Prior to the creation of man, it was envisaged by the Angels that mischief making and rebellion would be part and parcel of man’s nature. Very remarkably, the Supreme Creator Allah did not rebut this cry of the Angels, but instead only answered with the caution of, “Certainly, I know what you do not know.”
Thus, history testifies that Messengers of Allah (alaihimus salaam) have been sent to every nation upon the face of the earth, and this is also confirmed in the Glorious Quran, the purpose of which is for the physical, moral and spiritual enlightment of man. One of the tenets of the final Scripture, the Holy Quran, and a Command of Almighty Allah is “Fasting” – an institution which is generally accepted as a means of subjugation of man’s baser self, and helping him to be more moral and earning spiritual advancement.
The Divine decree of Fasting is a universal enjoyment. The Encyclopedia Britannica says: “It would be difficult to name any religious system in which it (fasting) is wholly unrecognised.” The Bible tells us that the Prophet Isa (alaihis salaam) and Prophet Musa (alaihis salaam) fasted for full 40 days. Gautham Budda fasted until he was actually reduced to skin and bones, as can be ascertained from his statues. And for a surety, all spiritual luminaries cannot omit this indispensable essential pillar for the physical, moral and spiritual purification of their respective adherents.
Why is it, that mankind must undergo this gruelling task of Fasting? The Holy Quran furnishes this reason: “That you may guard against evil.” (2: 183) This is the special beauty of the Divine Command – it plainly spells the most significant importance of the Ramadaan fast. Evil, as we see today, circumscribes the very foundation of man’s character and the society where he lives.
Today’s rational, scientific and modern man is living in a world that is seething with indescribable crimes and rampant acts of unrighteousness. Various man-formulated deterrents and laws which have been enacted to conquer evils, have absolutely failed. A proof of this lies in the numerous courts of laws that conduct cases of diverse crimes and injustices every day; and also the cells of prisons are clear signs that man-made laws have had very little effect or no effect for the curbing of sins and other evils.
Today, we notice that evils such as gambling, prostitution, alcohol, and a host of others have been legitimised by certain Governments. Yet there is a hue and cry at the consequences of these and many other evils which are made legally permissible. Since it is now indisputable that man-orientated cure for evils are ineffective and impotent, it thus necessitates the intervention of the Divine hand. Fasting now plays the role as the firmest reign for the control of the widespread, sin-plagued humanity.
Man and animal share the same physical characteristics and physique. But since animals are not gifted with the faculties of speech, reason, understanding, choice, etc. man emerges as the higher creation. In fact, man is Allah’s Khalifa (representative) on earth. When man becomes oblivious of his higher objective, when he is indifferent to the Commandments of Allah and his duties as a Muslim, he is likened to an animal. He confines his energies and aspirations within the boundaries of his life, and ponders not on the life hereafter.
Like the physical animal, his object is just to live for this material world. Eating, drinking, sleeping, multiplying, etc. become the “be all” and “end all” of his life, too. What difference is there now between the animal and the “modern,” “rational” and “intellectual” man? It is this animal in man that has to be subjugated before man can reveal his true identity.
Our studies of animals would show that they can only be tamed when deprived of food, drink and sensual desires for a limited period of time. You can confirm this from a zoologist. So is it with man: depriving him of these intrinsic daily requirements for well over 12 hours daily for an entire month, may undoubtedly bring about a spiritual transformation within, when his animal desires are tamed and this ultimately result in his magnetic affiliation with the Divine Being.
Almost every man, with the exception of Prophets and spiritual luminaries, have the tint of the animal characteristics within him. But many, with Allah’s Help, do control it. The desire to amass more and more wealth (lawfully or unlawfully), injuring our fellow human beings, and a host of other vices which we are lured to, display the animal instinct within humans.
The Holy Quran says: “Look at him who takes his desires for his god” – a practical Divine observation of man’s character. As can be seen, the object of Fasting is to help us become masters of our passions and materialistic cravings, and becoming alive to the need of others, instead of us being slaves to them. We must aspire and work to become that “Mutaqqi” (pious through Allah-consciousness) – with whom Allah is pleased with. This goal can only be achieved if we fully comprehend the true implications of our fasting during the month of Ramadaan.