Fasting amongst Muslims is a means to achieving piety and righteousness.
It is observed during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar (Shaï¿½ban) from sunrise to sunset over the full lunar month.
As this yearï¿½s Ramadan approaches it is pertinent to draw the attention of the Muslim brethren to the admonition of the Holy Prophet of Islam, Mohammed (PBUH): ï¿½He who does not give up false speech and evil actions, Allah does not need his refraining from food and drink.
ï¿½ In other words Allah is not going to accept such a personï¿½s fasting.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five Pillars of Islam, which require that Muslims perform five central duties in order to strengthen their faith.
While Islam has two major sects, the Sunnis and the Shiites, all Muslims aim to realise these five pillars in their lifetime.
Ramadan is observed by more than one billion Muslims around the world and is the time for spiritual purification achieved through fasting, self-sacrifice and prayers.
Ramadan concludes with a 3-day festival known as "Eid" or "Eid ul-Fitr," which literally means "the feast of the breaking/to break the fast.
" The holiday marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and is a culmination of the month-long struggle to attain higher spiritual state.
It is gratifying to note that many Muslims, especially in Ghana, are gradually moving towards accepting common dates for the observation of Muslim Festivals - Eid-ul Fitr and Eid-ul Adha.
In the past there were agitations and disagreements on the dates with some Civil and Public Servants choosing different days to observe the holidays.
The National Chief Imam, Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharabutu and other Muslim Opinion Leaders would forever be credited with bringing unity to the Muslim front in the country.
Through their instrumentality there is now a large dose of sanity among Muslims throughout the country in recent times.
Sheikh Hussein Idris Molah at a dawn (Fajir) prayers at UN-Libya Quarters, Madina Zongo advised the congregation to prepare adequately towards the up-coming fast period and to ensure that they combined their fast with dedicated prayers, reading of the Koran, clean-up exercises and the keeping of good sanitation and environmental practices, which he noted were all in fulfilment of the teachings of the Holy Prophet of Islam, Mohammed (PBUH).
He advised Muslims to ensure that they did not engage in issuing threats; quarrels; arguments; petty squabbles; violent acts and insults during and after the Ramadan period since such acts vitiated oneï¿½s fast and urged them to learn to live in peace with one another.
Sheikh Idris Molah noted that it was not enough for Muslims to converge and fill the various Mosques in their numbers during the Ramadan period only for their numbers to dwindle just after the period; adding that Ramadan should be a period for serious reflection and rededication to the ideals of Islam.
While surfing the Internet this Writer came across a submission by Sheikh Yusuf Estes.
He said: ï¿½The Month of Ramadan has long ago been established as the month of fasting for Muslimsï¿½.
But from where does the authority and instructions for its observance come? How can we know with certainty the correct performance and acceptability with Allah the Sublime? Wisdom of Fasting Fasting is a great act of worship for the Muslim which he performs by neglecting his desires to please his Lord and hopes for His Reward.
It is just common sense that the one who would not give up desired things except that it would be for something more desirable.
In this case the pleasure of Allah is the most sought after desire.
The heart, through fasting is apt to maintain its tenderness since the its desires are not sought but shunned, and tends to be more receptive to the words of Allah.
The rich will, through fasting be more appreciative of Allah's graces and bounties.
He will also suffer deprivation just as the poor and needy do during their everyday circumstances.
So he will be more motivated to help them with some of the things Allah has provided him.
It helps to depress pride of the ego and maintains humbleness.
Moreover, fasting has its health advantages by virtue of decreasing the intake of food and relaxing the digestive system.
Great is the Wisdom of Allah, and great are His Graces.
Obligation of Fasting The Month of Ramadan has long ago been established as the month of fasting for Muslims.
We can begin by looking into the Book of Allah, the Holy Quran for the foundation and authority of this Blessed Event in Muslims traditions.
Allah has said in Surah Baqarah: ï¿½O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you just as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may do your duty.
On days, which have been planned ahead; any of you who is ill or on a journey [should choose] a number of other days.
For those who can [scarcely] afford it, making up for it means feeding a poor man.
It is even better for anyone who can volunteer some wealth; although it is better yet for you to fast, if you only knew.
ï¿½ The month of Ramadan is when the Quran was sent down as guidance, and as a Standard.
Let any of you who is at home during the month, fast in it; while anyone who is ill or on a journey should [set an equal] number of other days.
Allah wants things to be easy for you and does not want any hardship for you, so complete the number and magnify Allah because He has guided you, so that you may act grateful.
ï¿½Whenever My servants ask you about Me, [it means] I am Near.
I answer the appeal of the prayerful one whenever he appeals to Me.
Let them respond to Me, and believe in Me so they may be directed! ï¿½It is lawful for you to have intercourse with your wives on the night of the Fast: They are garments for you while you are garments for them.
Allah knows how you have been deceiving yourselves, so He has relented towards you and pardoned you.
Now [feel free to] frequent them and seek what Allah has prescribed for you.
Eat and drink until the white streak [of dawn] can be distinguished by you from the black thread [of night] at daybreak.
Then complete the Fast until nightfall and have no dealings with women while you are secluded at your devotions in the Masjids (Mosques).
Such are the limits set by Allah, so do not attempt to cross them! Allah explains His signs to mankind so they may do their duty.
ï¿½ Performing the other acts of worship and duties are most important, and Salah (ritualistic prayers) in particular, without which no other act of worship, is accepted by Allah.
Praying in congregation is a great aspect in our religion.
Everyone should attend.
Its reward is twenty seven times greater than that which is performed individually.
The Prophet (PBUH) was just about to burn the houses of those who did not attend the congregational prayers.
The Prophet (PBUH) said: "There will exist in my ummah (followers) those who will make unlawful things into the lawful such as; fornication, silk for the men, intoxicating beverages and the playing of musical instruments.
" Virtues of Ramadan Abu Hurairah narrated: "Allah's Messenger (PBUH) said: ï¿½When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of Jannah (Paradise) are opened and the gates of Jahannam (Hell) are closed, and the shaytan (devils) are chained up.
" The gates of Jannah (Paradise) are opened in this month because a great deal of righteous deeds are performed, and act as an encouragement for those who seek Allah's reward.
The gates of Jahannam (Hell) are closed because fewer sins are committed by the believers.
The shaytan (devils) will be chained that they may not have the influence on the believers by whispering to them and misguiding them that they might ordinarily have during the other months of the year.
Allah has prescribed fasting and made it obligatory on all nations.
He has said: "O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.
" Quran 2:183] One of the virtues of fasting is that it is a means of atonement for sins as it is narrated on the authority of Abu Hurairah that: "The Prophet (PBUH) said; "Allah has said; 'All the deeds of Adam's children (all mankind) they do for themselves, except fasting which belongs to Me and I will reward for it.
Fasting is a shield (against the Hell and against the committing of sins).
If one of you happens to be fasting he should avoid sexual relations with his wife and should avoid quarrelling.
Should someone fight or quarrel with him, let him say, 'I am fasting'.
By Him in Whose Hand is my soul (Allah), the smell of the mouth of the one who is fasting is better in the sight of Allah than musk (perfume).
" It is a shield because it safeguards the believer from vain talk and wrong doing and thereby protects him from the Jahannam (Hell).
Of all the good deeds, Allah has favoured fasting to be greatly rewarded by Him and distinguished it with prestige, if it is observed with the pure intention of pleasing Him alone.
From other sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) we know that: ï¿½Fasting is so highly regarded for a believer that he would have two occasions of joy.
One at the time of breaking his fast, [to enjoy the bounties of Allah, because he has been favoured with Allah's mercy to observe fasting while many others have been deprived of this great blessing], and the second would be when he meets his Lord [and enjoys the abundant reward for having observed fasting].
By Alhaji Abdulai Mamudu Gariba, Senior Editor, Ghana News Agency.