Publications & Statements by Imam

09/18/07: Ramadan unites Muslims in quest for spiritual development

News-  September 18, 07

Detroit News Faith and policy

Ramadan unites Muslims in quest for spiritual development

Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi 

The Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan, began Sept. 13 and will continue until Oct. 12. Every adult Muslim who is not traveling, pregnant or nursing and is healthy is required to abstain from food, water, smoking and sex, from dawn to dusk, during this spiritual month.

The tradition of fasting is practiced among many Christians during Lent and Jews on Yom Kippur. For Muslims, fasting is a requirement and a major tenet of Islam. The greatest gift of Ramadan was the revelation of the holy Quran which was the foundation of God's universal message presented by Prophet Mohammed.

The Quran considers fasting a prescription for "Taqwa" or spiritual self-discipline and protection against all things harmful to our human soul. Fasting leads to piety and total commitment towards goodness and rejection of evil. Thus, we discipline our eyes, ears, and speech, to connect with the presence of God and to distance ourselves from actions that damage our dignity.

The first step in the journey is respect for God's commandments and submission to His teachings. The goal is to move beyond religious laws and establish a loving, spiritual connection with God; moving closer to please God through every intention, expression and action. The fulfillment of this journey is to achieve total trust in God; when the will of man is unified with the will of God!

In this journey, man moves from hatred toward love, from revenge toward forgiveness, from war toward peace, from selfishness toward fairness, from tension toward tranquility and from greediness toward generosity.

The late Edward Earle Purinton encouraged fasting for health and spiritual tranquility.

"Clear your blood of wrong food, your lungs of wrong air, your brain of wrong thought, your nerves of wrong tremors, your heart of wrong fear, and your soul of wrong residue; -- then see how absolutely right the whole world becomes."

We waste enough food to feed more than 33 million people, including 8 million children, who experience hunger or malnutrition in this wealthy nation. We can exhibit solidarity with the suffering citizens and honor the spirit of this season, by sharing our food and charitable deeds with friends, families, and the needy.

During this month, many Muslims fast from media entertainment to move toward seeking truth in their lives through spiritual reflection, reading the Quran, extra prayers, and purifying their hearts from pride, anger, jealousy and suspicion.

In addition to inner peace, fasting can be an instrument of external peace among nations. Pope John Paul II asked his followers to fast on Ash Wednesday as an expression against the war in and warned that armed conflict in the Persian Gulf could throw the entire into turmoil and raise world tensions. Apparently, fasting may or may not change the actions of politicians but may bring hope to the sufferers. I was amazed with Leslie Angeline's determination when she fasted for 10 days in an effort to meet with Joseph Lieberman to ask him not to attack . Leslie fainted in Lieberman's office, when he refused to meet with her. History will record dignity for Leslie's actions for peace and embarrassment for Lieberman's insistence on warmongering.

Interestingly, Ramadan and Rosh Hashanah began the same day. Politics, greed and occupation have divided many, in these two great religions, but true faith will unite us. As Muslims celebrate the Night of Peace during this holy month and Jews celebrate Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, let us remember to pray for peace and justice in the and everywhere in our small global village.

Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi heads the Islamic House of Wisdom