As Muslims begin celebrating Eid al-Fitr marking the end of Ramadan, Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain explores the significance of the holy month of fasting.
The blessed month of Ramadan, in which the revelation of the Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) first began in the year 610 CE, has come to a close.
Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain
In a widely observed practice, Muslim adults all around the
world - except the sick, infirm or those on a journey - have abstained from food, water and sexual relations during the daylight hours throughout the month.
They have done so in compliance with the Qur'anic directive:
"O believers! Fasting is ordained for you, as it was ordained for those before you, that you may increase in Taqwa." (al-Qur'an 2:183)
Taqwa is a key Qur'anic term denoting piety, upright conduct and
consciousness of God. It requires patience and perseverance, and fasting is widely believed to help cultivate these qualities.
'Gifts and greetings'
Over the next three days, Muslims will commemorate 'Id al-Fitr in
celebration for having obeyed God's rules and teachings.
Throughout the country, tens of thousands of British Muslims will begin the first day of 'Id al-Fitr by visiting the mosque for the special congregational 'Id prayer.
Later, together with their families, they will wear their newest
clothes and visit relatives and friends to exchange gifts and greetings.
The Qur'anic passage cited above reminds mankind that Islam (submission to God's will) is not a novel doctrine; rather, it is the same message that was promulgated by all the previous prophets of God.
Fasting, as the verse enunciates, is not a new practice or one exclusive to today's Muslims, but was promoted by those same prophets to their own respective communities.
As Muslims follow a lunar calendar (which is around 11 days shorter than its solar equivalent) and are not allowed to adjust their year by adding an extra month - as Jews do - to keep in sync with the seasons, so Ramadan like all other months, progresses around the solar year.
It may be easier or more difficult to fast depending on the season in which Ramadan falls.
As a child growing up in Bolton in the late 1970s I well recall getting up in the early hours for my pre-dawn meal, at the height of the long summer days, in the fervent expectation that this time I would try and complete the whole day's fast.
With the passing of each successive Ramadan the Muslim character ought to develop, mature and enhance.
Ramadan should therefore be seen as an opportunity to renew and strengthen oneself with the challenge being not only to curb one's appetite for basic animal needs but to also rein in negative emotional conditions, especially anger, greed, intolerance, arrogance, and dishonesty.