Socio-Religious Impact of Fasting By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

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Millions of Muslims belonging to all parts of the world including Pakistan are nowadays observing Ramadan, a holy month of fasting and religious devotion. Fasting, which is known as Sawm in Arabic, Vrata in Sanskrit and Roza in Urdu language.

Normally I am invited to participate in different TV talk shows regularly to exchange my views on current affairs and political developments. Last days, I was part of a Ramadan Special TV transmission as a guest celebrity, where during the show break in response of my views about blessing of Ramadan, the female anchor and former film star commented that it is necessary to embrace Islam to become eligible for God’s blessing. It was a shocking situation for me. Although, I preferred to keep quite but obviously in my heart I thought that if the female host is saying right then why there is no discrimination of God’s blessings on whole mankind? The Sun shines daily on everyone regardless of religious affiliation. The clouds bring rain to each and every corner without considering the home belongs to Muslim residents or not. God grants all success and prosperity to anyone who completes his job with honesty, professionalism and dignity. Natural disasters never see borders of Muslim or Non-Muslim countries.

According  to an estimate, there are as many as seven thousand languages spoken across the globe and I believe that the name to call “God” can be different in different languages but His teachings to serve humanity cannot be different. In Islam, God is the creator of the universe and thus, Kind to everyone. The sole purpose of mankind existence is to please God, both by worship and by good deeds in which the interpersonal relations with other fellow human beings are most significant ones. The life of Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) shows that he was always very kind to everyone. Despite facing all the wrong-doings by the opponents and enemies, he prayed for them.  There are many instances that reflect his kindness and gentleness, especially to the weak and the poor. The incident of old woman who threw garbage on him but he inquired about her health when she was sick, is one of the golden examples of serving humanity.

The holy month of Ramadan also demanded same gestures to develop and strengthen our will power and self-control for resisting wrongful desires and bad habits, while spending maximum time in doing good deeds. Fasting does not mean just to refrain from eating and drinking, but from every kind of selfish desire and wrong-doing. If someone, while having fast, is still involved in telling lies, frauds, injustices, crimes, black marketing and other social evils then in my views, he just multiplies his spiritual unrest in the form of hunger and thirstiness.

The concept of Fasting is not only limited to Islam but voluntary abstinence from eating has been an important spiritual purification rite in various religions. Hinduism is known as the oldest religion in the world with a history of around 4000 years. On the occasion of different religious festivals such as Ekadashi, Satyanarayan and Navratri, Hindu community used to fast in day time since hundreds of years. Hindus observe fasting on every Monday of the holiest month of Kartik. It is very common for Hindu devotees to fast while visiting holy places, while Hindu married women also fast  for the safety and long life of their husbands. According to Bible, a devotee must not disfigure his face like hypocrites to show that he is fasting. In Judaism, Yom-e-Kippur, the fast day starts from sunset to darkness. Similarly, the fasting has been practiced for centuries in connection with various religious ceremonies including Buddhism, Jainism and Taoism.

I believe that the basic purpose of fasting in every religion is to ensure positive qualities in a person so that he will be able to play his due role for the betterment of society in the future. Some of those spiritual qualities include compassion, empathy, tolerance, charity, generosity, humility, kindness, and reverence. Modern medical science also proved the significance of fasting on human health. If we take a look in our society, despite most highest rate of fasting in our population, the ratio of intolerance also increases in the holy Ramadan. This is very unfortunate that instead of making practice of doing good deeds for throughout the year, we keep ourselves busy in unnecessary activities such as expressing anger, quarrel, hard talk and misbehave with others. I think, it is very unethical to organize luxury Iftar parties and publicize on the social media while there are so many poor needy people around us who face hardships to manage their Sahar and Iftar. In Ramadan, when Masjids and Bazaars attract masses, the attendance in the government offices decreases. This is really not fair to ignore your professional duties under the garb of fasting.

The eternal happiness and spiritual peace that a follower receives through genuinely practicing fast cannot be imagined by anyone else and his face glows due to the blessing of God. This is what I learned through my personal experiences. Since, the holy month of Ramadan is known for accepting prayers, I would like to appeal to followers of all religions living in Pakistan to pray for prosperity and development of our beloved country with full religious zeal and devotion.

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The News International (21 July, 2017)