There are many aspects in fasting as it has many material and spiritual effects on mankind, but perhaps the most important effect is the “moral aspect” and “educational philosophy”.
One who fasts should prevent eating and drinking despite hunger and thirst in addition to control lustful desires. One has to prove that he is different from the animals and he is not chained by food and other worldly things; and that he can control his desires and rule his lust.
Thus, one of the most important benefits of fasting is that one’s soul softens, strengths determination, balances natural desires and most importantly the spiritual and moral outcome. The example of mankind who has access to any kind of food and drinks and can demand so whenever needed, is like the tree that has been protected with walls of a garden from winds and storms and given adequate water from any drought. Obviously such tree wills not standing any change to environment and inclement weather condition as it has never had such conditions; and it wills eventual die. On the contrary, the tree that grows on the rocks of a mountain or in the middle of a desert learns to cope that environment from early days and grows with certain rough conditions.
Fasting does the same thing with body and soul of mankind. With temporary limitations the body as well as the mind learns to be strong and manage the needs; and when desires are under control, then the soul will enlighten and spiritually improve. Further, fasting will ascend humans from the world of animals to the world of angels; the sentence “that you may learn self-restraints” in verse 183 of al-Baqara (The Cow) points this very fact after commanding the faithful to fast.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) says in a famous narration: “Fasting is a shield against the fire of Hell.” (1)And in Nahj al-Balaghah, when Amir al-Mu’minin (PBUH) explains the philosophy of worships, he describes fasting in this manner: “Allah (SWT) has commanded fasting to be in religion to develop purity in people.” (2)
And in another narration Amir al-Mu’minin (PBUH) asked Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP): “How can we make Satan distant from us?” The Great Prophet (PBUH&HP) replied: “Fasting makes Satan’s face black [from panic] and charity for Allah (SWT) breaks his back; loving for the sake of Allah (SWT) and consistent good deed will cut off his continuity and repenting cuts the vein of his heart.” (3)
Moreover, the month of Ramadan has been chosen for fasting because this month has is the most important month. Allah (SWT) explains the reason for importance of this holy month in verse 185 of al-Baqara (The Cow) as the month in which the Holy Quran was revealed; this book is the ultimate guidance (Furqaan) for mankind which means it distinguishes the correct act from incorrect in his life time and ensures salvation of mankind. There are many narrations that other holy books such as Torah, Gospel, Psalms and the Holy Quran have been revealed in this holy month.
Therefore, the holy month of Ramadan has always been the time of descent for holy books and it has always been a month of education and growth. Because there cannot be any education without proper guidance. Hence, the educational aspect of fasting should be followed with deep understanding and divine guidance so that the body and soul of mankind can wash away the dirt of sin.
Indeed we would be at grave loss if we allow this golden opportunity to flee out of our hands without beautifying our souls in the pure month of Ramadan. Now that we are in the beginning of the path, let us beware.
(Selection taken from “Tafsir Nemone”(4) by Ayatullah Makarim Shirazi, with certain changes)
The Roshd website congratulates all Muslims around the world, the arrival of the Holy Month of Ramadan.
1. Usul al-Kafi, vol.2, p. 18
2. Nahj al-Balaghah, Short words No. 252
3. Al-Ja’fariat, p. 58
4. Verses 183 to 185 of al-Baqarah