Saved by Grace…Not Fasting
Sawm or Fasting
Sawm is fasting. It’s the fourth of the Five Pillars of Islam.
Muslims are required to fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
During the 29/30 days of Ramadan all adult Muslims must give up food and drink from dawn to sunset:
• Muslims are not allowed to consume anything, during fasting hours. A single sip of water would break the fast. Muslims can eat a meal before dawn (usually packed with power foods like fava beans, dates, potatoes or yogurt) to get them through the day. After sunset prayer, Muslims are also allowed to eat and drink as part of Iftar, a feast with family and friends.
• Fasting isn’t the only thing Muslims are asked to abstain from. No sex, smoking, swearing, arguments or gossip allowed. Basically, Muslims shouldn’t do anything that can be seen as sinful during Ramadan.
Muslims who are physically or mentally unwell may be excused some of these, as may those who did not reach puberty, the elderly, the pregnant, breast-feeding. Also female Muslims who are in their monthly period should not fast menstruating…also those who are travelling.
If an adult does not fast for the reasons above they should try to make up the fast at a later date, or make a donation to the poor instead.
Muslims do not only abstain from physical things during Ramadan. They are also expected to do their best to avoid evil deeds as well.
There are many good reasons for this fast, including:
• Obeying Allah
• Learning self-discipline
• Becoming spiritually stronger
• Sharing the sufferings of the poor and developing sympathy for them
• Realizing the value of charity and generosity
• Giving thanks for the Holy Qur’an, which was first revealed in the month of Ramadan
The Night of Destiny (Laylat al-Qadr) is known to Muslims as the most spiritually significant night in the entire Islamic year. Observed either on the 19th, 21st, or 23rd nights of Holy Month of Ramadhan, no other night in the Islamic calendar bears so much importance for the faithful as the Night of Destiny. This prominence can be seen even further as it is mentioned in several areas of the Holy Qur’an and it has the unique distinction of being mentioned explicitly in a chapter all by itself.
• “We revealed the Qur’an on the Night of Destiny. (97:1) Would that you knew what the Night of Destiny is! (97:2) (Worship) on the Night of Destiny is better than (worship) for a thousand months. (97:3)
• “On this night, the angels and the spirit descend by the permission of their Lord with His decree (to determine everyone’s destiny). (97:4)
• “This night is all peace until the break of dawn. (97:5)”
Also, Muhammad emphasized the importance of Rmadan:
• Allah’s Apostle said, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.“ (Bukhari :: Book 3 :: Volume 31 :: Hadith 12).
Eating in Ramadan
During Ramadan, as mentioned above, many Muslims will try to eat a small meal called suhur just before dawn.
When daylight is over, most Muslims will break or open the fast with dates or water, following the example of the Prophet Muhammad, before having a proper meal later.
The evening meals during Ramadan are occasions for family and community get-togethers.
The month of Ramadan ends with the festival of Eid ul-Fitr. This is marked by dressing up and visiting the mosque for prayer, and with visits to family and friends for celebratory meals.
However, no one ought to be seen eating or drinking in public during the day. Islam is a shame culture and religion sounds most of the time as a corporal expression, that is expressed mostly in the community.
Every Ramadan, I am reminded of Jesus’ word:
And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
In some countries, it’s a crime not to fast. For example, an adult seen eating in public in Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates can be fined or jailed. Aside from legal implications, not fasting is a major sin, worse than adultery or drunkenness in Islam.
Muhammad the prophet of Islam, used to fast Yum Kipur, as well as Mondays and Thursdays…just like the Jewish Pharisees….
We appreciate the good intentions of our Muslims neighbors in their effort, trying to please their god, but we are always reminded that we are saved by Grace and what Jesus did on the cross. Amen