Muslims are encouraged to be more charitable in Ramadan to follow the Prophet’s lead, which his Companions described as “the most generous of all people.” (Bukhari)
Fasting the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars upon which the structure of Islam is built. The other four are the declaration of one’s belief in God’s oneness and the message of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), regular attendance to Prayers, payment of zakah (obligatory charity), and the pilgrimage.
Let’s examine these five pillars, taking into account that Islam aims to improve the quality of human life at both the individual and social levels. We find that the first of these five pillars concerns beliefs that influence one’s conduct.
The second, Prayer, provides a constant reminder of one’s bond with God. Almsgiving, the third pillar, is a social obligation that reduces the rich and poor gap. At the same time, the fifth, which is the pilgrimage, has a universal aspect that unites the Muslim community throughout the world.
The Prophet quotes God as saying: “All actions done by a human being are his own except fasting, which belongs to Me and I reward it accordingly.” (Bukhari)
Fasting in Ramadan, the fourth of these pillars has exceptionally high importance, derived from its very personal nature as an act of worship. Although it is challenging for anyone to defy public feelings by showing that one is not fasting in a Muslim country, there is nothing to stop anyone from privately violating God’s commandment of fasting if one chooses to do so.
This means that although fasting is obligatory, its observance is purely voluntary. The fact is that a hypocrite cannot use fasting to persuade others of one’s devotion to God. If a person claims to be a Muslim, they are expected to fast in Ramadan.
This explains why the reward God gives for proper fasting is so generous. In a hadith Qudsi (divine hadith), the Prophet quotes God as saying: “All actions done by a human being are his own except fasting, which belongs to Me and I reward it accordingly.” (Bukhari)
This is a mark of extraordinary generosity since Islam teaches that God gives a reward equivalent to at least ten times its values on every excellent action. Sometimes He multiplies this reward to seven hundred times the value of the act concerned, and even more.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) taught that the reward for proper fasting is admittance into heaven.
It may be noted that the qualified fasting that earns such great reward must be “proper.”
This is because all Muslims are required to make their worship perfect. Perfection of fasting can be achieved by restraining one’s feelings and emotions.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that people should not allow themselves to be drawn into a quarrel or “slanging” match when fasting. He taught that: On a day of fasting, let no one of you indulge in any obscenity or enter into a slanging match. Should someone abuse or fight him, let him respond by saying: “I am fasting! I am fasting!” (Muslim)
This high self-restraint fits in well with fasting, which is, in essence, an act of self-discipline. Islam requires Muslims to couple patience with voluntary abstention from indulgence in physical desire. This is indeed the purpose of fasting, and it helps people attain a standard of sublimity, which is very rare in the practical world. In other words, this standard is achieved by every Muslim who knows the purpose of fasting and strives to fulfill it.
Fasting has another unique aspect, and it makes all people share in the feelings of hunger and thirst. In normal circumstances, people with decent income may go from one year’s end to another without experiencing the pangs of hunger that a poor person may feel every day of their life.
Such an experience helps to draw the rich nearer to the poor. Indeed, Muslims are encouraged to be more charitable in Ramadan to follow the Prophet’s lead, which his Companions described as “the most generous of all people.” (Bukhari)
Yet he achieved in Ramadan an even higher degree of generosity. His Companions say of him that he was in Ramadan “more generous and charitable than unrestrained wind.” (Bukhari)
Fasting also has a universal or communal aspect. As Muslims worldwide share in this blessed act of worship, they feel their unity and equality. Their sense of unity is enhanced by the fact that every Muslim individual joins voluntarily to fulfill this divine commandment.
The unity of Muslims is far from superficial, and it is a unity of action and purpose since they all fast to be better human beings. As people restrain themselves from the things they desire most, in the hope that they will earn God’s pleasure, self-discipline and sacrifice become part of their nature. They learn to give generously for a good cause.
The month of Ramadan is aptly described as a “festive season of worship”. Fasting is the central aspect of worship this month, but people are more attentive to their Prayers in Ramadan than in the rest of the year.
They are also more generous and charitable. Thus, their devotion is more complete, and they feel in Ramadan much happier because they feel themselves to be closer to God. Therefore, they love this month, which is one of their endless benefits and blessings.