Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
According to Islamic teachings, Ramadan, the ninth month of the Hijra calendar, is the month of fasting. In this month, believers refrain from food and drink for a limited period each day, that is, from dawn till sunset. They eat and drink during the night. This practice continues for one month.
What is fasting? Fasting does not simply amount to observing hunger for a temporary period. In fact, it symbolizes a lifelong culture, that is, a culture of dedication.
According to Islamic ideology, a believer is a man of mission. A man of mission is a different person. He has little time for anything other than his mission. He eschews all such activities as are irrelevant to his mission. This is the spirit of the man of mission and fasting symbolizes this spirit.
The Arabic equivalent of fasting is sawm, which means abstinence. Abstinence is the gist of fasting. When one involves himself in a mission, that is, of spreading the word of God, he has no time, except for fulfilling his bare necessities. This is the mission culture.
Abstaining oneself from food and water for a limited period is symbolic training. This practice prepares one to lead a life of dedication to one’s mission.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan reminds a faithful person that if the list of abstinence were to reach the extent of refraining from food and water for a temporary period, then he would be ready to do so for a higher purpose. Although this training is for a temporary period, it enables one to lead one’s whole life in accordance with this spirit.
For a faithful person, living for the divine cause is his mission. All other things become secondary for him. This kind of focused life is also a great source of spirituality. A person, who controls his material life and devotes himself for a higher cause, also inculcates in himself what is called spirituality. In terms of external form, he refrains himself from material things, but in terms of inner content, he inculcates spirituality in his personality. Fasting makes one a spiritual person.
Fasting is not a set of rituals. It is rather adopting the well-known formula–simple living, high thinking. Fasting helps one to adopt this formula. Simple living refrains one from distraction, and high thinking is only the other name for a distraction-free life. And, when one saves oneself from distraction, the result, undoubtedly, is high thinking.