Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1442, (9 - 15 May 2019)
Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Issue 1442, (9 - 15 May 2019)

Ahram Weekly

Season of loving and giving

Ramadan the month of giving
Ramadan the month of giving

While most non-Muslims are encouraged to believe that Islam is a violent religion, this is sheer ignorance. Violence has existed in all religions, which does not make the religion violent.

This misconception has been aided recently by the crimes of Islamic extremist groups exhibiting savagery and brutality as they slaughtered their own brethren. The frenzied media used their crimes as horror shows, soiling and smearing the religion. Their untruths prevailed.

The concept that Islam is the religion of the sword is as untruthful to Muslims as though Jesus was not crucified to Christians (another act of violence).

 Islam means submission to the will of God. God requires every virtue from man in all religions and so it is in Islam.

There are five pillars of Islam, namely: the proclamation of one God and Mohamed is his prophet; giving alms to the poor; performing the pilgrimage of Hajj, (if able); praying five times a day; and fasting the month of Ramadan (unless sick or travelling). How easy, how merciful, how inspiring.

Islam teaches love and mercy, goodness and kindness, caring and sharing and above all forgiveness to those who do you wrong. It is not too different from the teachings of Christ or Moses. 

Enmities may have sprung from material conflicts as in the case of the Crusaders’ loss of Jerusalem, or the century’s conflict over the Palestine. Such bitter feelings linger and each faith blames the other, but spiritually we are all “the children of the Book” as Muslims say, referring to the Old Testament. Were we to practise the teachings of any of these religions, what a better world that would be.

The singular distinction of the fast of the holy month is the joy it brings to the faithful. It is embraced with fervor and the abstinence from food and drink as well as all evils, falsehoods and indecency are taken in stride. A festive atmosphere pervades the air; differences are put aside and all you hear are good wishes or cries of “Ramadan Kareem” or Ramadan is bountiful, generous, charitable.

Families and friends get together for one of the two meals: Iftar (the breaking of the fast), or Sohour (the meal before dawn). Visitors come and go, cafés are filled everywhere and chatter and laughter, music and songs are heard until the dawn prayers. This goes on for the whole month. 

The affluent provide food for the poor. Tents are set up in every corner and anyone is welcome to walk in and partake of the bounty. The atmosphere is joyful, peaceful and cordial. It is Ramadan.

Philosophers, scientists and physicians have all resorted to fasting as a healing process. Before surgery we are required to fast in order to avoid regurgitating or aspirating — both fatal.

Fasting is a multi-dimensional experience in which total body transformation occurs. Any and every fasting method produces a wide range of metabolic changes and experiences. “Our body breathes naturally and cleanses itself.”

We experience a heightened awareness and relaxation of body, mind and emotions. All past pains are abandoned and a positive attitude takes over. Unless you experience it personally, it is hard to describe. 

The best-known single human who used fasting for political purposes is India’s leader Mahatma Gandhi. He resolved the fast until fighting between two factions stopped. The fighting stopped. “By doing so he became a spokesman for the conscience of all mankind,” said Albert Einstein.

Fasting releases toxins from the colon, kidney, bladder, lungs, sinuses, and has been beneficial in treating certain conditions such as colds, diabetes, flu, fever, bronchitis, fatigue, headaches, back pain, mental illness, constipation, allergies, obesity, asthma, cancer, insomnia, skin problems and even arthritis. According to a Norwegian study, a seven-day fast of patients with rheumatoid arthritis resulted in a significant improvement in the patient’s to grip, a reduction of pain and swelling and an improved general functional ability. However, the benefits were lost after the fast.

The effectiveness of fasting as a life-extension measure is fairly well backed by experimental evidence, in Secrets of Life Extension, by John Mann. Rats that were made to fast one day out of three throughout their lives while eating normally on other days achieved a 20 per cent increase in lifespan.

The ancient Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Hippocrates all believed in fasting therapy. Through fasting, proponents reckon that we can turn our energies inward for healing, clarity and purification.

There is one drawback. After a long, hot day of abstinence, the sun sets and we rush to the banquets prepared specially for Ramadan, we eat and eat and overeat. We pick and choose, take and leave, pamper and pander without paying heed to consequences.

Overeating is an addiction for all mankind, not just Muslims in Ramadan. Do we need all that food? Whoever ordained three meals a day anyway? Our stomachs are crying from the burdensome load we impose upon it. While fasting can cure some organs, overeating can destroy them.

What nourishes us can also kill us.

Indulging removes all the spiritual and religious significance of this holy month. We are reduced to hungry, thirsty creatures awaiting the boom of the canon, to announce the break of the fast.

Our secular lifestyle has eaten up the soul and we simply go with the flow, because it is our tradition.

Let us fast for the right reasons.

Hundreds of good reasons compel us to fast.

God knows best. 

“It crucifies the flesh and to that extent, sets the soul free.”

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)    

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