As we speak, about two billion Muslims from all over the world fast during the month of Ramadan, the ninth lunar month of Islamic calendar. The month also commemorates the revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), through the Archangel Jibreel (Gabriel) over 1,438 years ago. Fasting in Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, along with Faith in Allah, Five Daily Prayers, Alms Giving, and Pilgrimage for Hajj.
According to the Quran (Chapter 2, verse 183), fasting from dawn to sundown, every day in the month of Ramadan has been prescribed to Muslims as a religious obligation for spiritual cleansing. It is a form of retreat to gain a reconnection with the Creator by purifying the soul and engaging the mind in a deep reflection on the purpose of our existence and the destiny of mankind. It is like gaining control over the self, a sort of personal victory over the dictates of the flesh and a rigorous personal journey towards attaining the state of “taqwa”
The Arabic word Taqwa is translated in many ways including God consciousness, God fearing, piety, and self-restraining. Thus, Muslims are asked to fast daily for one month from dawn to dusk and avoid food, water, cohabitation with spouse and vulgar talk during that period for the sake of Allah. In fasting, the believer also willingly abstains, from something; say, an action, attitude, or a habit, for a set of time. These things are usually hard to do without; hence, fasting seems to place some restrictions on our freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we feel like.
Conversely, fasting is the true freedom that gives us the opportunity for self-realization. In each of us lies dormant, all kinds of powers which were meant to be developed in the course of our maturing. Then, once developed, they were meant to be employed in the give and take of life. We are free if our powers can grow to the fullness of their promise and if we are unimpeded in their use. A rock that rests on the seed planted in the ground will prevent its growth, thereby denying its freedom. But tying the tender plant to a garden stake – while limiting it from too much movement, rather than restricting – enlarges its freedom, because it is an aid to its growth. Similarly, when Allah rules that we must abstain from food, drink and conjugal relations with our spouses while fasting, it fosters the state of setting us free from the shackles of our base desires. It is in such a condition that we can truly grow upwards spiritually.
Therefore, fasting might not be only from abstaining from eating at all, in addition to that, one can fast from intake of unhealthy foods as well as glasses and bottles of unwholesome drinks. A person can fast from places they are unhealthily drawn to, bad companies, from being a slave of his phone, being addicted to the internet and the social media, misleading magazines, wasting hours watching pointless TV shows, listening to meaningless music, bad news, false bulletins, fake news and so on. If we suspect that we have become a ‘freak’, or ‘extremist’ about something, that is something to fast from.