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Lessons From Ramzan: ‘Fasting Is Purely A Personal Act Of Faith’

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By Zehra Kazmi:

The Quran stresses a lot on the ideas of sabr (patience) and salam (peace). A line from the book that struck me the most was, “To us our deeds, and to you yours; peace be to you: we do not seek out the ignorant.” (28:55). I don’t know a lot about religion but in the past few weeks my understanding has increased manifold, and I have some clarity about my beliefs. As part of my research, I went through a lot of commentary on, and translations of the Quran. It’s quite difficult to see how this is the same text whose principles terrorists claim to uphold by killing innocents. The futility of anger and violence is a theme that runs continuously throughout the Quran.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

In this article, I hope to address the tendency towards violence and anger that we all have. There is a really interesting anecdote of the Prophet which I recently read. Once the Prophet asked his companions, “Do you know who the strong person is?” His companions replied, “The one who is able to wrestle others down.” The Prophet responded, “No, it is the one who is able to control their anger.”

A roza is a test of my strength not just because I have to physically deny myself food and water but, also because I have to make a conscious effort towards controlling my temper. Aggression can manifest itself in a variety of ways, from a harsh word casually spoken, to something a lot more hostile like physical violence. Fasting is like going on a cleanse. I am a very impulsive person, so it is difficult for me to check my emotions. However, when I am fasting I make an effort to think before I speak. It’s easy to become irritable when you don’t eat all day but one must dwell deeper into the reasons behind their anger or irritation.

A professor once told me how using the word “fuck” is a very easy exercise in rhetoric. It’s a word whose semantic impact is loaded with emotionality even though it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s important to register your protest or disagreement, but once passion overtakes reason the strength of one’s arguments automatically gets lost. This knowledge might not stop most of us from using it but it matters that we know what it really means. Our lives would be a lot simpler if we didn’t let rhetoric drive our decisions. Haven’t we all had a moment where we regretted not taking a step back and viewing things in perspective? Once in a while it’s important to pause and contemplate over our decisions.

In Chapter 2, verse 63 of the Bhagvad Gita, Krishna says, “From anger delusion occurs, from delusion bewilderment of memory, after forgetfulness of memory the loss of spiritual intelligence and losing spiritual intelligence one perishes.” A universal truth indeed, because there is a distinct pattern one follows after losing control over anger. A chain of reactions that range from arrogance to stupidity unfold.

At the same time, I wouldn’t advocate leaving one’s anger unresolved for so long that it turns into a monster that slowly engulfs you. Uncontrolled anger can lead to a variety of health issues, from headache, anxiety to increased blood pressure and even strokes. Psychologists recommend that your immediate response to a situation which aggravates you should be to take a step back and analyze it. The Quran recommends a variety of solutions to check your response to a situation that angers you. Imam Sohaib Sultan in his article in Time, says that the performance of the ritual of wudu (spiritual washing before namaaz) with cold water can help checking your response to such situations. The idea is to cool the body and soul from the heat of anger.

Despite knowing all this, I can’t guarantee that you or I won’t lose our tempers from tomorrow. It takes effort for me to not swear or get angry during a fast. I must admit to having failed multiple times on those accounts. However, “It gets hot, I feel hungry and that makes me angry’’, isn’t a valid excuse to behave like a child. At the end of the day, we must realize we aren’t doing others a favour by fasting. It’s a purely personal act of faith. Therefore, our behaviour should never become uncivil just because we have taken this decision to observe a religious practice. Probably, the most important lesson to learn from all of this is simple, we are humans at the end of the day and all we can do is keep trying. Isn’t that the purpose of it all- to keep trying?

This article is part of Youth Ki Awaaz’s special coverage of Ramzan this month. Follow Ramzan With Zehra for more.

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  1. MajorBS

    @Zehra Kazmi : It is not what terrorists do not only “claim” that Quran upholds killing of innocents. They explicitly know which verse and which chapter in Quran has these verses. Of course these are the same people who will violate 100 other things in the same text, but that does not mean Quran does not have these verses. The verses which explicitly asks all able bodied muslims to fight against infidels and bring them to submission and which explicitly tells them to conquer the whole world in the name of Allah is as much part of the Quran as the verses which tell you to fast during the holy month of Ramzan. I would recommend you at least read your Quran before writing such lies.
    More than 10 million terrorists in the middle east are not motivated by anyother texts or verses, but the Qurans own. Why dont you try to quote the verse of the sword which was revealed in the battle field? If you think verse of the sword is not relevant after battle (by the way no Quranic evidence of ceasing the violence once war is over has been found), I would argue hijab is not relevant in the modern age or polygamy or fear of pork, or taboo about using contraception. Again there are many other verses which include
    Chapter 2, verse 191 -193″And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah [disbelief or unrest] is worse than killing…
    but if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah [disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah] and worship is for Allah alone. But if they cease, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zalimun (the polytheists, and wrong-doers, etc.)”
    Kill those who believe in other faiths, kill them until there is no other worship but that of Allah’s. Do you really believe that this passage is a ‘claim’ by terrorists when it is readily available in any Quran you buy from any streets of India. Muslims are deaf and dumb when such difficult questions are raised about their faith.
    If you bring about Zakir Naik, he has eluded justifying these quotes for too long.

    Chapter 2 verse 244,
    Chapter 2 verse 216 (Not only does this verse establish that violence can be virtuous, but it also contradicts the myth that fighting is intended only in self-defense, since the audience was obviously not under attack at the time. From the Hadith, we know that this verse was narrated at a time that Muhammad was actually trying to motivate his people into raiding merchant caravans for loot.)
    Chapter 3 verse 56,
    Chapter 4 verse 74 (theological basis for suicide bombing and martyrdom while fighting infidels).

    Chapter 4 verse 95 which criticizes “peaceful” Muslims who do not join in the violence, letting them know that they are less worthy in Allah’s eyes. It also demolishes the modern myth that “Jihad” doesn’t mean holy war in the Quran, but rather a spiritual struggle. Not only is this Arabic word (mujahiduna) used in this passage, but it is clearly not referring to anything spiritual, since the physically disabled are given exemption. (The Hadith reveals the context of the passage to be in response to a blind man’s protest that he is unable to engage in Jihad, which would not make sense if it meant an internal struggle). According to the verse, Allah will allow the disabled into Paradise, but will provide a larger reward to those who are able to kill others in his cause.

    Again I cannot assure you if anyone will question the presence of these verses from the muslim community. However the fact that they do not question these verses (even peaceful muslims who are well versed in Quran and Hadith), makes them as guilty as terrorists who kill innocents.

    “For in the end we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” – Martin Luther King

  2. B

    @Major BS: From where on earth did you get the figure 10 million? Or were you talking about the number of Muslims killed by the U.S.? Extremism exists among every religion and community, but the western media selectively highlights Islamic extremism to malign the image of Muslims and Islam. This is the same media which selectively publishes news and pays a fortune to manipulate it. Otherwise why is there nothing on the over 400,000 Muslims displaced in Central African Republic, genocide of Burmese Muslims is not covered by the media, the United States killing 2 million Iraqis was not news, Obama droning innocent children in Pakistan was not highlighted by the media, United States slaughtered Muslims in Afghanistan, Iran, Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Lebanon Pakistan, Somalia, Panama, Palestine, and it was not news. Where is international media when the U.S. kills Muslims, sheds their blood, rapes their women, takes their land, mocks their religion, destroys their livelihood, and slaughters their children? The U.S. murders innocent children in Islamic countries and no one raises an eyebrow. There are no televised discussions. No one mourns. It does not make headlines. It is not news.

  3. B

    Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. How many reversions are taking place with the sword? Islam is a beautiful and peaceful religion, and just because you happened to misinterpret it doesn’t change anything. There is no evidence in Islamic history that forceful conversions took place. Many distinguished Western historians have attested this fact – foremost among whom is Sir Thomas W. Arnold in his book, “The Preaching of Islam”. Marshall G. Hodgson in his book, “The Venture of Islam”, Albert Hourani in his book, “A History of the Arab People”, Ira Lapidus in his book, “History of Islamic Societies”, L.S. Starorianos in his book, “A Global History, the Human Heritage” and many others.

    1. MajorBS

      “al`amru bil-ma’ruf wannahyu’anil-mun’kar”, first you act by hand, if failed then act by mouth
      That is what Muhammed had to say about conversion.

    2. B

      You need to learn Arabic. The verse you have quoted means “enjoin the good and forbid the evil.”

  4. B

    Jihad means ‘to strive.’ Muslims are commanded by Allah to strive for good through words and actions. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, the Holy Quran was not revealed in one day – It was revealed few verses at a time. After the persecution of Muslims in Makkah for thirteen years, they escaped to Madina to save their lives and that of their wives and children. The verses about killing were revealed in the battlefield, when Muslims could no longer face torture at the hands of barbarians in Madina.

    Islam lays a huge amount of importance to human life, so much as that the Holy Quran says:

    “…if anyone kills a person …. it is as though he has killed the whole of humanity, and if anyone saved a life, it is as though he saved the whole of humanity.”

    There is no religion which attaches so much importance on the value of human life.

    1. MajorBS

      1) Not all of these verses are revealed in battlefield
      2) No quranic verse explains when to practice violence against other religion like mentioned in these verse or when to cease them
      3) Verses are still read by terrorists while killing innocents. They are not quoting the value of life from Qur’an when they hack people to death.
      4) USA bombing terrorists or others in the countries you mentioned above does not effect me. I live in India and we do not do any such things, so why are we constantly under attack from Islamic terrorists? May be the verses of hate written by Muhammed is the reason people arm themselves against countries like ours which practice secularism.

    2. B

      1) They verses about war were revealed in the battlefield.
      2) How about ‘common sense’.
      3) What terrorists do or don’t do does not change anything.
      4) Terrorism is also caused by people of all religions.

    3. MajorBS

      Jihad doesn’t mean to strive. Can be seen from how a handicapped person is excused from his inability to take part in Jihad (Context from Hadith) as per Chapter 4 verse 95

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