It is a pleasure to be here with such good company and spiritual atmosphere. We are in the month of Ramadan, which is the 9th month of the lunar calendar; hence its dates change approximately 11 days every year. In the Qur’an, all healthy, adult believers are asked to fast from dawn to sunset for the duration of this month. At the end of this month there is a 3 day EID/celebration.
For Muslims, Ramadan entails getting up prior to sunrise to have an early breakfast and not eating or drinking anything till sunset. They frequently share the fast-breaking dinner with friends, family, and those in need.
It is important to note here though that fasting also involves all of our faculties. For example, our tongue fasts by not getting angry, lying, breaking someone’s heart, being mean and so on. Our eyes fast by not looking at unlawful things, and by looking at God’s creation to contemplate the manifestations of His attributes. Our body fasts when we use it in acts that would please God, like helping those in need.
Fasting helps discipline our ego, whose job is to claim ownership and independence. It helps us to realize our weakness and neediness, which in turn renders us more humble. It helps make us more thankful for all the gifts we receive from God. It helps us understand what hunger is and thus help those in need. And finally, it is not only healthy for the soul but also for our body. Those who are into detox fasting…etc. know what I am talking about J
Hence, spiritually, Ramadan is like an intensive course when we try to get and stay closer to God, and increase our awareness that He is the sole Creator and Sustainer of everything and us at all times.
Like Ramadan, Eid celebration is also centered on worship rather than food. Although food is always present; since in Islam the world is sacred as everything is a sign pointing to its Maker. The feast is celebrated with communal prayers and glorification of God that lasts 3 days. People visit each other and offer presents to each other to express their gratitude to God. Feasting is basically rejoicing at being the honored guest of the compassionate creator, the Divine host….. We rejoice at God’s love and care for us as His guests here on earth.
Now, I would like to concentrate more deeply on the meaning of fasting. Fasting was prescribed in the Quran, not as a new practice, but as the continuation of the way of the prophets. God says in the Quran:
“O you who have attained to faith! Fasting is ordained for you as it was ordained for those before you, so that you might become God-conscious” (Qur’an, 2: 183).
In a sense, we fast to imitate Moses and his 40 day fast before talking to God; Jesus and his 40 day fast; and Muhammad and his fast before he received the first revelation.
There is one main purpose in fasting: to become God-conscious. To become more transparent, and with this transparency to experience our life and the world with more clarity. To see things as they really are, rather than to see them as we like to see them.
Fasting forces us to feel our vulnerability. We become hungry, thirsty, and weak. If fasting is accompanied with deep reflection, then through fasting, we start feeling the presence of Infinite Love and Compassion that is flowing from the Infinite Source, which we call God.
In popular culture, feeling our weakness is not seen as desirable. However, in Islamic spirituality, feeling our weakness and vulnerability is the fastest way to reach God…
When we feel our weakness, we start to realize who we are dependent on. When we stop eating and drinking, we recognize who gives us life… every moment… who gives us the ability to talk, see, hear… every moment… We recognize that we are weak, but we are dependent on an Infinite Source.
When we recognize our dependence and surrender to the Infinite Source, we feel empowered. We actually become much more peaceful, strong, and content. Because it is not my weak ego that I depend on any more. I realize that I am dependent on the Infinite Source that creates and fashions everything every moment.
In the Qur’anic verse, fasting was mentioned as a way to be more God-conscious, to be in close unity with Him. To see His attributes and actions in every moment, in every human, in every flower, in every tree… Since when we recognize our dependence on Him, we also recognize the dependence of everything on Him. Every human is also weak, and dependent on Him. Every tree, every animal, the sun, the moon, is also dependent on Him. The Infinite One is taking care of everything with Its Infinite Love and Compassion…
This way fasting allows us to see all human beings as brothers and sisters. Not only that, it also helps us to see the whole creation as brothers and sisters… the family of creation.
With that absolute dependence on the Infinite Source, we start recognizing that all the beautiful attributes we are attached to, are in fact coming from the Source. The Source of beauty, love, and compassion is Him. In this respect, everything becomes a mirror to the Infinite One. In this regard, Mother Teresa’s words speak to the heart: “I see God in every human being.” Likewise, Yunus Emre, a Muslim poet and mystic said “I love all the created because of the Creator.”
I want to mention another verse from the Quran, where it mentions the conversation between Zachariah and Mary. God says in the Quran:
“Whenever Zachariah visited her in the sanctuary, he found her provided with food. He would ask: “O Mary, whence came this unto thee?” She would answer: “It is from God; behold, God grants sustenance unto whom He wills, beyond all reckoning” (Qur’an, 3:37).
Similar to Mary who was in complete consciousness of her Lord, the more we enter to the sanctuary of God consciousness through fasting, the more we are to receive such spiritual sustenance.
That is why we rejoice at the month of Ramadan even if the stomach yells. And maybe that’s why it is said that fasting brings about spiritual fulfillment and that in the month of fasting, goods are multiplied manifolds. Ramadan is also often called the month of blessings.
It is a month of worship and contemplation on who we are, why we are here and where we are off to…
Thank you for being here and sharing this meaningful fast-breaking dinner with us.