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For Muslims fasting, or ‘sawm’ in Arabic, was commanded in the Qur’an as a major obligatory spiritual discipline for the duration of the month of Ramadan. The Arabic word for fasting is derived from the root, ‘sama’, meaning to abstain from food, drink, smoking, sensual gratifications, wrong actions, harmful intentions, thoughts, words and deeds.
Islamic fasting is obligatory for one month in every lunar year, that is, Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. All healthy adults are expected to adhere to the proper rules of fasting. In addition to this obligatory fast, there are many optional fasts, some of which occur regularly every week or month, and some that are scattered throughout the year. These fasts are Sunnah, or the practice of the Prophet. Fasting is also used as a penance for breaking an oath and as a compensation for some other religious obligation.
Human interest in fasting is deeply rooted in our consciousness. Fasting has long been resorted to for maintaining physical and mental health as much as for cultural or political reasons. More specifically, fasting has been a devotional practice in most religious and spiritual movements throughout the ages.
Islam has prescribed the practice of abstinence and fasting as a means of self-purification and worship. The act of restraining the self from fulfilling its desires purifies and enhances awareness at physical, mental and spiritual levels and sensitizes human consciousness. The seeker realizes the weakness of the self and is gratified by the discipline, restriction and prohibitions, for these limitations are windows to Allah’s limitlessness.
“Everything in existence is in pairs and pluralities. Human nature is also the same. One aspect relates to evolution and animal consciousness and the other is heavenly, sacred and to do with spiritual energy.
"Islam, like other world religions was propelled by two forces. One is informative which, draws out maps and pathways describing how things are and the other force is transformative. The difference between information and transformation is like the difference between studying a recipe and partaking in a meal. It is a message that connects the seen and the unseen, as well as what is within time and that which is timeless. Like all messages it can be diluted, distorted or abused.
Essential Message of Islam
There are two foundations that the Quran rests upon. One is unity, as a cosmic reality – God is One but permeates all. All of creation, however, appears in pluralities and dualities - appearing as complimentary or in opposition, for example, good and bad, birth and death and so on. Creational multiplicities have all emerged from cosmic unity and return to it. Like visible light it yields numerous colours – rainbows emerge and subside back to light. The second most important message of Quran is that there are two stages in life, designated as the lower life ‘dunya,’ or later life. Which is permanent – ‘akhira’. Personal life and conditioned consciousness is defined within space and time. Life, itself, as such is in perpetuity and personal life draws its energy from that which is perpetual.