Fasting Revisited

God says in the Quran chapter 2 verse 183: “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.” Other translations say ….you may become pious.”

Fasting is one of the rules decreed by God for human being. As a matter of fact, messengers of God fasted. It is written in the Bible:

“But he (Jesus) for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry.” Matthew 4:2

“So he (Moses) was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments." Exodus 34:28

Every year, millions of people obey God’s command of fasting for one month. The ritual is done in Ramadhan month. It is often called Ramadhan fasting. The month of Ramadhan lasts for 29 or 30 days. After fasting in Ramadhan month is over, they celebrate the Ied Day on the 1st of Syawal. Syawal is the next month after Ramadhan month.

There is a goal behind every action. God does not set rules without the goal. As God says in the Quran, the goal of fasting is that we may become pious, righteous, and have good conduct. That means, after completing the 30 days of fasting, we should be pious and righteous. We should not lie, do corruption, cheat, hurt other people’s feelings and we should not get angry, jealous, envy, or disappointed if we don’t get what we want. However, if after completing the 30 days of fasting and it turns out that we still like to lie, hurt other people’s feelings, cheat, utter bad words, be angry, be offended, be upset over things that don’t go along with what we want, then question will arise. What is going on here? God says that the goal of fasting is for us to be righteous and have good conduct. But how come, after the Ramadhan fasting, we are still not pious? Far from righteousness? Why is our attitude still the same just like before Ramadhan fasting?

There are two possibilities here. First, the method of Ramadhan fasting apparently can’t be used to achieve piety. In other words, Ramadhan fasting is a wrong method for that. Second, the way that people implement the Ramadhan fasting is wrong.

God does not lie and does not break promise. When God says fasting is for achieving piety, then we can be sure that the goal can be achieved. Thus, the mistake is not in the method but in the interpretation of the fasting. Wrong interpretation leads to wrong implementation which makes it impossible to achieve the goal.

It is sad to find out that people take Ramadhan fasting only as physical ritual, which is abstaining from eating, drinking, and sexual intercourse from dawn to sunset. Merely doing the physical dimension of fasting will only give us hunger, thirst, and tiredness. It clearly cannot make people righteous or God-conscious. If that’s the case, it means the interpretation is not correct. We can see that during Ramadhan people actually eat more than usual and spend more money for food and clothing more. Furthermore, people interpret the Ied Day as the time when they can eat anything and they feel free from bearing hunger and thirst during Ramadhan fasting.

Therefore, reinterpretation of Ramadhan fasting is necessary in order for the goal to be achievable. Since the goal is righteousness, Ramadhan fasting certainly goes beyond physical dimension. It must cover spiritual dimension. From there, Ramadhan fasting must be interpreted as “only following God’s rules and abstaining from our desire”.

Consequently, for 30 days, we only do what God wants us, human being, to do and we give up our desires or ego. We desire food and drink in the morning, during the day or afternoon but God wants us to give up food and drink until sunset. We (married couple) desire sex but God wants us to abstain from sex for a while. When people do mischief to us, we have desire to take revenge or to be angry but God wants us NOT to be angry or take revenge. Instead, God wants us to forgive them and do good deeds to them. When our children misbehave, we usually become upset but God wants us to be patience and remind our children in friendly way. We desire to eat a lot of food and drink when breaking our fast but God wants us to be simple in breaking the fast. We desire new and expensive clothes for celebrating Ied but God wants us NOT to waste money and just wear clean clothes. Also, God wants us to be honest, generous, say good words or be silent, help each other, learn and understand Quran, as well as increase our act of worship in form of praying and remembrance of God.

Imagine, for 30 days, a person only does what God wants. For 30 days he gives up his desires and ego. For 30 days he fills his heart with remembrance of God. For 30 days, he trains himself spiritually. If a person does that, of course he will be righteous. And after 30 days of spiritual training, he will be ready to handle the problems of life until the next Ramadhan (the next training) arrives. That is the true interpretation and implementation of Ramadhan fasting. Correct interpretation leads to correct implementation. Correct implementation leads to fulfilled goal.

I shall close this with a question to myself: “Have I interpreted and implemented Ramadhan fasting correctly?” 

– Fasting Revisited –

 

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twitter: Maharani Hasibuan