There is no doubt that everything legislated by God is beneficial for us in the physical and metaphysical realms. Logic concludes that anything prescribed by the Creator of the universe must be advantageous, and similarly, anything He prohibits us from doing must be harmful. God has commanded us to fast during the holy month of Ramadan, and it is a month filled with numerous blessings which can help us build a unique connection with God.

God says, “Believers, fasting has been made mandatory for you as it was made mandatory for the people before you, so that you may have fear of God.”1

Merits of the Holy Month of Ramadan

The holy month of Ramadan grants us a chance to build a relationship with and grow closer to the Creator. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp) said, “Oh people! The month of God with its blessings, mercy, and forgiveness has come upon you. It is the most preferred of all the months with God; its days are the best of days, it’s nights are the best of nights, and its hours are the best of hours. It is a month in which you have been invited as guests of God and have been placed among those honored by God. Your breathing in it is [like] an act of praising [God], your sleep an act of worship; your good deeds are accepted, and your prayers answered. Therefore, ask God with sincere intentions and pure hearts to help you in fasting and reciting His Book during this [month]. Indeed, ruined is he who is deprived of God’s forgiveness during this month.”2

By following the Prophet’s advice, we can learn how to take full advantage of the blessed days and nights of the holy month and allow ourselves to submit to God.

The True Meaning of Fasting

Though the apparent meaning of fasting is to tolerate hunger, it involves much more than that. Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (p) said, “When you fast, your ears, eyes, hair, skin, and all your limbs should be fasting.”3

When it comes to fasting during the month of Ramadan, like other rituals, we utilize the guidelines provided to us by the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp). He said, “Fasting is not only [abstaining] from food and drink alone. When you fast, protect your tongue from lying; lower your [gaze] from what God has forbidden [you to see]; do not fight with one another; do not be jealous of one another; do not backbite one another; do not abuse one another; and do not be unjust to one another. Refrain from false accusation, lying, fighting, suspicion, backbiting, and slandering. Be those who look forward to the Hereafter, and wait for your days, waiting for what God has promised to those who have prepared to meet God. You must have tranquility, sobriety, humility, servility, and submissiveness of a slave who fears his master, and be fearful [of God’s chastisement] as well as hopeful [of receiving His forgiveness].”4

Without keeping the intention of growing closer to God in mind, these recommended acts will have no real effect. Imam Ali (p) said, “There are some who fast but will gain nothing from their fasting except thirst; and there are some who pray but will gain nothing from their prayer except tiredness.”5

Benefits of Fasting

Recognizing the basic benefits of fasting serves as an encouragement for us in the month of Ramadan. Firstly, fasting sharpens the intellect. The Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) said, “Whoever keeps his stomach hungry, his thinking culminates to the highest level, thus making his reflections stronger.”6

Fasting also strengthens our self-control and fosters change in our lifestyle. Our day-to-day habits do not necessarily reflect the habits that we aspire to. The beauty of the month of Ramadan is that it acts as a wake-up call; it blesses us with the opportunity to interrupt our regular patterns and ponder our present state of life.  With the will of God, the outcome of this experience is a conscious control of our desires. The Prophet (pbuh&hp) said, “Keep your stomachs hungry and thirsty, and make your bodies used to hardships, perhaps your hearts will then have a chance of seeing God’s glory.”7

Moreover, fasting is a powerful tool for conquering addiction. Imam Ali (p) said, “Hunger is the best help for controlling the self and breaking up chronic habits.”8

How to Improve Ourselves during the Holy Month

Recite the Holy Quran and ponder: We should invest time in reciting verses from the Holy Quran during the month in which this inimitable, perfect book of God was sent down. The Prophet (pbuh&hp) said, “Whosoever recites a verse from the Quran during this month, his reward will be like one who has completed the recitation of the Quran during the other months.”9

Repent: The month of Ramadan is a time to make a habit of performing good deeds. It is the month of self-accounting and asking God for forgiveness. Imam Ali (p) said, “How numerous procrastinators there are who postpone (repenting and doing good deeds) until death overtakes them!”10 We should take advantage of this holy month and not postpone asking God to forgive us for our wrongdoings.

Self-evaluation: We should think about ways to improve our character and become better individuals. The Prophet (pbuh&hp) said, “Oh people! Whosoever among you improves his character during this month, he shall have the pass [to cross] over the Bridge (sirat) on the day when [people’s] feet shall slip…Whosoever ceases from evil deeds during this month [of Ramadan], God shall withhold His anger from him on the day he meets Him.”11

We must be honored to be God’s guests during this holy month. It is a chance for us to reach the highest level of human success. We should use these blessed days that will pass quickly to grow closer to the Almighty and to remove any obstacles in the way of His remembrance.

1. The Holy Quran 2:183.
2. Abbas al-Qummi, Mafatih al-jinan, Beirut, Al-alami Library, 2006, 241.
3. Abbas al-Qummi, Mafatih al-jinan, Beirut, Al-alami Library, 2006, 243.
4. Abbas al-Qummi, Mafatih al-jinan, Beirut, Al-alami Library, 2006, 244.
5. Abbas al-Qummi, Mafatih al-jinan, Beirut, Al-alami Library, 2006, 244.
6. Mirza Javed Tabrizi, Spiritual Journey of the Mystics, 20.
7. Mirza Javed Tabrizi, Spiritual Journey of the Mystics, 18-19.
8. Mirza Hussain al-Noori, Mustadrak al-wasail, vol. 3, p. 81.
9. Abbas al-Qummi, Mafatih al-jinan, Beirut, Al-alami Library, 2006, 242.
10. Sayyid Kamal Imani, A Bundle of Flowers from the Garden of Traditions of the Prophet & Ahlul-Bayt, Amirul Mu’mineen Publications, 2004.
11. Abbas al-Qummi, Mafatih al-jinan, Beirut, Al-alami Library, 2006, 242.

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