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Self-discipline is the essence of Ramadan.

Byline: Rasheed Ahmed Chughtai

We know that all major battles in Islamic history were fought and won during the month of Ramadan. There are still battles to be fought and won - against poverty, intolerance, prejudice, racism and terror. This year Ramadan comes at a time of great upheaval in the Middle East. There are hopes offered by the Arab Spring. There are forebodings, too. Will Syria drown the Arab Spring in the blood of its own children? Will Egypt and Tunisia become the stable democracies their people have fought so hard for? Will there be a just and honorable settlement to the Arab-Israeli dispute so that the long-suffering Palestinian people regain their freedom and dignity? The month of holy Ramadan enjoys a special importance in the Islamic calendar. As Holy Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) said: "It is Allah's Own month.

" It is the chief of all months and the most glorious one. As we already know, 'Fasting' is one of the important pillars of Islam and it is the very month of Ramadan during which fasting has been made obligatory for all adults and sane Muslims. By fasting during Ramadan, a Muslim besides discharging an obligation imposed upon him by Allah (SWT), becomes entitled to great reward in the Hereafter. On the other hand, any lapse in the matter amounts to a great sin. Fasting is an article of worship, the knowledge about the performance or otherwise whereof rests only with Allah (SWT) and the person concerned.

Hence, it is Allah (SWT) alone who will reward that person for it, on the Day of Judgment. The blessings of Ramadan are not limited to fasting alone, because the performance of all sorts of worship and good deeds during this month is also a source of great Divine favor. The revelation of the Holy Quran commenced during this very month and it is therefore the duty of every Muslim to read and try to understand the meaning of the Holy Quran and thereby gain an insight into the Divine secrets enshrined therein. It brings peace and illumination to the mind and imparts purity to the soul. Holy Ramadan is the month of fasting, intensive prayer, sacrifice and Divine worship.

Throughout this month a devout Muslim fasts during the day in the true sense of the word, that is, he had merely denies himself food and water, but as explained by Holy Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.), exercises strict control over his tongue, eyes, ears, thoughts and deeds and does everything possible to seek the pleasure of Allah (SWT). Devout supplications to Allah (SWT) and repentance of one's sins during Holy Ramadhan are the sources of Divine blessings and mercy. Some nights, among the last ten nights of Ramadan, are called the 'Nights of Glory' (Laylatul Qadr). These are the 19th, 21st, and 23rd nights. Muslims keep awake during these nights and offer special prayers. Even among these nights, the 23rd enjoys excellence over all the others. It is accompanied by great blessings, and he usually grants the supplications made to Allah (SWT) during this night. The month of holy Ramadan, besides being the month of worship and Divine blessings, carries a historical importance as well. As already mentioned above, the revelations of the Holy Quran commenced in this month.

The epoch-making 'Battle of Badr' and the 'Conquest of Makkah' also took place during the holy month of Ramadan. "Ramadhan", according to some traditions is one of Allah's names. This is why we can not say Ramadhan without making it clear that we are talking about the month, and therefore we should always say the month of Ramadhan. Commander of the faithful, Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (A.S.) said: Do not say Ramadan, but say the month of Ramadhan. For you do not know what Ramadan is? This same meaning was referred to by Holy Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) in his speech during Shaaban: The month of Allah (SWT) is coming ... Whatever calling or vocation he is engaged in, does not hinder a Muslim from carrying out this annual requirement of the Faith, the fast of this month of Ramadan, which incidentally, is also one of the five cardinal points of Islamic tenet. The Muslim fast means a complete abstention from eating or drinking between daybreak and sunset.

The sighting of the thin sickle of the new moon of Ramadan heralds for the Muslim the beginning of a month of glory and of spiritual elevation, when, at Allah's command, he voluntarily and of his own free will, denies himself between day-break and sunset, the blessing of food and drink, and surrenders himself up wholly to Allah, observing the same abstention throughout the whole month in his every act. For this month, for the Muslim, means the triumph of the spiritual and the pure in his nature over all the grossness and carnation, which is an inevitable component of our human make-up.

The Holy Prophet Mohammad (SAW) in the following words beautifully explains the actual significance of the fast: - "One who, while fasting, does not guard his tongue from telling lies, does not refrain from doing bad deeds, is not respecting his fast and Allah does not approve of mere abstention from food". When you are keeping fast, you should not speak ill of anybody, nor should you be boisterous and noisy. If anybody speaks ill of you or tries to pick a quarrel with you return him not, but say unto him that you are fasting. Divine Revelation: Ramadan however, has another deeper significance for the Muslim, Ramadan's greatness is manifest in the fact that Almighty Allah chose it for the revelation of His Scriptures from time to time. Abraham [Ibrahim (A.S.)] received scriptures on the first or third of Ramadan, David [Dawood (A.S.)] on the twelfth or the eighteenth, Moses [Musa (A.S.)] on the sixth, and Jesus [Esa (A.S.)] on the twelfth or the thirteenth of Ramada It was in the very month of Ramadan that the Holy Quran, the last revealed Book, started descending upon Holy Prophet Mohammad (SAW).

It testifies: (Ramadan is the month in which was sent down the Quran as a guide to mankind ...) (2:185) But the Holy Quran, the divine revelation from Allah to mankind through the medium of our Holy Prophet Mohammad (SAW), has remained. In every Ramadan the Muslims celebrate the spiritual significance of that divine fact the eternal abiding permanence of the Holy Quran. During this Holy month therefore, the Muslim takes himself more assiduously to the reading of the Holy Book of Allah, the standing miracle of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (SAW), the miracle which he stated would remain to testify to the authenticity of Allah's message even after he, Mohammad (S.A.W.) passed away. Throughout this holy month, therefore, from every Muslim home is heard, during the day and night, the pleasant and beautiful cadences of Quranic recitation. Then there is the Holy Prophet Mohammad (SAW) saying as an incentive to renewed reading of the Holy Quran especially in this month: "A man gets the same reward by reading one verse of the Holy Quran as others do by reading the whole of the Holy Quran in other months." In this holy month of Ramadan it should be the duty of every Muslim to read the Holy Quran and thereby gain an insight into the Divine secrets.

It breathes peaceful spirit to the human body. It imparts purity to the human soul and removes many a curtain hanging between man and God. Fasting is an ancient and universal practice. The Romans, the Babylonians, the Cynic, Stoic, Pythagorean and Neo-Platonist philosophers commended fasting. The followers of Hinduism, Jainism, Confucianism, and Zoroastrianism practice it. The Jews observe an annual fasting on the day of atonement in commemoration of the descent of Moses from Sinai after spending forty days of fasting in order to be able to receive revelation. Jesus observed fasting for forty days in the desert and commanded his followers to fast. In brief, the practice of fasting has been common in one form or the other in all human societies. Before the advent of Islam, fasting was resorted to by way of repentance or penance, or as a mark of mourning, or to celebrate some particular occasion, or to ward off an apprehended danger, or to control a prevailing epidemic, or to gratify and please a deity or to put pressure to achieve a certain desire end.

The form of fasting also differed. For example, Jews ate only once in twenty-four hours. Among Hindus, the restriction applies only to cereals whereas eating of fruits or taking of liquids during fasting is not prohibited. In fact, in ancient faiths and creeds, the objects of fasting were very limited, the intention generally being self-mortification, asceticism, or the satisfaction of some of some superstitious urge. Originally, in Arabic the word 'as-Sawm' (Sawm) meant 'al-Imsak', that is, to abstain totally from any act including eating, drinking, walking, speaking, etc. Thus, the Arabs used to refer to a horse refusing to run or to be fed, as 'Saum', that is, fasting. As is clear, the word 'Sawm' is ancient and was used in a different context by the Arabs before Islam. Then, however it did not have the specific meaning given to it by Islam as a term denoting a certain religious obligation. As an Islamic term, it means to refrain intentionally from what breaks fasting
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Publication:The Messenger (Karachi, Pakistan)
Date:May 5, 2019
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