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

Posted on July 14, 2015 in Staff Picks

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.