Ramadhan comes as the 9th month of Islamic Calendar and brings with it infinite mercy of Almighty on humanity. Mercy in the form of divine guidance, spiritual nourishment, compassion, and moral training. The Islamic calendar is purely a lunar calendar. Ramadan starts when the new crescent moon is first visible in the night sky. Month-long fasting ends with the celebration of Eid al Fitr, the joyous, most important Muslim festival world over.
Fasting is known as “Sawm” in Arabic. Duration of fast ranges from dawn to sunset. At some places near the poles, it maybe 20 -22 hours long. There is a pre-dawn meal called “Suhoor” and an evening meal known as “Iftar.” Both can be done in small gatherings or large groups. Every able-bodied individual more than 12 years is expected to fast except pregnant women, travelers, older people, or those down with some disease. They are required to make prescribed compensation later.
Humanity was gifted with divine guidance when the Holy Quran was first revealed on exalted Prophet. This month holds special significance as this month was chosen by God to communicate with human beings. This guidance has been on every aspect of human life and can be easily understood and implemented within a proper context. A special prayer is organized every night during this month, which is called “tarāwīḥ.” Chapters from the Holy Quran are recited sequentially. Experts and psychologists agree that Ramadan fasting elevates the spirit, and it also helps in the development of mental strength. During Ramadan fasting, mental and spiritual takes precedence over physical and material concerns. One undergoes moral training as well during this month. Every fasting individual has to remain sin-free to avail maximum benefit in spiritual terms. Habits cultivated during this month-long training, if adopted in daily life, can transform the whole individual. Fasting during Ramadan provides clarity and trains the mind to be focussed.
Fasting during Ramadan not only provides spiritual nourishment to faithful but gives some health benefits as well. Much needed rest is offered to the digestive system. Harmful toxins accumulated all around the year get removed, which improves metabolism in a big way. Researchers have found out that fasting is helpful in cardiovascular health and prevents any heart complications. Fasting in Ramadan is useful to improve HDL and LDL/HDL and TG/HDL ratios. This protects against coronary artery disease. Doctors agree it also promotes autophagy, which is where the body itself removes damaged and dangerous tissues. It is also helpful in controlling depression, anxiety, and dementia.
Another essential feature which finds great resonance during Ramadan is the charity. It is vital to explain the concept of Zakat, which is one of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims pay 2.5% from their qualifying wealth to ‘the poor and needy as Zakat. The month of Ramadan has special significance as far as Zakat payment is concerned. It is due to a belief that rewards for good deeds get multiplied during Ramadan. As per one estimate, Zakat collection in 2019 from Canada benefited 1 million needy people all over. As per the Zakat Foundation of India, money received in charity is used to run charitable hospitals, orphanage, and provide help to widows. Compassion generated gets translated into charity, and results are immensely heartwarming. As per an estimate listed on the website of the National zakat foundation of the UK, the total Zakat collected in a year is around 262 million pounds. There is a growing feeling that if the world societies irrespective of their race, region, culture, and religion adopt Zakat and every rich person voluntarily and honestly pays just 2.5% of its qualifying income as a donation to poor, there will not be so many poverty-stricken takers left.
Although Ramadan is directly connected to Muslims, but the mercy and compassion it unfolds are for entire humanity. It inspires everyone to have a sympathetic view of everyone around and avail showers of blessings.
Nadeem Khan is a writer based in Toronto