“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may acquire Taqwa.”(2:183)
We, as Muslims, believe that fasting during the month of Ramadhan is one of the pillars of Islam. Allah (SWT), in His infinite Wisdom, has legislated fasting during this month for the Ummah of our Prophet (PBUH) in order to benefit us both in this world and the Hereafter. From the above verse, it becomes clear that the Ummah of our Prophet (PBUH) was not singled out with the obligation of fasting. This verse also clearly points to the fact Quran is the word of Allah and not the work of Muhammad (PBUH), as he could have not known what were the injunctions for the previous nations, except through the revelation to him by Allah.
Although there is no need for Allah to explain the rationale behind His Commandments, He does so in this verse to make it abundantly clear that it is to gain Taqwa. Taqwa is defined as “to put a barrier between oneself and the punishment of Allah”. Therefore, it has to act as an internal compass for a Muslim, so that he does not slip from the commandments of Allah and if he does so, he seeks forgiveness immediately thereafter. But, due to the nature of human beings and due to the continuous onslaught of Shaitan, man is prone to evil ways and keeps slipping from executing the commandments of Allah or falling into sin. Hence, Ramadhan is an Allah-given opportunity to refocus and remind us about this fact. Therefore, the beautiful month of Ramadhan should be utilized to act as an Eemaan-booster for all of us, so that we spend the rest of the months of the year in complete obedience to the commandments of Allah by executing His orders and staying away from His prohibitions. This is to ensure that we not only succeed in all walks of our life in this world but also ensure we taste eternal success in the Hereafter, as well.
The Quran also exhorts us to be steadfast in our obedience to Him, when it says: “O you who believe! If you obey and fear Allah, He will grant you Furqan and will expiate for you your sins and forgive you. And Allah is the Owner of the great bounty”. (8:29). One of the benefits of Taqwa, as this verse makes it clear, is that the one who possesses it will be guided to differentiate between Truth and Falsehood. This will be a triumph, safety, and a way out for such people from the affairs of this life, all the while acquiring happiness in the Hereafter. They will also gain forgiveness, thus having their sins erased, and pardoned, thus having their sins covered from other people, as well as, being directed to a way to gain Allah’s tremendous rewards. (Tafseer Ibn Katheer).
In another instance, Allah mentions the benefits of having Taqwa when He says: “Whoever fears Allah, He brings forth a way out for him and provides him (with what he needs) from where he does not even imagine.” (65:2,3). Imam Ibn Katheer in his Tafseer of the above ayah says: “Whoever has Taqwa of Allah in what He has commanded and avoids what He has forbidden, then Allah will make a way out for him from every difficulty and will provide for him from resources he never anticipated or thought about.”
The great companion of our Prophet (PBUH), Abdullah Ibn Masud (radiyallahu anhu ) said: The greatest ayah in the Quran that contains relief is this. This is because whenever anyone with Taqwa is subjected to problems and difficulties in life, he can have hope for relief through the mercy of Allah for such people.
Fasting also helps to control one’s own desires, which in essence, is the objective of piety. This is why our Prophet (PBUH) termed it, (in a hadith collected by Bukhari), a shield, as it protects the individual from sinning and indulgence in disobedience to Allah. During fasting, a person trains himself to control his hunger, thirst, and carnal desires, even though the option to fulfil his/her desires may be available in front of him. This is because he is conscious of the fact that he is always under the ever-watchful Eyes of Allah. This is what Taqwa is all about! It is to be mindful of the fact that Allah is always seeing him and so he has to mould his life, fearing His Punishment for acts of disobedience and hoping in His Mercy while doing acts of righteousness.
In addition to the benefits that fasting provides, it also helps a fasting person to appreciate the pangs of hunger and thirst and thereby not only become empathetic to the needs of the poor and destitute but also to reach out to them at times of their distress. This also increases one’s Taqwa. Specific to the fasts of Ramadhan, we find that it naturally improves one’s connection with Allah through various optional forms of worship like praying the Taraweeh, recitation of the Quran, seeking forgiveness, being more charitable, remembering Allah often through various forms of dhikr, invoking Allah for his Pardon and Mercy, etc. All these also lead to increased levels of Taqwa.
Due to the multifaceted benefits brought about by Taqwa to the believers, our Prophet (PBUH) used to often supplicate for it with these (translated) words: “O Allah! Grant my soul the sense of righteousness and purify it, for You are the Best Purifier thereof. You are the Protecting friend thereof and Guardian thereof.” (Sahih Muslim).
With Ramadhan fast approaching, it is worth mentioning that our pious predecessors used to often seek protection and safety from Allah so that they could witness the beautiful month of Ramadhan and enjoy the Mercy it brings forth with it through the words: Allahumma sallim-nee lee Ramadaana Wa sallim Ramadaana lee Wa tasallam-hu min-nee mutaqabbala (Oh Allah, keep me safe for Ramadhan. And keep Ramadhan safe for me And accept it from me.) [Siyaar ‘A’laam an-Nubalaa’].
In the background of the disastrous news of our brothers and sisters from Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon suffering due to the recent earthquakes and the loss of lives brought about it, it is only pertinent that we keep invoking Allah for His safety and protection. May Allah allows us not only to witness the beautiful month of Ramadhan but also to use every split second of it in improving our Taqwa and earning the good pleasure of Allah. Ameen.