“Fast and you shall be healthy“ said the profit PBUH. “Live simply, so others may simply live”.
To observe Ramadan, is to bring silence and peace to the body, mind and spirit. Ramadan is a month of discipline; performed right, you emerge with the feeling of having spent a month at a meditation and body purifying retreat. The month calls for abstaining from the luxuries of life and allowing the senses to make do with minimal stimulation both in body and spirit. Clearly the most obvious is the abstinence from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. While it may seem difficult, it is easier to practice than other forms.
Taste – To fast only from food an beverage is cleansing for the body. Much scientific research praises the practice when performed correctly. The practice calls for having a reasonable portion of well-balanced, nutrient rich breakfast before dawn. This gives you the fuel you require for the day. At sunset, you are meant to break fast on a light meal to slowly reintroduce your body to food and drink. The taste of the first sip of water feels like a blessing. You drink it after saying a prayer thanking Allah for granting you the baraka of food and drink. You follow the meal with a series of prayers allowing the nutrients to re-energize your body. As the night progresses, you can have another light meal or drink fluids.
The abstinence from food and drink strikes on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If you are hungry and thirsty, you are unlikely to be consumed with the needs further up the hierarchy. Sight – Purification of the sight sense, in its fundamental form is avoiding sights that are deemed forbidden in Islam; whether exposing what is forbidden or flaunting wealth that can cause envy with the less fortunate. In consideration, women and men alike might opt to present themselves modestly, to assist observers of the month in fulfilling their duty. As an observer, you are expected to cast your sight modestly on your surroundings and avoid staring. In an urban environment, polluted with billboards promoting luxury lifestyles, an escape to nature, spiritual dwellings or home can help you practice this form of purification.
Sound – Purification of the sense of sound comes in many forms. Reducing the bombardment of loud noise, whether it is loud music, TV, human dialogue, arguments, foul language or any other form born by you or others in your community. A month of peace and tranquility, giving the delicate muscles in your ears a break. Freeing the hearing center in your brain and allowing it to relax and rejuvenate. In today’s urban, noise polluted environment, this break comes as a blessing (baraka).
Smell – Purification of the sense of smell would be a blessing for all. The crowded urban airspace carries smells ranging from the subtle to the extremely pungent. To the smell center of the brain, urban airspace is equivalent to being on a treadmill at 100 km per hour. A constant workout. From perfumes to poor hygiene, the aroma of coffee, the smell of cigarettes, to the smell of a worn out diesel fuel engine. Imagine a break from all of that.. it does wonders for the brain and smell organs.
Above all, disciplining the mind and heart, is the greatest challenge and the highest reward. To be able to monitor ones thoughts and feelings and focus on the positive, the peaceful, the pure is the most enriching experience to the individual and the community. To challenge the mind to think of the good, to challenge the heart to love and appreciate, to avoid anger, hostility, confrontation, ill-will. To lead with kindness and forgiveness, is to be blessed with the true spirit of the month.