By Hassan Twaha Bwambale

Ramadan is not just about abstaining from food, drinks, conjugal rites, and acts that nullify the Fast from dawn to sunset. Real fasting should bring about a real inner change in the Muslim individual and in a Muslim community at large. The Islamic Fast is not about a mere starvation or self-denial; rather it is an act of worship and obedience to Allah (the Almighty and Majestic), thanksgiving, forgiveness, spiritual training, and self-examination, etc.

If you perform an act of worship during the month of Ramadan, your reward is doubled or even tripled. Fasting in Ramadan is very special for the reason that God Almighty Himself determines the amount of rewards you will receive.

What are the levels of fasting?
a. The fast of the masses, which entails abandoning food, drinks and satisfying one's carnal desires albeit licitly for some hours. Anyone who falls under this category will get abundant rewards from Allah (the Almighty and Majestic). Allah (the Almighty) says in Al-Hadeeth Al-Qudsi describing the condition of a fasting person, translated as: "… he abandons his food, drinks and conjugal rites because of Me. Therefore, fasting is for Me and I am the One to determine the nature and amount of rewards for him." (Al-Bukhari # 1904)

  • Majority of the Muslims fall under this category. Therefore, I urge those who have resolved to fast this year to try their level best to upgrade their fast and fall under the highest of all the three categories of fasting. Our long-sought goal should be to please Allah (the Exalted in Might) and to keep Him in our minds with the realization that He watches over us all the time.

b. The fast of special people, which entails - not only abstaining from food, drinks and conjugal rites from dawn to dusk - but also keeping one's eyes, tongue, hands, legs, the sense of hearing and seeing as well as other parts of the body away from committing sins. Abu Huraira narrated that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, translated as: "Whoever doesn't abandon false speech or acting upon it, there is no need for him to abstain from food and drinks." (Al-Bukhari # 1, 903)

  • We infer from this prophetic narration that real fasting is to abstain from sins as much as possible. On this issue, Jaber bin Abdullah (RA) said, translated as: "When fasting, your ears, eyes, and mouth should shun lying as well as committing other sins. Moreover, there should be a change in you when fasting." In other words, you should be a better person when fasting than when you are not. (Al-Bayhaqi and Ibn Abi Shayba)

c. Fasting of the crème de la crème, which entails, keeping one's heart from lowly aspirations and motives as well as thoughts that would keep him far from Allah (the Almighty and Majestic). Anyone in this category is always pre-occupied with things that please Allah (SWT).

Once Umar's wife prepared for him sumptuous food, the ingredients of which she bought from her own savings. Umar (the second caliph in Islam) refused to eat until the poor and weak were invited to share the meal with him. After enjoying the food with the poor, he thanked Allah (the Majestic and Sublime) for that blessing. By this, Umar (RA) demonstrated that he was so much preoccupied with pleasing Allah (the Almighty) than satisfying his carnal desires. (Refer to Umariyyaat, pages 47 and 48)

Fasting is given preference over other acts of worship for two major reasons:

  1. It is a secret and an intrinsic act of worship that none can see except Allah (the Almighty) and the fasting person, and can't be tainted by dissemblance.
  2. By fasting, a Muslim actually conquers the devil, which capitalizes on food, drinks and other carnal desires to lure human beings into committing sins.

In Ramadan, we are trained to strike a balance between our physical needs and our spiritual ones. According to Al-Balkhi (850-934), the body and soul both can be either healthy or sick. Signs of imbalance in the body are different ailments such as aches and pains, while an imbalance in the soul results in related symptoms such as anxiety, depression, anger, etc. (International Medical Journal. 4 (2): 76-79.2)
If you want to have a healthy mind, you need to have a healthy soul. If these two crucial aspects of one's self (physical body and soul) are not in balance, the person might struggle with finding the peace he craves for in life.

What is mental health?
Mental health is a status that is achieved once the soul is practicing to reach its full potential (of salvation) and being away from any factors that can disturb its peace. Therefore, those factors that can hurt and disturb your mind are originally those factors, which hurt your soul. Once you achieve a healthier soul, you will have a healthier mind.

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