No one, Muslim or otherwise, should excuse themselves for missing the spiritual pleasure that Islam alone affords in the form of the Ramadan fasts. If they missed it, they have not missed something valuable, they have missed all, writes SYED IQBAL ZAHEER.
We have been sent a piece of writing by a young man from India which says that fasting is a false concept. (He calls it faaltu). It is, he says, a useless exercise.
He thinks fasts were prescribed in Madinah when the Muslims were, generally, in favourable conditions. He also thinks that promising ‘Taqwa’ for fasting is a lame excuse.
Finally, and most importantly, he says that the majority of poor Muslims should not be expected to fast.
The above is from a ‘believer.’ The following is from an ‘unbeliever.’ It is a female center-right politician and Danish Minister: Stoejberg. She is a Minister for Immigration, Integration and Housing. She is the self-same Minister who had republished cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (saws) on social media in September last year; despite the outcry then expressed over the publication of the same cartoons by the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten back in 2005. She says, Muslims fasting is ‘dangerous for us all.’ She also said, “I want to call on Muslims to take leave from work during the month of Ramadan to avoid negative consequences for the rest of Danish society.”
Many will wonder how to distinguish between the two.
At least at the thought-level, the Danish Minister has a defendable point, although false. She thinks, obviously, and ostensibly so, that fasting can lead to physical weakness.
Without ever having experienced mystical pleasure of the Islamic type, she can be excused for not knowing the nature of the mind-relaxing, soul-lifting feelings that the fasting Muslim experiences: first at the time he breaks the fast, and next after finishing his long standing vigil before his Lord, in special prayers, after the much-awaited meal, after which the body wants rest, but the soul longs for greater ‘closeness’ with his Lord.
It is as if his physical fatigue is vaporised, with his body as if floating on Ether. Is he, after the fatigue of the day’s fast, and the strenuous vigil of the night, in greater fatigue now? Is he, after the suffering of the day, when his inner self was grumbling against the fast, and the long prayers demanding the mind’s attention, and the body’s inconvenient movements lasting almost two hours, is he now any fearful of the next day’s repeat?
Amazingly, he is determined with greater strength to observes the next day’s fast too. After the physical activity during the long prayers, which no Yoga exercise can match in effectiveness, he comes out of the mosque with a glowing face and an agility that surprises him, which makes the young feel younger, and the old assuring himself that, after all, he is not as old as he had thought.
These are the feelings of every day, every new day, and seem to have become part of his being, for they only increase in effectiveness, cheerfulness, as the days roll on.
Has the Minister ever shared this feeling of fulfilment, any day of her life? Has any man or woman ever felt pleasure after the betrothal night without the accompanying feelings of dissatisfaction and regret? Is there any physical pleasure in this world which is not accompanied by some pain?
Would she change her mind and opinion if she experienced for a whole month, like every Muslim does, the uplifting, strengthening, reassuring pleasure, but without the feelings of dissatisfaction and regret: to know and realize that there is another world, apart from the physical, with which, if you are in contact, has a powerful, reinvigorating, refreshing, effect on the body and mind.
You ask a Muslim during the fast of the day, “Well man. Are you OK? What do you feel like?” The man, if he doesn’t think you are attacking his religion, is most likely to say, somewhat in anguish, “Well, it’s a bit tough, you know.” (His ‘bit’ conceals a story). Then, when your question and his answer have gone down below the humdrums of the day, ask him after his vigil of the Ramadan night, as he emerges from the mosque: “Well, man? Are you OK? What are your plans for tomorrow?” He is quite likely to answer with self-assurance, “Of course, I’ll be fasting tomorrow.” At the moment, his physical being is missing. His soul spoke out.
Come on young man, and the Minister lady, you may be excused for your sentiments, but you should not excuse yourself for missing the spiritual pleasure that Islam alone affords. If you missed it, you have not missed something valuable, you have missed all.