By Umme Aisha
It’s almost Ramadan! Just a few hours to go, inshaAllah.
This is the one time of the year where most Muslims readily sacrifice both food and the immediate gratification of their desires. It’s a month that when it leaves, it leaves us feeling sad and gloomy.
Despite it being the favorite month of every believer, a logical mind may wonder: Why does Allah want us to starve throughout the day? What good is our starving ourselves, for Him? In the Quran, Allah encourages people to consume His blessings:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ كُلُوا مِمَّا فِي الْأَرْضِ حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا خُطُوَاتِ الشَّيْطَانِ ۚ إِنَّهُ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ مُّبِينٌ
O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy. [Quran; 2:168]
Especially since Allah addresses His believing slaves in particular and commands them to eat from His given Rizq (provision)and be thankful about it:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُلُوا مِن طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ وَاشْكُرُوا لِلَّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ
O you who have believed, eat from the good things which We have provided for you and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship. [Quran; 2:172]
There remains no doubt about the fact that Allah has created all these blessings for His slaves to consume and to take benefit from, and that He doesn’t need us to starve all day long, because Allah is free from all needs.
However, to answer the question of ‘why starve ourselves’ is that we, humans- being made of both physical bodies and souls- need to pay equal attention to the health of both these elements (i.e. the body and the soul). The month of Ramadan is to balance the nourishment of both elements of our existence.
To understand this, lets assume that you are the custodian of two little kids namely A and B, both having different kinds of needs and demands. If you feed A all day long, you might forget the other one which will result in the malnutrition of B. If you keep on nourishing A while forgetting the other child- one day you will end up starving kid ‘B’ to death at the expense of kid A.
This is what we do with our bodies and souls. While both of these two need equal nourishment and care, we are naturally more inclined towards our bodies because the needs of our physical bodies are easily advocated by our physical weaknesses. We rush to seek assistance for our physical health, whereas our souls do not reveal their needs this clearly and are thus left neglected.
To balance the needs of nourishing our souls Allah has blessed us with a beautiful month, in which our attention is all focused on worshipping Him, who Created us. By fasting we stop ourselves from fulfilling all of our physical needs- at the whims of our bodies- and work on the needs of the soul. We try to strengthen our relationship with our Creator, and become stronger in soul. This is one of the wisdoms we can discover behind the obligation of fasting in the month of Ramadan, a month when all of us work hard to get closer to Allah.
(The Ramadan Highway Code. Picture courtesy: Muslimness)
This is the same reason why we work harder to connect to the Qur’an in this month- more so than in any other time of the year- through recitation, reflection and taraweeh prayers. Feeding the right food to our souls is impossible without connecting to the words of Allah because just like our souls came from the heavens , so does their food (in the form of Allah’s Words).
May ALLAH help us to understand the wisdom behind refraining from eating in this month. May Allah make our month of Ramadan more than just a month of food; one in which we eat and plan extravagant iftar/suhur meals! May Allah help us get connected to Him through this month and may He accept our good deeds. Ameen.