Happy First Friday of Ramadhan. Hang in there, it gets better!
So it was brought to my attention that a lot of Muslims don't seem to have a good understanding of why they fast or they don't know how to respond to this question when asked. So, I thought this posed for a good topic to write about, since Ramadhan is right around the corner. - This time around, its here now!
Really, Why do we fast?
Wanna guess what is the number one answer that people give? Have you ever heard God wanted us to fast so we can feel how poor people feel? Sounds nice right? but that's not the main reason, we are just more humbled after going through a fast and we appreciate food more and think of those that don't have it. So then what is the real reason? Lets look at what the Qur'an tells us.
O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint. -Qur'an Chapter 2 verse 183.
[Fasting for] a limited number of days. So whoever among you is ill or on a journey [during them] - then an equal number of days [are to be made up]. And upon those who are able [to fast, but with hardship] - a ransom [as substitute] of feeding a poor person [each day]. And whoever volunteers excess - it is better for him. But to fast is best for you, if you only knew. - Qur'an Chapter 2 verse 184.
Yusuf Ali uses the word self-restraint in his translation, but Sahih International uses the word righteous. According to the free dictionary, righteous is an adjective used to define a person as being Morally upright; without guilt or sin. The Qur'an tells us the criteria to be righteous and what you need to restrain yourself from. The verses are provided on Chapter 2 from verse 2-5.
This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah,Who believe in the unseen, establish prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them,and who believe in what has been revealed to you[O Muhammad], and what was revealed before you, and of the Hereafter they are certain [in faith].
Those are upon [right] guidance from their Lord, and it is those who are the successful.
Doesn't this sound like the six pillars of Iman, mixed with the five pillars of Islam? We first need to understand that we are not the only faith that fasts, as you can see it was prescribed to people before us. It is a form of medicine to bring us closer to Allah. When you fast, you restrain yourself from satisfying your body from eating, gossiping, fighting, negativity and sex (with your married partners of cause). Your soul takes control and makes you not only more conscious of Allah, but it also opens you up to see other things that you didn't notice before. You become more aware of your surroundings, as your senses of sight, smell, taste, sound and touch are heightened.The feeling of hunger pains, remind you of your obligation to fulfill the 3rd pillar of Islam, which is Zakkat (charity). You start thinking of the person who's stove wasn't turned on that evening, how did they survive the night, and how will they survive the day? In other words, we become God's representatives on earth, by looking out for one another and taking care of all of his creations as we were meant to be.
Again, why do we fast?
We fast for Allah, by fulfilling a command prescribed to us in order to learn self restraint and be righteous human beings. Fasting helps us come closer to God, as we try to emulate some of his characteristics by being the vicegerent we were designed to be. This guarantees a joyous meeting with our Most Merciful Lord of the Worlds on the day of judgement.