Khwaja Mohammad Zubair :
The Muslims received the blessed month of Ramadan with repentance, sincerity, resoluteness and earnestness. They have been observing fasting performing extra acts of devotion and worship therein, including the night prayer, recitation of Holy Quran, and charity to the poor and the needy.
The 'importance of the holy month can be well understood in the light of the fact that Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to say the following when the month of Rajab began. "Oh Allah! Bless us in Rajab and Sha'ban, and bring us, Oh Allah, to Ramadan." [Narrated by Tabarani and Ahmad]
The institution of fasting is not new. It had been in practice for ages. Islam, however, gave a new meaning to the concept in that it made fasting a spiritual, moral and physical discipline.
It was in the second year of Hijra that fasting during the holy month of Ramadan was made obligatory for Muslims. It came after the institution of prayer and is the third of the five pillars of Islam (the other four are : Faith in the Oneness of Allah and the last Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him), Prayer, Hajj Jakat).
The Muslim fast, unlike the fasts previously observed, is not meant for self-torture. Although it is stricter than other fasts, it also provides alleviation for special circumstances. If it were merely a temporary abstention from food and drink, it would be salutary to many people who habitually eat and drink to excess. The instincts for food, drink and sex are strong in animal nature, and a temporary restraint from all these enables the attention to be diverted to higher things. This is necessary through prayer, contemplation and acts of charity.
The Holy Quran says : "(Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you are ill or on a journey, the prescribed number (should be made up) from days later, for those who can do it (with hardship) is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will, it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if you only knew." (2: 184)
"Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Holy Quran, as a guide to mankind, also clear (signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his horne) during that month should spend it on fasting, but if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) from days later."
"God intends every facility for you. He does not want to put you to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and per chance ye shall be grateful." (2:185.)
Thus the regulations are repeatedly coupled with an insistence on two things: (a) the facilities and concessions given and (b) the spiritual aspect of the fast without which it is like an empty shell without a kernel. If we realise this we shall look upon Ramadan not as a burden but as a blessing, and shall be duly grateful for the lead given to us in the matter.
Fasting in Islam is primarily a spiritual discipline in that it aims at attaining nearness to Allah. Fasting awakens in man a new consciousness of a higher life, a life above that which is attained by eating and drinking, and this is the spiritual life.
There is also a moral discipline underlying fasting, for it is the training ground where man is taught the greatest moral lesson of his life -- that he should be prepared to suffer the greatest privation and undergo the hardest trial rather than indulge in that which is not permitted to him.
Fasting has a social value, too. The holy month is a signal for mass movement towards equality, which is not limited to one vicinity or even one country but covers the whole Islamic world.
Even from a medical point of view, Ramadan is a blessing, for going without food and drink, at times, is a sheer necessity for the human body. It helps man to keep himself fit.
The basis of fasting is piety. The Muslim fast has a body as well as a soul: the abstinence from food, drink and other pleasures is the body; selfrestraint and worship is its soul. If one does not strive to nourish ones soul during fasting, one's fast will be mere starvation. On the other hand, the soulful fast must purify the heart and mind. The object is not persecution of self, but its elevation. Finally, fasting generates faith, love and fellow feeling and its essence lies in keeping away from all evils-both in words and deeds.
Islam aims to create an ideal society based on good for all. Taqwa is the soul of fasting. Men of Taqwa are called Muttaqi. They believe, fear Allah and look to what He has ordained in carrying out His actions to avoid His displeasure and sadness. These people are involved and active in his/her life with the Ummah (the Muslim community), concerned with the affairs of humanity, whilst at the same time praying, fasting, spending in Allah's cause, having good morals, are forgiving and just. All these descriptions can be attributed to a person who has Taqwa and will be assured and successful in the Hereafter.
Hence, for the moral development and correct behaviour of a good Muslim it is necessary that he/she strictly analyse and establishes his /her Taqwa, but never claims to be a possessor of it.
It would not be a misstatement of fact if it is said that Taqwa epitomises the entire teachings of the Prophet of Islam. A study of the Holy Quran will show that every aspect of its teachings is directed towards the creation of this spiritual condition of God-fearing in every action of the believers. According to the Holy Quran, Taqwa should be the ultimate result of all forms of worship. The Holy Quran says: "People! Worship your Rob (Creator and Sustainer) Who created you and those before you, so that you may guard against evil." (2:21)
Again, the same virtue is emphasised as the objective of fasting: "O believers! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed for those who were before you, so that you may avoid evil" (2:183)
The Hajj is also enjoined with the same objective:
'Thus it is, and who so honour the symbols of Allah, then that indeed is from the piety of heart." (22:32)
Animal sacrifices is also offered with this very aim :
"Neither their meat nor their blood reaches Allah, but your piety reaches Him ... " (22:37)
According to the Holy Quran, the practice of basic moralities lead to the same goal: ... and to forego (for men) is nearer to piety ... " (2:237)
In Surah Al-i-'Imran, Taqwa is bracketed with steadfastness and patience, and in Surah Al-Baqarah with making peace among mankind. Even in conducting wars, when moral values are generally overlooked, Muslims have to abide by the dictates of Taqwa. This condition of heart transforms both the thinking and the action of man.
The Holy Quran repeatedly asks us to observe Taqwa, to abide by the decisions of the Holy Prophet (Sm), to act up to the injunctions of the Shariah, and to refrain from prohibited acts, and to attain glory. A Muslim surrenders before Allah and does what he/she is ordered to do and refrains from what he/she is told to keep away from. Taqwa, the fear of Allah, is the only force that can restrain human being from evil and wickedness. It is this fear of Allah that keeps the heart of a believer awake and enables him/her to distinguish right from wrong.
Besides, Taqwa is the only virtue that brings honour to a believer, man or woman, in the Islamic society. The Holy Quran says: "O men, We have created you from a male and a female, and have made you into races and tribes that you may (thereby) know one another. Indeed, the most honourable of you in the sight of Allah is (one who is) the most righteous of you. Surely, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware" (49:13)
Justice and Taqwa are two principles that emerge as necessary corollaries from the doctrines of Oneness of Allah, which according to the Holy Quran and the Tradition, is the basic article of Faith, whereas the discipline and the dos and the don'ts of the canon law are merely its outward expression, of means to the attainment of divinely ordained ends of man/woman in its collective as well as individual existence. In Islam, being just is considered to be a necessary condition or being pious and God-fearing, the basic charaderistics of a Muslim. The Holy Quran says: " ... Deal justly; that is nearer to piety, and observe your duty to Allah. Surely Allah is well aware of what you do." (5:8)
The Holy Quran aims to create an ideal society based on Taqwa for the good of the entire humanity. Allah says: "You are the best community created for the good of mankind." The fear of Allah, the root of wisdom, find expression in the individual's awareness to act at the various stages of his/her social connections.. It is admitted that the primary concern of Islam is to develop the personality of the individual as a God fearing man, and equip him/her with the talent to live in peace with others.