Why do we fast in the month of Ramadhan?
This is a question I’ve been asked many times before and I am not afraid to admit that I sometimes forget the real reason behind this yearly observance of discipline and self-control.
My Non-Muslim colleagues would look me in the eye and say something like, ‘If there’s food easily available to you, don’t you think it’s straight up rude not to consume it knowing that thousands upon millions of people have their lives devastated by drawn-out periods of famine and drought? And don’t forget the vilified members of our society who call the streets their home, surviving on other people’s leftovers like vultures, struggling to meet the daily nutritional requirements.’
I once found this angle of reasoning to be ever so delicious in its simplicity and complexity.
There are different factors that contribute to hunger and thirst the world over, often determined by different circumstances such as location, infrastructure and most importantly, whether or not those who are aware of this inaudible catastrophe would take a firm stand on this pressing issue and do something to improve the situation.
Millions of people don’t have the luxury of turning on a faucet and have water collecting in a glass cup, all clean and ready for consumption.
We tend to forget that there are those who live in places with adverse weather conditions, and these people have to travel miles every single day to replenish their water supply.
If there’s food and water within reach, why not consume it?
Why deprive yourself of this privilege?
It’s not as if you’re living a life of opulence.
Eat that plate of fried rice and wash it down with a cold bottle of ice-cream soda.
But it is not as simple as it may seem.
We do what we do for one full month every single year without failure (except for when you are sick or pregnant) because it allows us to remember what we have and truly cherish it.
Ramadhan is not just about abstaining oneself from drinking and eating, one must also abstain themselves from fulfilling desires.
It is a righteous path toward self-discipline which would prove to be beneficial to our growth as human beings in the long run.
It is akin to warming up before game time.
If we are able to control our desire for permissible acts like eating and drinking for one full month, then it would definitely be a much simpler task to control ourselves from performing acts that are deemed impermissible in our religion.
The month of Ramadhan also serves as an opportunity for us to quell ourselves from all the sins we’ve committed for the amount of blessings accumulated throughout the month will be multiplied.
This is what I like to call ‘bonus rewards,’ and it is typically popular amongst my friends and me when we were younger because we lived under the thinly-veiled notion that there’s a way to decimate the amount of sin’s we’ve collected throughout the year by ‘spamming’ on good deeds during the course of the holy month, which I must say, truly defeats the purpose of Ramadhan.
When observed under the scrutiny of a magnifying glass, the heart of Ramadhan ultimately lies between the remembrances of the fundamental of our existence, and how truly fortunate we are for having them in our lives, and we should not for a single second, take the presence of our family, availability of sustenance, the roof over our heads for granted because there are those who are wishing they are in our shoes, there are those who hope to have something else to worry about (like relationship problems or how your 400g steak isn’t prepared to your liking or how it angers you the way Hollywood is butchering your favorite childhood cartoons with pointless reboots) apart from when their next meal would come from, or whether their ill child would get medical attention in time.
Why do we fast when there’s plenty of food just lying around waiting to be eaten?
This question used to stump my brain into a cloud of mush, but not anymore.
Fasting isn’t practiced exclusively for the month of Ramadhan.
Remember, remember, what we fast for.
Remember, remember, Who we fast for.
A young Singaporean whose life revolves around writing, live music, ice-cream, Arsenal Football Club, and sometimes, drifting in and out of existential crisis. He is currently working on a book of short stories titled, ‘Singaporeans Cried When They Found Out Their Hearts Were Made In China.’