The purpose of fasting is not to make us hungry and thirsty, or to deprive us some of our comfort and conveniences. The real purpose of fasting is that we learn taqwa.
Taqwa is highly emphasized in the Qur’an and Sunnah. There are more than 158 verses in the Qur’an on taqwa, and there are hundreds of hadiths on this subject.
What is taqwa?
Taqwa is the consciousness of Allah. It is to do one’s best efforts to live by His commands and to avoid His prohibitions. The Qur’an has used the word taqwa to mean consciousness of Allah, fear of Allah, worship of Allah, sincerity in faith, and avoidance of disobedience to Allah.
Fasting builds the character of taqwa if it is done in the right way. How does fasting build the character of taqwa?
1. Unlike prayers, charity, and pilgrimage, fasting is an invisible act.
One may quietly eat or drink something and no one will notice and no one can find out. However, the fasting person has made this commitment for the sake of Allah and he or she wants to guard the purity of his or her fast for the sake of Allah. Thus teaching sincerity and helps a person learn to live by the principles of his or her faith regardless whether others know or do not know.
2. Food is a need and desire that is essential for human survival and growth, but they can become easily corruptive and disruptive if they are not properly controlled and disciplined.
Taqwa requires observing the rules of Allah when one indulges. Fasting teaches how to control and discipline this desire.
3. The world is full of temptations. It takes a lot of discipline to say “no” to something that is very tempting but not good for us. During fasting we learn how to say “no” to things that are otherwise permissible and good, but are forbidden during fasting. Controlling one’s self to avoid that which is forbidden is the spirit of taqwa.
4. People generally care for themselves and their families, but they often ignore the needs of others. Through fasting we taste—to some extent—the pain and suffering of those who are poor and destitute. Fasting teaches empathy and sympathy, and it takes away some of our selfishness and self-centeredness.
5. When Muslims fast together in the month of Ramadan, it builds an atmosphere of virtues, brotherhood and sisterhood. We come closer to our Creator and we also come closer to each other. Unity, peace, harmony, brotherhood and sisterhood are the fruits of taqwa.