I am not eating and drinking – not to punish myself unnecessarily – but, because in my religion, Islam, fasting in the month of Ramadan has been prescribed by God as one of the fundamental pillars of the faith so that
I can achieve greater awareness of God.
My fasting is for the purpose of getting closer to God, to purify my soul and to improve my behavior.
In contrast, the involuntary fast of the poor is not their choice or their wish – circumstances have led them into hunger.
Ramadan has a purpose beyond bringing about spiritual awareness and personal development.
My fasting in Ramadan would be an empty gesture unless it is also a call to action.
Fasting is asking me to take responsibility for my actions.
It asking me to ask myself – What am I doing for others?
How relevant is my fasting if it doesn’t drive me to be concerned about the poor, the hungry, the sick and the oppressed?
Faith traditions teach us that we find God with the sick, the homeless and the hungry.
There is a sacred tradition in Islam in which Muhammad, the Messenger of God (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“God (mighty and sublime be He) will say on the Day of Resurrection:
O son of Adam, I fell ill and you visited Me not.
He will say: O Lord, and how should I visit You when You are the Lord of the worlds?
He will say: Did you not know that My servant So-and-so had fallen ill and you visited him not? Did you not know that had you visited him you would have found Me with him?
O son of Adam, I asked you for food and you fed Me not.
He will say: O Lord, and how should I feed You when You are the Lord of the worlds?
He will say: Did you not know that My servant So-and-so asked you for food and you fed him not? Did you not know that had you fed him you would surely have found that (the reward for doing so) with Me?
O son of Adam, I asked you to give Me to drink and you gave Me not to drink.
He will say: O Lord, how should I give You to drink when You are the Lord of the worlds?
He will say: My servant So-and-so asked you to give him to drink and you gave him not to drink. Had you given him to drink you would have surely found that with Me.
This sacred tradition is a plea from the sick, the hungry and the thirsty – ‘Is anyone out there?’
Ramadan reminds me of my obligation to assist those who are hungry and thirsty.
But my Ramadan fasting also teaches me that assistance must go beyond meeting the immediate needs and I must also be an advocate for the poor – to be the voice of the voiceless.
Overcoming poverty is about justice and honoring the dignity of human beings, values that are central to my religion.
As Nelson Mandela said, “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.”
This Ramadan, I will be proudly supporting the Give 30 campaign, an interfaith and intercultural initiative to fight hunger in our country.
The Campaign encourages all Canadians, regardless of faith or background, to make a donation to their local food bank during Ramadan.
The tagline of the Give 30 campaign is Compassion ~ Dignity ~ Unity which is what Ramadan fasting is all about.
Muneeb Nasir’s reflection comes to the Parliament of the World’s Religions as part of the 2017 Interfaith Ramadan series, empowering interfaith allies, Muslim and those of other spiritual and religious backgrounds from around the world, to share their stories of service, community and gratitude during the month of Ramadan. Please contact the Parliament at info@ParliamentOfReligions.org, or tag us at #RamadanPoWR to share your own story.
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