Monday, August 24, 2009

Teaching Your Children About Islam #4: Why do Muslims Fast?

Children ask this question with curiosity. This is your chance to explain the greatness of Islam to them. My son asked me this recently and I had to do some research on answer. Just because we are parents and raised in the Islamic faith does not mean we know the answers. Here are some explanations that you can provide your children with.

First, it is our ibadah (our worship) to Allah. According to our prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon him), the month of Ramadan is a great and blessed month. Fasting during this month is one of the five pillars of Islam. We fast to please Allah. Fasting, like the other pillars of Islam, helps us to be positive, practice good will, and good character in our lives and our communities. Fasting helps us develop faithfulness devotion to God.

Another reason for fasting is we build good and moral characters because our consciousness is provoked. A God conscious and fearing heart causes us to act positively. We become self-purified, self-motivated and self-inspired to do good. Our hearts are peaceful and through this, we create positive energy. Moreover, we more aware about doing right and staying away from the wrong. Our consciousness is called Taqwa (God- consciousness).

Another great thing that comes out through our fasting and our awareness is our development for strong action and good intention towards brotherhood and sisterhood. Fasting, especially Ramadan, brings people together at numerous times during the day: at Suhr (predawn meal), Iftaar (sunset meal) and Tarawih prayers (special Ramadan prayers), instead to the normal five times a day prayers.

Ramadan is also a month of sharing and giving charity. Sadaqah is the voluntary charity whereas Zakah is required of every Muslim. Our Prophet (Peace and Blessing Be Upon Him) said: “If someone gives one who has been fasting something with which to break his fast, it will provide forgiveness for his sins."

There are so many more reasons for fasting in Ramadan. The month of Ramadan was the month that our Glorious Quran was revealed. Fasting brings us closer to the Quran and we must aim to complete at least one reading of the Quran, especially during the Tarawih prayers.

Fasting also teaches us patience and commitment. We learn patience to endure hunger and thirst. We understand the sufferings of the poor and needy and thus, we learn to be compassionate. Patience is also very important in understanding right and forbidding the wrong. We also learn self and social discipline. The waking, the prayer, the breaking of the fast, and so forth help us to create order in our lives. Community relationships are stressed in Ramadan because people come together to understand and practice. Everyone is part of the Islamic community, rich or poor, and no one is different or better in Allah’s eyes.

Allah revealed two verses that spelt out our reasons for fasting.

"O ye who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for people before you so that you will (learn how to attain) piety" (Q2:183)

"(fasting is) for a fixed number of days: but if any one of you is sick, or on a journey, the prescribed number (should be made up) from (other) days later. For those who can do it (with hardship) is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But whoever can give more (than this) of his own free will--(then) it is better for him, and it is better for you that ye fast, if ye but knew." Q(2:184)
When these two verses revealed, the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to the Muslims "Ramadan fast is a divine obligation but whoever likes to fast `Ashura day (as well) may do so voluntarily or leave it".

The Ramadan fast is a blessings to Muslims. Allah gave us the entire month of Ramadan as a blessing and our opportunity not to lose sight of who we are.
Share this with you children and you will be surprised with their responses.

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The Quran Says:

"And thus preach joy to My servants.Those who listen to the word and follow the best of it. Those are the ones whom Allah has guided and they are the wise people." (39:17-18)