Thursday, December 14, 2017

Eid-ul-Fitr and the art of fasting


SWEET TREAT: A Muslim woman serves dessert. —Photos: ANIKA GANGA

Mark Fraser

“The institution of fasting is universal; however, fasting gained its perfection in Islam.” These were the words used to describe the art of fasting by Imam Imran Housein of the Thick Village Jamaat in Fyzabad. Housein gladly took the opportunity to speak with Express and explain what really occurs throughout the Holy Month of Ramadan. 

Ramadan in itself means “to burn or to scorch”. It is the month of compulsory fasting. “Outside of this the next best fast is that of David,” he said, “which is fasting every other day.” It is the ninth month in the Muslim calendar and according to the Qur’an if one fasts during this month his sins will be burnt out. 

Fasting has existed right from the beginning and has been a method adopted by many religious figures as a means of controlling and killing passions. 

Prophet Moses qualified himself to receive revelations from almighty God after 40 days of fasting. Jesus did the same out in the dessert and then commanded his disciples to follow. As Housein pointed out, according to 2:183 of the Qur’an, Allah says, “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that ye may learn self-restraint.” But, one can only do this if he possesses total discipline which must comprise of the mind, body and soul. Without these three elements fasting will be pointless.

He explained that fasting begins when the appearance of the white colour in the eastern horizon is sighted—before early dawn till the setting of the sun. In terms of time, this varies from approximately 4.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. This is done every day for 29-30 days—but no more depending on the sighting of the new moon. 

During this time individuals must not partake in food and drink, including water as well as refrain from any lustful and sexual activities. The purpose of this is to develop “Taqwa” which is self-restraint to become God conscious and fearing. “Fasting makes the soul shiny,” he explained with a smile. “It greatly contributes to the preservation of health. It teaches sympathy for the hungry and keeps faith in the almighty God, a living force.”

“Fasting begins from puberty (ages 10-11) until death,” he said. If one does not fast without a genuine reason then the punishment is 60 consecutive days of fasting for one missed day. Imagine not fasting for 30 days and multiply that by 60. You’ll now have to fast for 1,800 days! He says that this is a matter of guilt between man and God; no one can be forced to take this period seriously. It is up to him to do what is right or own up to the consequences. 

In terms of those who are unable to fast, example pregnant women and elderly persons they must feed one poor person two meals for each day. They can either cook these meals themselves or give money. Anyone who may travel abroad during Ramadan still has to fast on their return home. 

The last ten days of Ramadan is of high prominence to Muslims as it is spent searching for “the night of power”. This is done on every odd date during this time. It is believed that this night marks when the first revelations of Islam and the prophethood of Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) began. It also celebrates the arrival of the Qur’an. Men spend this time in their mosques where they are given their own personal space while the women do this at home. “You will know when you find it,” he added. It is said that when this night is found it is better than 1,000 months of blessings. 

Eid is the celebration for the breaking of the fast. Housein says that according to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) all passing will be forgiven along with the reward of paradise. But if one does not fast well then how can he celebrate? “Eid is for those who have fasted.”