Why do we fast?

2009-08-28 00:00

THE holy Qur’an says “fasting is a Godly prescription” for self-reformation, self-control, for maintenance of human dignity and freedom for victory and peace.

If Muslims fast in a proper manner, the result should be that they are in control of themselves and are able to exercise full command over their passions, disciplines and desires, and resist all evil temptations. This is a course in a season that puts us in a position to restore our dignity, and integrity and to attain freedom from the captivity of evil. Then once we obtain all this, we should have established inner peace, which is the source of permanent peace with God and consequently the entire universe.

Ramadan, the month of fasting, is linked to a number of important events in Islamic history. It is the month in which the Holy Qur’an was revealed to the heart of the holy prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It is also this month, in the second year after migration to Medina, in which the resolve and commitment of the small, budding Muslim community was tested by the Battle of Badr.

The migration was a move away from the “predatory elitist community” — enslaving masses through “interest”. In the eighth year the Muslims were rewarded by the liberation of Mecca from a predatory, capitalist, social structure. Some years later the martyrdom of Imam Ali (God be pleased with him) took place. He was killed by Muslims who became extreme in their views and their hearts were devoid of love. To all these momentous events must be added the individual’s own effort in the month of Ramadan, not only as a duty, which indeed it is, but also as an attempt to learn the lesson or lessons that Ramadan can teach to those of us who are willing to learn.

During Ramadan, we should all reflect on the many blessings God has bestowed upon us. Those of us who live here in a comfort zone have been blessed with many material bounties that are unimaginable to many of our neighbours. Ramadan focuses our appreciation of the food and other material blessing we enjoy by allowing us to experience at a personal level the reality of deprivation.

History is today repeating itself with the present war on Islam which denounces “slavery of the masses” by a predatory elite. Islam is perceived as an uncompromising obstacle standing in the way of the present arrogant slave masters of the world.

They shamelessly wage the present “war on Islam” in order to preserve the supremacy of their godless way of life, and of their system of dominance and oppression over mankind.

And so Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti and countless others who resist, must bleed to death.

Let there be absolutely no doubt whatsoever about that final victory of truth over falsehood, and of the oppressed over their oppressors.

When Muslims fast from dawn to sunset in the month of Ramadan, they confirm thereby their belief in all the Prophets and all divinely revealed scripture. We invite all those who recognise truth in the above to join with us in fasting this blessed month of Ramadan. The fast began on August 22, dependent on the “sighting” of the new moon. The concept of going out and looking at the moon is again connecting you with nature and the creator. It’s really interesting that before you pray you use water and if you don’t have water you use earth. It’s like touching the world — touch these things, hold them. One of the things that children do naturally is that they love to touch mud. The reason is that they are still connected. The world is very real to them. We become so abstracted.

I may sound irreligious to many Muslims with a piety complex and who think heaven has a sign saying “members of our tribe only” when I quote Bob Marley, who, melodically reminded us: “Them belly full, but we hungry — A hungry mob is an angry mob.”

We all know the primal nature of hunger, we have experienced the irritability that comes from missing breakfast or skipping our cup of morning coffee or tea. We hyperbolically talk of starving when a meal time draws near. Our food trysts are now frequent every day in what sociologists refer to as repeated food contacts and farmers simply call grazing. At the drop of a hat, we indulge in lattes and biscotti. Many people no longer eat three square meals but rather graze all day, with junk food troughs sprouting up everywhere to ensure none suffer the pangs of hunger or the pain of caffeine withdrawal.

In the lands of plenty in our comfort zones, we tend to forget that the abundance and easy accessibility of food was not always so and is not as widespread even now. When the U. N. tells us that almost a billion people suffer from hunger and malnutrition and that 25 000 people a day die from hunger, a faster appreciates these statistics in ways that remain distant to others. Fasting is not just about giving up food and drink. It’s about tending to “the better angels of our nature”. Certainly, hunger can bring out the worst in us. But it can also bring out the best. • Imam Irshad Soofi is from the Soofie Mosque in Masukwana (East) Street.


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