Ramadan Fasting and the purification (cleansing) of souls
The Holy Quran refers to two features of fasting in Ramadan: mental and practical. These are like the wings of a bird on which man flies through the heavenly space of spirituality in the month of Ramadan.
The Holy Quran says: "Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Holy Quran, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong)." (2:185)
This means that in the month of Ramadan, one should get to know the Holy Quran better and, through the clearance of guidance, take a broader view of the right and wrong of life. The Holy Quran says: "O you who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard (against evil)." (2:183)
Here the Holy Quran emphasizes piety; that means fighting against and having victory over the false deity of the soul. Imam Ali (as) said: "The bravest are those who gain victory over the false deity of their souls." (Safinatul-Bihar; vol.1, P.689).
In the Holy month of Ramadan, human beings are the guests of God; therefore they have to be eligible for His divine honor. The Holy Quran says: "We purified him so that he could be saved." (91:9) Also the Holy Quran says: "We created man of the best stature. Then We reduced him to the lowest degree." (95:4-5)
God has given man the power and insight to choose his course in life. God has also given man the attribute of knowledge in an abstract form. This is the divine trust that man has assumed. The Holy Quran says: "Surely We offered the trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they refused to be unfaithful to it and feared from it, and man has turned unfaithful to it; surely he is unjust, ignorant." (33:72) Satan, who symbolizes the wrong and animal dimensions of man, refused out of arrogance to prostrate before Adam and was cast out of Paradise. So, in order to retaliate, he has been tempting man ever since. For salvation, man needs the purification of his soul in addition to knowledge and insight. Such purification is obtained by having heartfelt faith in God. Man's soul should enjoin him unto good, not unto evil.
The Holy Quran says: "And I do not declare myself free, most surely (man's) self is wont to command (him to do) evil, except such as my Lord has had mercy on, surely my Lord is Forgiving, Merciful." (12:53)
Man should not be a prisoner of his soul enjoining himself unto evil. Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini (ra) said that if man wanted to attain human perfection, he should avoid worldly pleasures and strive to get nearer to God. The Holy Quran says:"It is He who has placed you as viceroys of the earth....". Then how can man, as a viceroy of God, be without the divine attributes of his Lord?" A true man of faith has kindled the fire of faith within him, and fasting is something that enhances his faith. Holy Prophet Muhammad (saww) said: "Fasting is prescribed for man to purify his soul." In Ramadan, the month of fasting, you become the guest of God. Do praise Him with devotion. God will answer all your prayers in this month. Fasting is the glad tidings of God's all-embracing mercy.
Imam Ali (as) asked Holy Prophet Muhammad (saww) on the last Friday of the month of Sha'ban: "What is the best thing to do in Ramadan?" The Prophet answered: "The best thing is to avoid committing sins." (Yun al-Akhbar ar-Ridha, vol.1). It is also stated that eating and drinking alone do not cause refraining from fasting. It should be known that refraining from everything that causes man to part from God is also counted.
Fasting has many advantages. God calls man to His feast while he is hungry, so then man can best appreciate the value of His bounties.
The Objectives of Ramadan Fasting:
a) To get rid of bad habits: Ramadan Fasting demands the strict and solid resolution to submit oneself to a special diet which, often corrects habits, harmful to the health, that we may get into, during the running year, thus to comply with a severely regulated diet and some bad habits, as a self-willed sacrifice. This is why we notice that the Holy Quran mentions patience, tolerance, will, and perseverance as being synonyms of fasting.
b) To suffer hunger thus feel the difficult life of the poor: This endurance provokes in ourselves the feeling of association with their sorrows and deprivations. This feeling, so humane and compassionate, is much more expressive than a whole series of well-prepared speeches or well-organized public demonstrations. The rich people who never experience deprivation, discover, through fasting, the hardship imposed on needy people. Then, their hearts become more tractable, and their hands, will exercise generosity and charity towards the needy.
c) To Appreciate God's beyond measure donations: The daylight is never enough estimated unless we endure the night darkness. Also we cannot know the real value of happiness until we lose it. So when we fast, we suffer hunger, thirst and deprivation of so many other leisure's we used to enjoy before fasting. Then, we effectively evaluate the life comforts Mighty God has gifted us with.
d) To discover the sanitary advantages: Dr. Alexis Karlil, in his book... says: The exaggerated variety of our meals, their excessive quantities and assortments, make the alimentary regulating in the human life become ineffective. With the legislation of Fasting by all religions the humanity has known to attract notice to thousands, even millions of human beings who never know satiety. Moreover, fasting activates the blood circulation and purifies heart and soul. Besides, the modern medicine has proved that fasting is a remedy for diseases that affect the man of this century because of overeating and the variety of canned food. In this case, fasting is as being a treatment, and even a preventive at the same time.
e) Recalling of evident return to God: In fact, Ramadan fasting is a stage where the human being is the closest to God. The fasting period, Ramadan is a time when one submits to spiritual and social changes.
f) One acquires loyalty, honesty and sincerity to God, by fasting: Ramadan fasting is a confidential act which occurs between the human being and his Creator. This act must be impregnated with full sincerity and the deepest loyalty. Now in case fasting loses its honesty, it becomes a hypocrisy.
g) Regulating habit: By Ramadan fasting, we acquire the habit of punctuality. We breakfast at fixed time, and we abstain from eating and drinking at a strict and special time. Moreover, becoming accustomed to regulations leads to the respect of time, of word and promise, and so one becomes trustworthy, well estimated, able to carry out one's responsibilities, and to fulfill one's social duties.
h) Spreading assistance and mutual help in the society: Ramadan fasting inspires love and tightens links among the family members who live the whole fasting period in the same routine which approaches them to God. Habits change automatically during the period, and the family members meet in the evenings to say prayers appropriated to this holy occasion. The morals and fruitful consequences of fasting extend to the vast society, where collaboration between its members, and decent behavior are demonstrated. Charity and mutual help occupy a remarkable place, and brotherhood and equality triumph, which that is, the most human acts and the holiest purpose of the fasting.
Spirit of Ramadhan Fasting:
"O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint." Holy Quran (2:183)
Fast like a living thing, have a body and a soul. The required abstinence from food, water, sexual relations etc, is the body of the fast: "piety" is its soul. If we are not striving to refine our character by fast, our fast will be a body without soul. Fast cleanses our body from impurities. Likewise, it must purify our hearts and minds from all impure thoughts improper desires and undisciplined sensations.
Holy Prophet Muhammad (saww) saw a woman, who was fasting on that day (not in Ramadan), abusing her girl-servant. Holy Prophet Muhammad (saww) admonished her and told her to break her fast. The woman protested: "But I am fasting today". Holy Prophet Muhammad (saww) said: "But was not your fast broken by the abuses you were hurling upon that poor girl?"
Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) has said, "Your fast day should not be like other ordinary days. When you fast, all your sense - eyes, ears, tongue, hands and feet - must fast with you."
Eyes: Keep your eyes off unlawful things and objects; spend this most precious gift of God in good cause and pious acts and read Holy Quran and Du'as.
Ears: Abstain from hearing unlawful gossip, lies, false statements, music and obscene topics. Pay your attention towards sermons and topics of learning etc.
Tongue: Do not tell lies or useless tales; do not spread rumours or, damaging gossips about other persons; keep aloof from falsity. Use the power of speech in spreading the word of God; in creating goodwill in the society.
Hand: Do not inflict injury upon others by your actions; instead strive to help them as far as you can.
Feet: Do not go towards forbidden places, like bars and cinemas. Do not run between people creating strife. Go towards those places, where God is remembered; and your movements should be to bring people together.
And above all, your heart and mind must be with you in fasting. Because fast in its real sense, will not be complete unless your thoughts, your emotions, your actions - in short, all aspects of our life - become pure, clean and free from blemis