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No, Not Even Water – A Spiritual Breakdown of Ramadan

No, Not Even Water - A Spiritual Breakdown of Ramadan

In the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk. The purpose of fasting are many, a few of which are: to strengthen one’s self-control, to weaken the physical body so that the spiritual body can take precedence, to strengthen gratitude and imaan (inward faith/belief), and to get closer to God. Self-control is a given as it is taxing to go the entire day without food and drink. Gratitude goes hand in hand with fasting as the inevitable hunger pangs that ramp up before sundown makes it hard to take food for granted. Fasting renews the faith because it is a reminder of the omnipresence of God as technically one can sneak food whenever he/she wishes but it isn’t done in recognition that God is watching and taking any food outside of the designated hours would invalidate the fast. 

In addition to the fasting ritual of Ramadan, it is highly encouraged to increase in extra voluntary acts of worship during the month. For reference: outside of Ramadan, it is commonplace for muslims to pray 5 times a day. Whereas in the month of Ramadan, there are extra prayers called Taraweeh offered after the final night prayer, Isha, which consists of 20 Rakats (iterations of standing, bowing, and prostrating). The Taraweeh prayer is offered in congregation with the community and features the recitation of the entire Quran, chapter by chapter, over the 29/30 nights of Ramadan. There are 114 surahs in the Quran which are divided into 30 Juz or chapters. The month of Ramadan is believed to be the month when the Prophet Muhamad peace be upon him (PBUH) received the revelation of the Quran as an indefinite and infallible guide for the God consciousness. For this reason, the month of Ramadan is actually nicknamed the month of the Quran!

“Ramaḍân is the month in which the Quran was revealed as a guide for humanity with clear proofs of guidance and decisive authority. So whoever is present this month, let them fast,” says God in the Holy Quran, surah Baqarah, ayat 185. 

As Ramadan is hailed as the month of the Quran, it makes sense that Muslims dedicate their time to reading more of the Quran than usual. Since there are 30 chapters of the Quran, it’s a goal for many to read one chapter a day for the 30-day duration of Ramadan to read the whole book in the month. But this is no easy feat, even for the native Arabic speaker since the Quran has a complex set of linguistic rules that dictate its pronunciation and meaning. 

The Quran is written in Arabic originally, an alphabet that consists of 28 letters. There are 3 vowel marks called fatha, dhamma, and kasra that can change the pronunciation of any letter from “ah” to “ooh” to “ee.” There are heavy letters (Tafkheem) and light letters (Tarqeeq) that are pronounced differently and must be applied when reading in order to preserve the intended meaning. There are conjugation rules such as noon sakinah and meem sakinah that require the reader to look at the letter before and after to determine if the hum sound that comes from holding the “m” or “n” letter must be pronounced or hidden. There is Maad which dictates how a letter must be stretched and for how many counts the letter should be held for. There are qalqalah letters that need to be memorized, which require the reader to make a bouncing sound during the recitation. There are stop marks that must be learned to recognize when it is allowed to stop within an ayat when it is required to stop, and when it is better not to stop. There are also several words throughout the Quran that don’t follow any of the traditional rules and the applications of which must be memorized and applied during the recitation. These are only a handful of the many rules that dictate the proper recitation of the Quran, which is partly why the book has been preserved so well since the time of its revelation. Muslims believe that God promised to preserve the Quran until the end of times as a guide for humanity, and we believe that the previous texts that came down with other prophets like Musa (Moses) and Isa (Jesus) once had the same message found in the Quran but has since been corrupted and altered by humans.  

 

In addition to the ritual obligations of Ramadan, there are also spiritual adjustments that need to be made to complement the fast. For one, it is encouraged in the month to moderate one’s emotions and mellow out any unfavorable ones. Anger, jealousy, resentment, gossiping, and laziness are all condemned year round, but especially in the month of Ramadan, and thought to weaken the spiritual validity of one’s fast. There’s even a saying that if someone were to make the fasting person angry, his/her response should be, “I am fasting, I am fasting.” One should also abstain from ill speech, backbiting, listening to music, and wasting time watching television/scrolling. Time is extremely precious in this month as every second of good deeds/remembrance is multiplied and every second of evil is also the like. 

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About the Writer
Ameenah Syed
Ameenah has a background in public speaking (radio journalism) and has global, virtual work experience. She brings a critical perspective to the West Press in terms of both current events and candy! Ameenah joined The West Press because she believes in being a lifelong learner. Her favorite quote is one that she sees often in her English class, “Perfection is the enemy of the good.” She ultimately hopes to relay this message through her writing. 

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