Ramadan is a means to elevate behaviours

By Dr. Ashraf Eid March 31, 2024 1727

Ethics are acquired traits that a person can change for the better, and during fasting, a Muslim becomes accustomed to training to regulate their behaviours. Fasting plays an effective role in this change, as a person who can abstain from permissible desires for some time and refrain from prohibited and blameworthy behaviours can continue on that path throughout the year, which is not impossible.

It is necessary for a person to possess the cognitive aspect that drives them to perform a specific task required of them and enhances their willingness to sacrifice in order to reach their goal. Allah has emphasized the great benefits of fasting Ramadan by saying: "That you may become righteous" and "Fasting is better for you." If a Muslim does not achieve righteousness through fasting, they have missed the purpose for which the worship was ordained, even if they abstain from food and drink and join others in fasting.

Prophetic narrations also mention the great reward for those who fast. Among them is the saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): "Whoever fasts Ramadan out of faith and in the hope of reward, his previous sins will be forgiven,"1 and " In Jannah there is a gate which is called Ar-Raiyan through which only those who observe Saum (fasting) will enter on the Day of Resurrection. None else will enter through it. It will be called out, "Where are those who observe fasting?" So they will stand up and proceed towards it. When the last of them will have entered, the gate will be closed and then no one will enter through that gate."2 There are many narrations highlighting the virtues of fasting.

 

Fasting... and controlling impulsive behaviour

Self-control means restraining anger and suppressing resentment, taking things calmly, and considering their consequences. Patience falls under the realm of psychology under the term "self-control." Each individual has a certain capacity when faced with pressure or challenging tasks; the individual themselves is responsible for controlling their behaviour and managing it. The struggle of the self to fulfil its desires is something inherent, and when bodily needs increase, they control it, manifesting its effect in their behaviour and actions.3

There are several factors that contribute to shaping a person's ethical behaviour, including cognitive factors such as beliefs, social factors such as customs and traditions, cultural factors such as value systems, economic factors such as poverty and wealth, and biological factors. All of these factors either stimulate or restrain ethical behaviour.

Among these various factors, we find the discussion about the psychological factor during fasting and its relationship with the emergence of ethical behaviour in the faster. There is a close relationship between hunger, thirst, and the decrease in blood sugar levels during fasting, leading to a decrease in the ability to control oneself and manage emotions. Therefore, prophetic guidance encourages patience and good manners during fasting, and fasting is considered half of patience.

When a person is in a state of anger and intense emotion, their thinking becomes impaired, and they often regret their actions during anger. Modern medicine has proven that anger and intense emotions are the cause of many chronic diseases. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) forbade the fasting person from engaging with fools if they insult or curse, saying "Indeed, I am fasting." This phrase symbolizes the Muslim's commitment to change, controlling themselves in dealing with those who exceed limits, in compliance with the Prophet's saying: "If one of you is fasting, let him not speak immodestly or act ignorantly. And if someone abuses him or fights with him, let him say, 'I am fasting."4

Fasting leads to controlling the desires of the soul and refining morals. Abstaining from food and drink during the month of Ramadan is a training for individuals to control themselves, strengthen their willpower, and firm their determination in their general behaviour in life, fulfilling their responsibilities and duties. It also serves as an education for the conscience of the individual, making them committed to good behaviour monitored by their conscience without needing anyone's supervision.5

Fasting also has an impact on refraining from criminal behaviour. Muhammad Rashid Rida explains in his interpretation of "Perhaps you may become righteous" in the verse about fasting: This is an explanation of the assumption and a statement of its great benefit and supreme wisdom. It prepares the fasting person for God-consciousness, as they forsake their natural permissible desires in obedience to His command and in anticipation of reward from Him. Thus, their will is trained to avoid forbidden desires and endure them, making it easier for them to abstain from them and strengthening them to perform acts of obedience and benefits, making steadfastness easier for them.

Avoiding moral vices is achieved by training oneself to adhere to truthfulness in speech and action, by adhering to truth and correctness, fulfilling the self's covenant to obedience and action, and aligning outward appearance with inner reality, away from lying and hypocrisy. Hence, noble morals are reinforced within oneself by realizing the reward of fasting and being keen not to miss it due to falsehood or lying. Thus, the Muslim bears the responsibility of adhering to truthfulness and obedience in their fasting to ensure the attainment of the reward associated with it. Therefore, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) advised to refrain from falsehood by saying, "Whoever does not give up false statements (i.e., telling lies), Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e., Allah will not accept his fasting)" (Sahih al-Bukhari).6

 

Fasting... and regulating the desires of the self

Islam calls for moderation and balance in satisfying its physiological motives and psychological and spiritual needs, and prohibits excessiveness in satisfying either of them. There is neither licentiousness in fulfilling its desires nor asceticism in them as in spiritual monasticism. For all human motives and bodily desires, including food, drink, sex, and emotions, are subject to regulation and adjustment. Man learns how to regulate his motives, control them, and dominate them, which is the aim of education. The struggle between conflicting psychological motives strengthens one of the motives if it finds something that motivates it to resolve the conflict in its favour. Fasting stimulates spiritual motives and weakens physiological motives.

When the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was informed that Abdullah bin Amr bin Al-Aas wanted to fast perpetually and stand in prayer all night, he said to him: "Do not do that. Fast and break your fast, stand in prayer and sleep, for your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you, your wife has a right over you, your guest has a right over you, and your self has a right over you. It is enough for you to fast three days of every month, for every good deed is multiplied ten times." Abdullah said, "O Messenger of Allah, I have the strength." The Prophet replied, "Then fast like the fasting of the Prophet of Allah, David, peace be upon him, and do not exceed it." Abdullah asked, "What was the fasting of the Prophet of Allah, David, peace be upon him?" The Prophet said, "Half of the year." Abdullah used to say after he grew old, "I wish I had accepted the permission of the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him."7

Man does not feel the blessings of Allah except when he loses them. The pleasure of food and drink is only felt by man when he is hungry and thirsty or after recovering from illness. One does not recognize the blessing of health except through illness. Man becomes bored with his life if it proceeds at a single pace. Rest at night brings pleasure after the fatigue of the day, warmth is a delight after cold, and ease provides mental comfort after hardship.

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(1) Fath al-Bari, Book of Fasting, Chapter: the one who fasts Ramadan out of faith and anticipation, and with intention (1901), Vol. 4, p. 115.

(2) Fath al-Bari, Book of Fasting, Chapter: the "Rayyan" gate for the fasting (1896), Vol. 4, p. 111.

(3) Dr. Bahaa Al-Din Jalal, Skills and Techniques of Behaviour Modification, p. 57.

(4) Fath al-Bari, Book of Fasting, Chapter: saying "I am fasting" when insulted (1904), Vol. 4, p. 118.

(5) Dr. Muhammad Othman Najati, Hadith Sharif and Psychology, p. 294.

(6) Fath al-Bari, Book of Fasting, Chapter: the one who does not avoid false speech and acting upon it while fasting (1903), Vol. 4, p. 117.

(7) Same reference, Chapter: the right of the guest over the husband (1975), Vol. 4, p. 217.

Read the Article in Arabic.