The Social Dimension of Fasting

The Social Dimension of Fasting

Towards higher levels of consciousness 

Fasting, the fourth pillar of Islam, enables those who fast to become aware of the pangs of hunger experienced by the unfortunate ones who have no food. It therefore helps us to be in the consciousness of the poor and to develop compassion. The aim of fasting goes far beyond the mere abstinence from food, as God has given a social dimension to fasting, making it an opportunity to elevate our consciousness. 

“When Ramadan arrives, the doors of Paradise are wide open and those of the Hellfire are closed.

Abu Huraira

This hadith reported by Abu Huraira illustrates all the Mercy and unconditional love that God has bestowed upon His Creatures. In the holy month of Ramadan, God offers us the possibility of correcting our shortcomings and mistakes. By opening the doors of Paradise, He invites us to the immense ocean of Divine Love, Generosity and Compassion. For this, God sent us, through His Messengers, a divine ladder, which is represented by fasting. It is a ladder which elevates us until we develop within us such virtues as purity, tolerance, compassion and love for our Creator and our neighbours. 

Fasting is an act of purification which leads the believer to self-mastery, so that the soul transforms from rebellious state to that of an appeased soul. This happens through abstinence from food, which enables us to surpass our dependence on physical nourishment and develop the capacity to absorb a different form of nourishment, namely celestial nourishment which prepares us to respond to the Divine call. From this perspective, fasting is no longer seen as mere abstinence. It is, instead, perceived as a form of Mercy, for it creates a direct link between us and the Divine Source which nourishes us and quenches our thirst.

Fasting and the concept of Service 

Let us take a closer look at fasting. Before fasting became a divine recommendation, people used to eat all year round. For 12 months, people ate breakfast, lunch and dinner – some had dinner at social events and other functions. However, when fasting was ordained, it was essentially addressed to those who had the means to eat several meals a day. Fasting put them in a situation to become conscious of the less fortunate ones. This situation was meant to be an awakening shock. It was meant to raise people’s awareness that, despite the privilege that the rich enjoy, there was basically no difference between the rich and the poor, in as far as the experience is the same – it’s essentially the same human experience. 

Since the dawn of humanity, from Prophet Adam to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them) until now, all faith groups have always had fasting as one of their basic pillars. Since the beginning of times, God wanted to teach us that the human experience is essentially the same, both for the rich and the poor. 

However, the herd spirit in communities is such that people adopt a practice simply because it’s a divine order. This approach does not nurture any personal reflection at a deeper level to grasp the very essence of these divine recommendations, especially their social dimension. In all that God ordains, He is always in a form of sharing with His Creatures. In fact, it can be said that all the divine recommendations constitute pure science.

Social Meditation: Active thought for growing in consciousness

It is therefore very important to go beyond the herd spirit. Herd spirit is the reason for which we automatically follow the religion into which we were born, believing that our religion is the best. In the path of peace, it is important for us to develop consciousness in all that we choose to do. All the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) were embodiments of consciousness. This is illustrated by the fact that all of them were able to prolong the era of the Prophet (peace be upon him) beyond his time and take the message beyond boundaries to all corners of the world. 

It is only by rising above the herd spirit that we can meditate and grasp the social dimension of the divine prescriptions. It’s only then that we can understand the concept of Service and our role as servants of humanity to help in the making of a better world for all. 

By being in the consciousness of the poor, one is in touch with all the underprivileged people of the whole world, wherever they are, on any continent. This is why God says that He sent Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to confirm the messages of the previous Messengers and to establish peace and his message is for all people around the world. 

God says that there is only Divine Love which enables us to truly live our terrestrial life. This means that we are here, on Earth, to accomplish the will of God. Divine Love is the only means which makes this possible. 

Glory to Allah who has bestowed His Love upon us,  

Glory to Him who has opened the doors of Mercy for us,  

Glory to Him who has counted Humankind among

His obedient worshippers who practice what He has ordained. 

(This article contains extracts from the speeches and conferences of Sheikh Aly N’Daw.)

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