A view of Ramadan by Rafiq Raja

It all starts before dawn when everyone in the family gets up to eat.  This meal ends at twilight and signifies the beginning of the fast each day.  It has a huge impact, especially for families where both parents work.  The sense of togetherness throughout Ramadan is a wonderful experience.The fact that the pre-dawn meal is not only allowed, but also encouraged suggests that fasting is not meant to be simply a feat of physical endurance. 


It's more about changing ones daily routine by controlling the appetites.  Depriving oneself of, say, the bar of chocolate at break-time is a small exercise in self-discipline.  The idea is that slowly through the month one is able to generate enough self-discipline and control, that dealing with serious character flaws, such as envy and jealousy, becomes possible. At the same time, virtuous qualities of patience, generosity and love are to be developed. 


Fasting is a spiritual tool, it unlocks the psyche and gives the individual a practical methodology for changing and becoming a better person. Ramadan adds another dimension to community life.  The first revelation of the Koran occurred in this month.  According to tradition the Archangel Gabriel taught the words to the Blessed Prophet.  Following this example, Muslims try to listen to a whole reading of the Koran during Ramadan. In a time when the walls of the mind are closing in on us, and we are constantly being unsettled by inane problems like traffic and work-related stress Ramadan comes as a liberating experience. 


Fasting teaches us that the first step in learning to share is to control ones own urge to consume - a message that has a certain poignancy in the run-up to Christmas.


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