Maher Kharma is president of the Islamic Society of Annapolis.
In a nutshell, Ramadan is one the five pillars of Islam during which Muslims fast from down to sunset through out the month. During Ramadan, Quran was revealed on Mohammed over 1400 years ago. Muslims observe Ramadan by abstaining during the days of Ramadan from food, beverages, intimacy, and by observing best manners. At the end of each of the 30 days, a voluntary night prayers takes place in the mosques. The end of Ramadan is marked by celebrating “Eid Al Fiter” or end of Ramadan feast.
While the physical aspects of Ramadan involves the act of abstinence, the fast includes much spiritual and moral benefits besides those physical ones. In assessing serious challenges that law makers and law enforcement authorities have to deal with frequently in order to stabilize the society, we realize that crimes, drugs, violence, alcoholism, and abuse constitute some of the top societal ills that drain societal resources and place major kinks in the fabric of a more peaceful society.
By large, such acts appear to be rooted in a lack of ability to exercise self control needed to stop one from breaking the law or from infringing the rights of others. For a Muslim, Ramadan comes to be a vehicle that he/she enters as an opportunity to develop better control over own emotions, and to restore superiority over what could be internal or external drivers of deviant behavior.
While the fasting month may be perceived as a time of physical hardship, a deeper look at what is behind the actual act of fast reveals many advantages that such an act of worship can produce not only for reshaping ones character, but as well as for creating a more harmonious society.As for the impact on the society, Ramadan gets to be a time when Muslims network more often, especially through inviting one another to break the end of the day fast, sharing a dish with a Muslim or non Muslim neighbor, planning an Iftar (break fast meal) at the mosque for both Muslim as well as non Muslim fellows. Such Ramadan dinners have gotten to be an annual event that now take place at prominent locations such as the white house, some governors’ mansions, army bases, etc. The end of day voluntary prayers provide an opportunity to connect with others and to reestablish the dialogue. The fasting experience furnishes a Muslim an un-equivalent opportunity to have a taste of what hunger can be like, with a difference of the end of the day outcome, consequently forces one who is fasting to sympathize more and understand the suffering of all who are hungry around the world, leading him or he to give more. Further, and to extend an other opportunity to establish social justice, Muslims are required to pay a special charity during Ramadan that is distributed to those who are less advantaged and are able to use some additional income to purchase needed food or those items needed for the end of Ramadan feast.
As for the various benefits an individual may be able to crop out of engaging into the fasting time, and in addition to all divine reward one may anticipate from indulging self in seeking to please the Lord, fasting directs one to abstain from consuming commodities that he/she are able to consume on routine basis with a stop/start times that are ordained by divine guidelines, and consequently, placing physical needs in back seat while allowing the spiritual drivers to be in control for the whole month. While health benefits of such fast can be plenty and may include weight loss, boosting the immunity of the body, undergoing a detoxification process, as a well as regulating hormonal functions, the over all function of fasting provides a superior opportunity for self reform through purification of the thought and action for the sake of achieving righteousness.
When it comes to moral aspects, Ramadan enhances the ability to elevate an individual’s moral standards as a Muslim is expected to observe the best of manners besides the physical abstinence. This is intended to be the roadmap that is eventually to lead a Muslim to adopt an overall higher level of moral standards following Ramadan’s training period. Through out the fasting day, one who is fasting is required to gain better awareness of own senses including what you say, what you view, and for sure in what you do. In addition, you are to exercise stronger control of own temper, and to forgive when you may have been insulted for such behavior promotes a society wide sense of tolerance and kindness. Such daily practice of these traits is what is meant to foster the ability of a fasting individual to empower his/her self policing capability and to moving him/her further away form being an obedient reactor of own emotions and whims.
A stronger society would thrive with members who are in better control of their emotions and senses for sake of decreasing the rates of violence; with citizens who are strong welded to say no to drugs, to bigotry and to racism; with individuals who are more tolerant to accepting others; and with those who are able to translate the love of the Lord into actions that will yield the betterment of their own character and the well-being of others around them. Yes, it is an intense training month of the year, yet, Ramadan comes to be a time when the sincere desire of a Muslim who seeks the pleasure of the Lord crosses with developing a more responsible, passionate and accountable citizen who contributes to building a more tolerant, forgiving, self controlling human being. It is here for better us and for a better society.