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Spiritual Wing - Ramadan… a time for detachment and self-regulation

It’s that time of year again where Muslims all over the world will fast during the day for the month of Ramadan. However, what is Ramadan and why do we fast? The foundation of Islamic spiritual practice is known as the Five Pillars of Islam. Fasting in Ramadan counts as one of the pillars making it one of the most important practices in Islam.

Fasting is not a new concept. As Muslims, we believe that the very first human alive through to modern day man has fasted, and of those who have, the majority have done so to be closer to Allah or to become more spiritual. Examples of this are not only found in Islam but Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and many other religions. There are a variety of different reasons why we see Ramadan as such a special month. One, is that we believe it is when our holy book, the holy Quran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). As it says in the Quran: The month of Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was sent down, a guidance for the people, and clear verses of guidance and criterion (between right and wrong). [Quran: Chapter 2, 185]

Ramadan is also a month of self-regulation and self-training, with the hope that this training will last beyond the end of Ramadan. Muslims will spend their month detaching themselves from the hustle and bustle of the modern day world and try to re-prioritise their life and remember what is important. While a person fasts, he is not only to refrain from eating, drinking and conjugal relations, but also strive to improve his own character by abstaining from bad deeds which have become a habit, such as swearing, smoking, holding grudges, lying (big or small) and many other such deeds. The main point of desisting from food and water and other actions is so that we can learn self-control and apply that to our everyday lives. Most people associate Ramadan with giving up food and water, but that is probably not the most important aspect as the prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said: “Whoever did not give up lying and practicing falsehood, Allah is in no need of his giving up food and water”.
Although Muslims are enjoined by their sacred Religion Islam not to engage in performing bad actions throughout the year, we get caught up, like many others, in our own lives and forget our real purpose. That is why Allah gave us Ramadan as a holy opportunity to be better humans, as the prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said

"When Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are put in chains."

As a Muslim I see fasting as a month to coach myself to be better both in the spiritual and worldly spheres. Firstly, fasting allows me to sympathise with the millions of people in the world who have little to eat. I refrain from many activities such as lying, getting into fights (even verbal) and swearing and coach myself into being a better human being. Breaking my fast with other members of the community brings us all together. It is said that spending more time in prayer during this holy month is more rewarding, and I find that this gives me a higher motivation to absorb myself in prayer. The giving of charity (zakatul fitr) before the Eid prayer which marks the end of Ramadan reminds me of the importance of sharing with those less fortunate than myself. The objective is to strive to make the feelings and attitudes that we endure during this month, to stay with us during our "normal" lives. That is the true goal and test of Ramadan and at the end of the month, Allah has given us Eid-ul Fitr. A day to spend with family and friends, to share our joys and celebrate what Allah has given to us. If one has never fasted before, we encourage you to try it and take the opportunity to think about transforming yourself and in turn, improve the world we live in.

Dr Adil Ibrahim and Basith Zaveri

Bhagawan’s Ramadan Discourse

Hazrath Muhammad announced the message of God that he had heard to the townsmen of Mecca. At that time, people did not give heed to the Divine Declarations. They forced him to leave the place. But, Hazrath Muhammad. knew that truth will win and God will prevail. He knew that the insult and injury were only for the body; the Atma can never be hurt. The Ramzan month is set apart for the holy task of bringing into memory and practice the teachings that Hazrath Muhammad conveyed and attaining that stage of unity and purity which is truly Divine. Islam gives importance to the Moon which regulates the months. Hindus consider the Moon as the deity presiding over the mind. With the darshan of the New Moon, the Ramzan fast begins and when the New Moon is seen again, the fast ends. 'Fast' does not consist in merely desisting from food and drink. The fast starts at sunrise and is broken' only after sunsets and is observed most rigorously.

During Ramzan month rivalry is avoided

Waking as early as three or four, in the Brahma Muhurtha, prayer is started, and throughout the day, the constant presence of God is sought to be experienced. This is the meaning of Upavaasa (fast). Also, during the Ramzan month, rivalry is avoided, hatred is suspended. husband and wife live apart though in the same home, mother and children both follow the same spiritual regimen and an atmosphere of brotherhood is maintained. The body, the senses and the mind are subject to rigorous discipline. Periods of fast 'comprising a month are prescribed in all religions. The Hindus observe it in Maagha and Shraavana months. Zoroastrians and Christians have allotted for themselves months for the same purpose. The Quran lays down that all men should cultivate the sense of unity, of interdependence, of selfless love and of the immanence of Divinity. Generally, all men take food of some kind or other for the body five times a day: an .early cup of coffee in bed, breakfast two hours later, a heavy lunch at noon, tea at four and a fat dinner at nine. Islam prescribes food for the spiritual nature of man and directs that it be taken five times a day, as prayer. For the arousal of the Atmic consciousness, for earning spiritual joy and for promoting the manifestation of Atmic illumination, prayer is prescribed as many as five times a day, from the dawn of discretion up to the moment of death.

Unity is the basic teaching of every religion

Prayer, in Islam, is also a congregational activity. Prayer in a group produces beneficial vibrations. Islam promises a greater flow of ecstasy when God is adored by a huge concourse of yearning: hearts. All of them bow low at the sight of the Masjid. They sit in rows on their bended knees and lean forward until their palms and foreheads touch the ground in humble submission to God’s Will. Misunderstanding, conflict and enmity should not disturb the serenity of the occasion.

Thus Islam emphasises the One in the Many, the urge for God which manifests in various
degrees in various minds. Unity is the basic teaching of every religion. Faith in Unity is cardinal. Without it, no system of belief and conduct can be a religion. God is One and the teachings in all faiths that exalt Him are all on Love, Compassion, Tolerance and Sympathy. The tragedy is neither the Muhammadans, nor the Hindus, nor the followers of other religions are practising these qualities in daily life.

Islam teaches that God's Grace can be won through justice and righteous living; wealth,
scholarship and power cannot earn It. Holy Love alone can please the Lord. This is the message of every religion. But mankind has ignored this crucial point. Ramzan brings together in bonds of love kith and kin, near and far, friend and foe. This type of negligence is happening in every religion. The followers adopt the rules they like and break those which they find exacting. So, they become narrow-minded and crooked. And, they rationalise their defects and justify their failings. They have become habituated to this practice of self-deceit.

Demonstrate love and tolerance in daily activity

Since Islam means surrender to God, all who in a spirit of surrender and dedication, live in peace and harmony in society, do really speaking, belong to Islam. Islam insists on full co-ordination between thought, word and deed. Muslim holy men and sages have been emphasising that we must inquire into the validity of the 'I' which feels it is the body and the 'I' which feels it is the mind and reach the conclusion that the real 'I' is the Self yearning for the Omniself, God. The Ramzan month, the fast and the prayers are designed to awaken and manifest this realisation. Whichever may be the religion, its emphasis is on unity, harmony, equal-mindedness. Therefore, cultivate love, tolerance and compassion, and demonstrate the Truth in every daily activity. This is the Message I give you with My Blessings.

Discourse on Ramzan, Prashaanthi Nilayam, 12-7-1983