"Oh you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, in order that you learn taqwa." (2:183)

The Holy month of Ramadan showers its beauty and blessings upon the believers every year. The Prophet (PBUH) tells us that Ramadan is the month which begins with mercy, its middle is forgiveness, and its end is freedom from the hellfire. Fasting, as the Qur'an tells us, is to develop taqwa. Taqwa is generally translated as "God Consciousness" which combines the fear of Allah and the love for Him. The fear of Allah's displeasure insulates us from sins while the love of Allah propels us forward closer to Him.

In the Qur'an, human character is given a metaphor of clothing. Using this similitude, Ubay ibn Ka'b, a knowledgeable companion of the Prophet (PBUH), who was specially honored for his deep understanding of the Qur'an, provided a beautiful visual picture of taqwa in the following story. Once Omar ibn Khattab asked Ubay what taqwa means, to which Ubay replied, "Have you ever had a chance to walk on a thorny path?" "Yes," replied Omar. Ubay then asked him how would he proceed down such a treacherous path? Omar told him that he would walk carefully, holding his clothing tightly so as not to become entangled in the thorns until he passed through it safely. Ubay replied that this is exactly the meaning of taqwa. It is to help us protect our God-given pure nature from sins while passing through the thorny path of temptations during the journey of this earthly life.

taqwaThe word "sawm" (fasting) means "to abstain." While fasting, we not only abstain from things prohibited by Allah, but in addition, we abstain from what is normally permitted by Allah, the very necessities of this life. So, fasting becomes a safeguard for taqwa. If one can endure hunger and thirst out of his devotion to the orders of Allah, only to please Allah, he is surely among the successful. But one must also keep in mind the words of the Prophet (PBUH) as narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari, "If one does not abandon falsehood and action in accordance with it, Allah has no need that he should abandon his food and drink." So the believer must strive to better his taqwa and abstain from falsehood and evil actions in all respects. He must strive to protect his eyes, ears, tongue and heart from all that Allah has prohibited. He takes heed from the words of the Prophet (PBUH), "Five things make a man break his fast - lying, backbiting, malicious gossip, a lustful glance, and the false oath." He must constantly invoke the words of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) that "Fasting is a protection, let him avoid obscene speech, loose lying and folly; and if anyone attacks him or insults him, let him say 'I am fasting.'"

A traveler takes some provisions for his journey. If, indeed, we are only travelers in this life, what then is our provision for the longest of all journeys, the journey to the Hereafter? "Whatsoever good you do, Allah knows it. So take provisions (with you) for your own self (for the hereafter). Surely the best provision is taqwa. Therefore, have taqwa of Me, oh you of understanding." (2:197) For the one who fasts this holy month of Ramadan, with patience and sincerity, and sleeps little during the night, devoted to standing in his prayers, and gives charity without counting, and seeks the forgiveness of Allah, the Qur'an says, "No soul knows what is kept hidden for them of joy, as a reward for what they used to do." (32:17)

May Allah give us the blessings and rewards of this holy month of Ramadan, and let us increase our taqwa, always striving to be closer to Allah, and trying to follow the example of our beloved Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, as he said this beautiful du'a related by At-Tirmidhi, "I ask of You, Allah, Your love, and the love of those who love You, and the deeds which bring Your love to me. Make my love for You greater than my love for myself, for my wealth, for my family and for cold water."