What a person needs to do in the face of all the fine delights created for us in this world is demonstrate his love for, and devotion to, Allah and give thanks. This must be shown through sincere prayer to Allah, religious observances and moral virtue. Fasting is one such observance, and Muslims welcome the month of Ramadan with great joy and zeal.
There are also many aspects of the month of Ramadan that are physically and spiritually educational. One of these is damping the lower self’s haughtiness. People who do not believe may harbour feelings of self-importance. They are unwilling to reflect on the greatness of Allah and admit their own weakness whereas Allah is the only entity with grandeur. Human beings are created as helpless servants.
Just a simple flu virus is enough to understand one’s helplessness before Allah; a speck of dust in the eye, a piece of bread lodged in the throat or a minor accident is all enough to see how much we are created in need of Allah. But the lower self is wrongdoing, and unless it has faith, it will never admit the need to submit to our Creator, despite all its helplessness.
Fasting thus trains and calms the negative characteristics of the lower self. Fasting bestows modesty and permits no feelings of pride. Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, a great Islamic scholar, describes this attribute of Ramadan as follows: “One of the instances of wisdom in fasting in Ramadan ... is as follows: The instinctual soul does not want to recognise its Sustainer; it wants its own lordship, like Pharaoh. However, much torment it suffers, that character remains in it. It is however destroyed through hunger. And so, fasting in Ramadan strikes direct blows at the soul’s pharaoh-like front, shattering it. It demonstrates its impotence, weakness, and want. It makes it realise that it is a slave.”
Fasting is also an effective means of training the lower self, which wishes to be unfettered. Unless it is placed under discipline, the result is very poor moral values because unless Allah wishes otherwise the lower self wants evil. The lower self is under the command of satan, the enemy of mankind, he who leads people into evil.
Allah reveals this on the subject in the Noble Quran: Mankind! Eat what is good and lawful on the earth. And do not follow in the footsteps of satan. He truly is an outright enemy to you. He only commands you to do evil and indecent acts and to say about Allah what you do not know. (Surat al-Baqara: 168-169)
Fasting is like going on a physical and spiritual diet. It enables the lower self to heed the voice of the heart and soul and bestows great strength, peace and well-being. Patience in the face of hunger is a matter of familiarization, and fasting for the sake of Allah is a healing against impatience and lack of fortitude.
Adnan Oktar's piece on The Gulf Today: