities from Somerset to St George’s have heeded the call to help their fellow Bermudians by establishing food pantries and “soup” kitchens to assist with the increasing demand for food.
In addition, local businesses are trying to assist in whatever ways they can.
Finally, one last obligation of the fasters is to give something called sadaqah by the end of the month of Ramadan (preferably before it ends). This is a charity that is given to the poor prior to celebrating the ending of the fast called Eidul fitr.
We are to give money in the amount that it would cost to feed a person one meal.
For example: the average meal in Bermuda may cost about $10 or $15, therefore I would pay that amount for each person living in my household.
The masjid (Muslim house of worship) would distribute the money on my behalf to those in need.
I can’t believe Ramadan is almost over; it seems to have gone by very quickly this year. I’d like to wish all the Muslims in Bermuda a blessed Eid!