With the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. This is a requirement for all Muslim adults who are physically able. Nevertheless, many excited children fast for part of the day. A few days ago, my eight-year-old daughter was practicing fasting. I told her that when she feels really hungry she can break her fast. It was about 4:30 pm and my daughter was getting cranky and fighting with her sisters. At that moment, I told her to go and grab something to eat. She opened the pantry and took out a snack.
I was not sure if she ate or not because I was refereeing the argument between her two other sisters. Once the dust settled, I asked her if she broke her fast. She said that she was about to, she looked at it, but then put it back. At that moment fasting taught her self-discipline and self-control. And this is exactly why Muslims fast. In life, there are always going to be things we want, but we must refrain and ask ourselves what God wants of us.
In the case of my daughter, her struggle was a chocolate chip cookie or bag of chips. Although adults might also crave chocolate chip cookies, there are larger things in life that we must refrain from. This can be the temptation to cheat and make some extra money, adultery, or overindulging in materialism. Fasting instills in Muslims a sense of self-control and God consciousness so that even if no one is around to see what we do, God is watching and aware. This awareness of God has a great societal impact because it creates citizens who do the right thing without the need to be policed. It creates sincerity, honesty, and selflessness.
Today, our society needs such citizens more than any other time period. The month of Ramadan teaches Muslims from their youngest age to be aware of God and make decisions that might go against their immediate base desires for a greater purpose. When there are people in need one who constantly goes through the training of Ramadan will find it easy to share the blessings they have. Because they experienced a taste of hunger, they have a slight understanding what the needy feel. Ramadan is not about feasts, cultural foods, and social gatherings, although there is not anything necessarily wrong with these. It is about God consciousness (taqwa). Oh you who believe! Fasting has been prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you many learn God consciousness (Q. 2:183).