At present, nearly two billion human beings on planet earth are counted among the Islamic faith, and fasting in Ramadan is a unique annual event shared by a large percentage of Muslims in what is one of the most profound global spiritual experiences.
Why do Muslims observe fasting in Ramadan, and what are some of the benefits of fasting in Ramadan?
While in reality the rewards for fasting in Ramadan are countless and its full benefits known only to God, the following are ten very important reasons for why Muslims are encouraged to observe fasting in Ramadan.
Fasting in Ramadan, #1: A Pillar of Islam
The foundation of Islamic spiritual practice is known as the Five Pillars of Islam, which form the basis for a spiritual culture designed to provide an ideal environment for personal growth and spiritual evolution. Fasting in Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, constituting one of the most important spiritual practices designed to empower a human being in overcoming the self and transcending the ego, the one true veil between a human being and his or her Creator.
Fasting in Ramadan, #2: Spiritual Purification
One of the primary benefits of fasting in Ramadan is spiritual purification, the essential goal of Islamic Spirituality. Although we tend to think of the mind, body and spirit as separate components, in reality they are all connected and inter-related, and improvement in any one naturally effects improvement in the others as well. Fasting in Ramadan purifies the mind, body and spirit, leading to greater clarity, sensitivity and health.
Fasting in Ramadan, #3: Health
It has now been scientifically documented that the single most effective practice for improving human health and longevity is the reduction of intake and consumption. Fasting in Ramadan allows the digestive system, the engine of the body, to rest from the normal demands of processing and breaking down food, freeing up system resources to cleanse and purify the body of accumulated toxins, thereby allowing more effective healing and tissue repair. Fasting in Ramadan keeps the body healthy and youthful, provided one does not overindulge when breaking fast.
Fasting in Ramadan, #4: Community and Family
One of the greatest benefits of fasting in Ramadan is renewing solidarity and cultivating relationships with one’s family and community. Only one who observes fasting in Ramadan can truly know the beauty and joy of breaking fast with others, celebrating the gift of life daily for thirty days with loved ones.
Fasting in Ramadan, #5: Gratitude
It’s true that one generally does not realize what he or she has until it’s gone or not available, and by fasting in Ramadan, Muslims become acutely aware of the unlimited abundance of divine favor God Almighty has blessed humanity with, particularly with regards to sustenance. The cultivation of gratitude is a core purpose of Islam, and few spiritual practices cultivate gratitude as does fasting in Ramadan.
Fasting in Ramadan, #6: Humility and Selflessness
By fasting in Ramadan, a Muslim realizes how totally dependent we are upon the divine grace of God for survival, and humility is a natural result of this realization. Generally, we take things for granted and become heedless as a result of living in the world, dunya, yet by fasting in Ramadan, we are continually reminded of our frailty, leading us to humility, reverence, piety and selflessness, primary goals of Islamic Spirituality.
Fasting in Ramadan, #7: Empathy and Compassion
Although we live in a world of natural abundance, of divine grace and providence, unfortunately due to lack of empathy, compassion and solidarity among human beings, there are many throughout the globe who still struggle with hunger, poverty, lack and scarcity. When a Muslim observes fasting in Ramadan, he or she feels the hunger that many experience daily as a normal consequence of their circumstances. By fasting in Ramadan, we develop the holy qualities of empathy and compassion, becoming more aware of our intrinsic connection and oneness with all human beings regardless of borders or labels that create artificial separation among the citizens of the human race.
Fasting in Ramadan, #8: Restraint and Self-Discipline
The modern world and its culture is largely defined by materialism, consumption and instant gratification of desires. This results in the diminishment of human consciousness, the regression of planetary culture and the suppression of the soul. When fasting in Ramadan, a Muslim consciously curtails this unhealthy norm by consciously practicing restraint and self-discipline, separating him or herself from the animal kingdom which is governed by the unconscious drive to satiate one’s immediate needs and desires. Fasting in Ramadan is thus an essential practice for attaining true freedom and independence from dunya, the external world of form and appearances, and for the liberation of the soul from the self, the mind-body that is unconsciously driven by fear and the struggle survival.
Fasting in Ramadan, #9: Simplicity and Non-Attachment
When living without discipline and restraint, life quickly becomes overly complicated, leading to a heavy burden that results in unnecessary stress, anxiety, unhappiness and difficulty. By fasting in Ramadan, we limit excess and indulgence, facilitating the return to simplicity and non-attachment, releasing one from dependence on dunya and so contributing to psychological health and happiness.
Fasting in Ramadan, #10: Focus
With the constant demands of modern life, it’s easy to become lost and forget not only who we are, but we automatically forget our divine purpose and destiny. Without constant reminder, we become lost in the dream and disconnected from reality. Fasting in Ramadan for thirty days is a powerful practice in restoring focus, direction, balance and purpose to our lives
Fasting in Ramadan is a Gift from God
The opportunity to observe fasting in Ramadan is a gift from God, allowing us to grow and develop as human beings, enabling us to become more compassionate, caring, kind and grateful. Fasting in Ramadan is a unique opportunity to develop spiritually and gain strength and control over our selves, our egos, the nafs, the unconscious automatic primitive nature that tends to dominate our lives if unchecked. By observing fasting in Ramadan, a Muslim has a unique opportunity to become more peaceful, present and spiritual – the very goal of Islam