I LEARNED how to fast during the month of Ramadhan from my mother who also taught me how to become a good Muslim. She told me that Ramadhan is a path towards Taqwa. I was not sure then what she meant by saying those words to me.
As I was growing up, my mom always told me that fasting is a spiritual path in attaining Taqwa. It was in college that I learned that the word Taqwa comes from Arabic language often translated as “piety” or to have “God-consciousness”. Our religious leaders and scholars consider Taqwa to be the essential quality of a believer.
My mom always reminded me that I should be aware of Allah’s (SWT) presence all the time, and fasting in the month of Ramadhan is a training process for every Muslim to acquire that ability to have that God’s consciousness. She also taught me to have a strong Imaan (faith).
Thus, Taqwa and Imaan are two important religious principles and values of being a Muslim. One cannot be complete without the other, and vice versa.
Fasting during the month of Ramadhan is prescribed to every able-bodied Muslims. The Qur’an mentioned, “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard against evil.” (The Holy Quran, 2:183) I learned this Ayat (verse) during my conversations with my mother when I was at age of ten. That was my age when I started fasting.
My mom also explained to me that, “for you to develop and strengthen your self-control, you must have the high level of awareness of the presence of Allah (SWT). You must resist wrongful desires and bad habits, and in fasting, by refraining from the natural human urges to satisfy your physical needs and wants, you are exercising your ability of self-restraint. You do that for a month so that you can then apply it in your everyday life.”
Those words that she told are written inside my head. Our conversations about Islam are locked inside my brain and whenever I closed my eyes, I can see her reminding me of my duties and responsibilities as a Muslim.
My mom died of pneumonia last July 16, 2006. She was seventy years old.
Even though she is gone now, I can still feel her presence. We had so many conversations about Imaan, Taqwa, and Tawheed. She was a very religious person but you cannot see it from the outside. Her closeness to Allah (SWT) was the precious thing that she imparted to me.
In my reflections in the past few days of Ramadhan, I noticed that some Muslims are not aware of the true nature of fasting. They focus more on the physical aspect and not of the spiritual message of fasting. They are happy and proud that they survived the day without food and water.
But fasting is not just the state of experiencing hunger and thirst for water. We need to be conscious of the true nature and effect of fasting which is to have a strong consciousness of Allah’s presence. We need to have Taqwa in every step that we make and every breath we take.
The physical training of fasting is important. Its main purpose is for us to have less food and water in our body in order for us to have the purification of our body and soul. Therefore, the person fasting must remember that the aim is not simply to remain hungry; he should be engrossed in the remembrance of Allah (SWT).
One imam said, “The object of fasting is that a person should abstain from the food which nourishes the body and obtain the other food which satisfies and brings solace to the soul. Those who truly fast for the sake of attaining closeness to God, and not merely as a custom, should be absorbed in the praise and glorification of God, and in meditating upon His Unity.” Fasting is not a fad or a part of culture. It has deeper meaning and purpose.
As I observe the Holy Month of Ramadhan, I remember my mom and all the teachings she gave me about Islam. Every day, I offer my prayers to all Muslims who are being oppressed, discriminated, and feeling helpless that they may be given justice in this life and the life hereafter.
I pray to those Muslims who are misguided by their own greed and political interests that they reflect and stop their evil deeds. I pray to those who are victims of terrorism and heinous crimes, especially to the victims in Orlando, Florida and to their families and loved ones. I pray to all of us and that we will all have strong faith in God.