In the name of Allah, the most gracious and merciful. Most often when Muslims are asked the question “So, why do you guys fast in Ramadan?” the most common answer is “to empathize with the poor” or “to know what it’s like to go hungry”.
Now, these answers may be partly true. There’s a lot more to fasting than this.
If we were to look into the Quran, when Allah speaks about the act of fasting, it in fact reveals something a lot deeper. Allah says,
"Oh you who have believed, fasting has been decreed upon you as it was decreed upon those before you, so that you may obtain Taqwa”. (Quran 2:183)
Meaning, that the purpose of fasting is to gain Taqwa.
What is Taqwa ?
Well to answer this, let’s take a look at an amazing story, whereby Umar Bin Khattab asks Ubay Ibn Ka’ab this very same question; “What is Taqwa?”
To which Ubay replies with an incredible example. He says to Umar:
“Have you ever taken a thorny path?”
Umar says, Yes.
He then goes on to ask him “So, how did you travel along this thorny path?”
To which Umar replies “I rolled up my garment and was cautious as to where I would tread to avoid being pricked by the thorns”.
Ubay, says “… This is Taqwa”.
It’s an amazing example that illustrates the meaning of Taqwa. A concept of being cautious and careful as to where you would tread, not out of fear of stepping into thorns, but rather fear of stepping into that which Allah has prohibited.
And by fasting, we can gain this virtue of Taqwa. By abstaining from food and drink, and constantly being cautious to not eat or drink during the day, we develop a heightened sense of awareness and god consciousness.
And surely if we can learn to be cautious in avoiding the consumption of food and drink, which are generally permissible in other months, we would similarly be able to train ourselves to be much stronger and cautious from falling into that which is otherwise impermissible, such as backbiting, gossip, the unlawful gaze or disobeying our parents.
And the best thing of all is that Allah has guaranteed those who attain this status of Taqwa with many blessings as mentioned in the Quran.
The Quran on Taqwa
For instance, Allah promises to be near to and love those with Taqwa:
“Truly, Allah is with the people who have taqwa“(2:194);
“Allah is the close friend of the muttaqin“ (45:19); “Truly Allah loves the muttaqin“ (3:76);
Allah also promises to ease the affairs of those who have Taqwa and provide for them from where they least expect.
“Whoever has Taqwa of Allah He will provide for him a way out and provide for him from where he least expects” (65:2-3)
So if anyone asks you why Muslims fast, tell them this. It’s to gain Taqwa, a heightened sense of awareness and consciousness of Allah.
May Allah, the Almighty grant us all Taqwa this Ramadan. Ameen!