If people knew what Ramadan really is, they would wish that the whole year was Ramadan.Sheikh Aly N’Daw
Fasting: A call to faith
All spiritual traditions and faith groups have fasting as one of their pillars. Let us look at how God has decreed fasting for those who believe. In the Quran, God says:
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.”Quran chapter 2, verse 183.
And God describes how to fast in the following verses:
Fast a prescribed number of days. But whoever of you is ill or on a journey, then let them fast an equal number of days ˹after Ramadan˺. For those who can only fast with extreme difficulty,2 compensation can be made by feeding a needy person ˹for every day not fasted˺. But whoever volunteers to give more, it is better for them. And to fast is better for you, if only you knew.
Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed as a guide for humanity with clear proofs of guidance and the standard ˹to distinguish between right and wrong˺. So whoever is present this month, let them fast. But whoever is ill or on a journey, then ˹let them fast˺ an equal number of days ˹after Ramadan˺. Allah intends ease for you, not hardship, so that you may complete the prescribed period and proclaim the greatness of Allah for guiding you, and perhaps you will be grateful.Quran chapter 2, verses 184 – 185.
So, this is how fasting has been prescribed in the Quran. The followers who are in good health are required to fast. However, travellers, as well as the sick, are exempt and are required to feed the poor during the fasting month of Ramadan.
Harmony and balance between the body and the soul
Divine recommendations for preventive action
Jesus said that the way human beings relate to divine teachings is like the relationship between the doctor and the patient. A patient does not need to see the doctor until he is ill. Yet, if we look carefully at the divine recommendations, we can see that they have a preventive role on the individual’s general health, as they define a behaviour model meant to prevent illness and obviate the need for cures.
Let us consciously look at the means that we, as human beings, have to heal ourselves and develop a preventive mindset with regards to illnesses. In this perspective, we will look at the importance of fasting on the body, soul and spirit.
When talking about the benefit of fasting on the body and soul, let us refer to the following Quranic verse:
“Yet there are others who say, “Our Lord! Grant us the good of this world and the Hereafter, and protect us from the torment of the Fire.”Quran, chapter 2 verse 201.
This shows that the Human Being is both a temporal and spiritual being. If we grasp these two dimensions, this will enable us to reach a third dimension. When we understand the concept of fasting and effectively apply its essence in our lives, we, as human beings, are able to cultivate angelic qualities within. And the food of the angels is the recital of the Names of God.
However, this does not mean that we must focus more on the spiritual dimension, as there are enough angels! We only need to strike a balance between the primal being and the angelic being in order to rediscover our true human dimension. Fasting must lead us to this state of balance; and its benefits on the soul take us to the dimension of transcendence.
This dimension of transcendence is the only way that allows people of different faiths, colours, races and cultures to work together for God, regardless of whether they are Hindu, Muslim, Christian or followers of other faiths, as they are all capable of coming together.
Venerable Sufi Master Sheikh Abdoulaye Dieye (ra) said that fasting is the flowering season of virtues. By nurturing such virtues as purity, tolerance and solidarity, all believers would become brothers. This would enable us to see our own shortcomings and strive to become better individuals.
Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba reminds us of the importance of working on the self through these words: “The best form of knowledge is that which shows us our shortcomings.”
This is how we are able to progress and better ourselves as human beings.
Fasting: the flowering season of virtues by nurturing such virtues as purity, tolerance and solidarity, all believers would become brothers. This would enable us to see our own shortcomings and strive to become better.
Sheikh Abdoulaye Dieye (ra)
Transcendence: developing the capacity for survival
Fasting to discover the divine attribute of the One who subsists
The real goal of fasting is to enable us to discover the divine dimension that is contained in fasts. This refers mainly to self-subsistence. The abstinence from food during fasting does not lead to death; thus, fasting allows us to develop self-subsistence capacities.
Self-subsistence, however is not the mere abstinence from food. It is also about selflessness, doing good deeds, speaking good words, helping and feeding those in need. This is what self-subsistence is about; and it is said to be one of Divine attributes.
Self-subsistence is not mere abstinence from food. It is about selflessness, doing good deeds, speaking good words, helping and feeding those in need. This is what self-subsistence is about; and it is said to be one of Divine attributes.
Sheikh Aly N’Daw
This article contains extracts from the speeches and conferences of Sheikh Aly N’Daw