Have you ever taken part in a challenge of self-building for a certain amount of time? These challenges, be it individual or social, need a few elements to keep you move on and get over them. Thirty days of fasting in the holy month of Ramadan seems like both an individual and a social challenge.
In this text, we would like to discover the ways that keep us motivated to finish our challenge of fasting in Ramadan. How can we complete this challenge and take the most benefits out of it?
The challenge is to perform fasting for thirty (sometimes 29) days in the month of Ramadan. Fasting in Islam is to avoid eating and drinking and many other worldly desires and sins from the morning prayer (Salat al-Fajr) time until the dawn prayer (Salat al-Maqrib). It is noteworthy that committing some acts will make fast invalid. 
The main goal of fasting like any other type of worship is to purify the soul and improve human beings spiritually: “Felicitous is he who purifies himself.” (87: 14)
But any type of worship, apart from its ultimate goal, has other benefits and some minor goals in training the human soul. For example, one of the small goals of praying the obligatory prayers (Salat) during the day and at night is to teach Muslims to adhere to certain principles. It is mentioned in the Quran that one of the characteristics of true believers is that they are “those who are humble in their prayers” (23:2) and “are watchful of their prayers” (23:9). These two verses, mentioned in the same Surah, show that one level of being a believer is to reach a feeling of utter humbleness in front of Allah. However, at the same time, being watchful on prayers and trying to perform them on time while observing all of its rulings is another aspect that will lead to higher spiritual levels. The same example applies to any other type of worship, especially fasting in Ramadan.
I have personally tried many different challenges for forty days; for example, forty days of waking up before dawn, forty days of avoiding fast foods, forty days of doing half an hour exercise per day, etc. I’ve been able to make some of those challenges a habit. However, in all those challenges, I needed something or someone to keep me motivated and guide me with the issues that I was facing throughout the challenge.
Regarding the challenge of fasting in Ramadan, I think it is essential to find some ways to help us enjoy fasting, instead of solely experiencing hunger and thirst.
Different things can keep us motivated to have better spiritual experiences of fasting in Ramadan. Having a different routine in the month of Ramadan, avoiding some entertainment and starting some new useful habits such as reading the supplications and contemplating on them, specifying a certain amount of time on reciting the Quran with translation and interpretation, performing the recommended prayers (Nawafil), trying to help others in any possible ways, and any other act of goodness that we can accomplish.
While we try to perform good deeds during fasting, reciting the Quran has a powerful influence on all our acts. Allah (SWT) mentions in the Quran: “So recite as much of the Quran as is feasible. He knows that some of you will be sick, while others will travel in the land seeking Allah’s bounty, and yet others will fight in the way of Allah. So recite as much of it as is feasible, and maintain the prayer and pay the zakat and lend Allah a good loan.” (73:20)
Allah (SWT) tells us to recite the Quran as much as we can. Then He mentions that He is aware of different conditions that people may have; some of them may be sick, some maybe traveling and working outside their houses to gain Allah’s provision, some may be fighting in the way of Allah. But then He mentions again that in whatever situation you are, do not forget to recite the Quran. It does not need to be a lot of recitation. Just recite as much as you can, and it will help you by both its miraculous and extraordinary achievements.
To provide a better definition of the above phrases, it can be said that the miraculous effects of the Quran are those effects that everyone can gain them by reciting it, even if they are not contemplating on its verses. However, exceptional achievements are for those who recite the Quran thoughtfully and intend to understand the words of Allah (SWT) as much as possible.
In sum, when you start the challenge of fasting in Ramadan and hope to gain the best results out of it, you need someone to motivate you, to be your mentor, and to elevate your knowledge and wisdom while you are going through the hard days of your challenge. The Quran could be that mentor who speaks to you the words of Allah (SWT), gives you hope, sympathizes with you in your hard moments, and guides you through the way to reach your ultimate goal. “So recite as much of the Quran as is feasible.” (73: 20)
The Holy Quran mentions about the Racism: O mankind! Indeed, We created you from a male and a female and made you nations and tribes that you may identify yourselves with one another. Indeed, the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God wary among you. Indeed, Allah is all-knowing, all-aware (49:13).
"The issue of equality between all human beings, opposition to any type of racial, ancestral and class discrimination, fairness between all the children of Adam in relation to human rights and that no person is better than another due to his skin color, language, lineage or race - is one of the most important societal issues in the Qur’an which has been mentioned in various verses of this Heavenly Book. The Qur’an has denounced all sorts of superiority - whether it be of race, language, or skin color."
Likewise, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH & HP) says: Surely all of mankind – from the time of Adam until our time – are like the teeth of a comb (all equal to one another) and there is no greatness for an `Arab over a non-`Arab and no greatness for a red-skinned person over a black-skinned person, except due to one’s consciousness of Allah (taqwa).”
There are numerous verses in the Holy Quran and the teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH & HP) that invite human beings towards brotherhood and equality. Throughout his life, the Holy Prophet (PBUH & HP) taught people that all humans are one and the only difference that exists is in their God-wariness as mentioned in verse 13 of Surah Hujarat. We learn from the Holy Prophet (PBUH & HP) and the Ahlul Bayt (AS) that Islam has established equality for the entire human race and struck at the very root of all distinctions based on color, race, language or nationality. According to Islam, Allah has given man this right of equality as a birthright. Thus, no man should be discriminated against on the basis of the color of his skin, his place of birth, his race or the nation in which he was born.
Apart from conveying the pure teachings of Islam, the Holy Prophet (PBUH &HP) was also able to rouse hope in the hearts of the poor and the downtrodden section of his society. In many instances within his practical life, he was successful in eliminating bigotry and racism that was surrounding him. In order for him to reach his aim of equality between all human beings, he married the daughter of his uncle to a slave named Zaid. In addition, he gave Bilal, who was both a non-`Arab and an African slave (at one point in his life), the important religious post of being the Muaddhin, the one who calls to prayer. He also convinced Ziyad ibn Labid who was one of the richest and noblest men from amongst the Ansar to marry his daughter to an African slave named Jubair. This marriage between a nobleman's daughter and a slave, was the beginning of many such marriages that broke mental and social barriers among the followers of Islam. Islam is a practical example of how human beings and societies can fight racial discrimination and create a society based on unity and brotherhood.
The annual ritual of Hajj is an outstanding display of beauty and splendor among the followers of Islam and it is this very beauty of Islam that inspired (Martyr) Malcolm X to write the following letter after he made his first Hajj:
"Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other prophets of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors.....There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and the non-white. You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have been always a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.
During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug)-while praying to the same Allah with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of the blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the ‘white' Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana.
We are truly all the same-brothers.
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds."
The Holy Quran tells us:
"Certainly, We have honored the Children of Adam, and carried them over land and sea, and provided them with all the good things, and preferred them with a complete preference over many of those We have created." (17:70)
The Holy Quran teaches us that Islam lays down some rights for man as a human being. Every man whether he belongs to one country or the other, whether he is a believer or a non-believer, whether he lives in forest or desert, whatever be the case, he has some basic human rights simply because he is a human being, which should be recognized by every human being.
Today, the world is struggling to come to terms with equality in true sense. Racial discrimination continues to be a challenge, even for the most developed nations. However, Islam has shown the way to fight racial discrimination and create a society based on amity, love and unity. InshaAllah, the world will very soon realize that the only solution to racism lies in following Islam.
- Islamic Moral System: Commentary of Surah Al-Hujurat Ayt. Jafar Subhani
- Malcolm X's letter http://islam.uga.edu/malcomx.html
In the Quran it is stated that every creature on the earth is created to serve human begins (2:29); this includes animals . Of many benefits of animals to humans are the meat that comes from fish and chickens, the milk from cows and sheep, utilizing horses, oxen, and camels for farming and transport, doing medical research on animals, using trained dogs to detect drugs and guide blinds. But, are we, as Muslims, allowed to treat animals in Islam and exploit them as we wish? Here is the answer.
Animals’ Rights in Islam
Allah, who has given every animal some specific abilities like the ability to fly, swim or gallop in respectively birds, fish, and horses, has considered their rights, too. Although humans are allowed to benefit from everything created by Allah , they have responsibilities towards every creature as the vicegerent of Allah on the earth . Being created with a higher intellect than animals, we must balance our use of animals with our primary role as a caretaker on the earth.
Animals have been domesticated and trained from a long time ago to perform some tasks and to provide some products for the human. Horses and elephants are still used on farms to provide the tractive force. Camels, donkeys, horses, and dogs are utilized for transport, either riding or pulling wagons. Lions, elephants, monkeys and many other animals are used in circuses to entertain audiences. Some others like dogs and monkeys assist disabled people, while others are kept as pets.
In all these cases, the very first thing that Islam requires Muslims to do is feeding the animal on sufficient and proper food, quenching its thirst, keeping it in a comfortable place, and maintaining its physical health . Of other rights of animals on his owner is that he/she should not hit the animal or harm it, but he might whip the animal to prevent escaping or stampede .
In a saying, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) forbids hitting the animals in the face, since the animals pray and praise God with that . Knowing these rights and considerations, imprisoning animals in cages, forcing them to perform something to amuse humans in circuses and causing extreme pain and suffering to them are all against the Islamic rules and forbidden (Haram) . Islam also prohibits insulting and cursing the animals; Imam Ali (AS) said: “Do not hit the animals on the face and do not curse them, otherwise Allah curses who has cursed them” .
Moreover, the animal should not be burdened with a load that it cannot bear and should not be overtasked either . Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) orders in a saying that: “Do not ride an animal beyond its power and ability” , . And, “When you stop riding the animal, do not keep on sitting on them and do not start (a lengthy) conversation with others (while seated on the animal); instead, descend and (let the animal rest, and) then talk” .
If the animal is weak, it is said that: “when riding a weak animal, let it rest when reaching pastures. If the land is arid and barren, pass it quickly; and, if it is fertile and green, let the animal rest there” (Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP)) . Imam Ali (AS) said that “Do not ride three of you (at the same time) an animal; otherwise, one of you is cursed” .
Animals for Sport and Entertainment
Playing sports, especially swimming, archery and horseback riding, are encouraged by Hadith and perceived as important to have a healthy body and brain . Although archery is recommended in Islam and hunting -under certain conditions- is allowed, targeting animals and shooting at them for fun is not permitted .
About horseback riding also, the recommendations stated above should be considered. Again, keeping some animals as pets or for the farm work is strongly exhorted in some cases, but forcing them to fight like what happens in dogfightingand cockfighting which is nowadays common in some regions, is prohibited in Islam .
Animal Slaughter and Hunting
Humans usually slaughter, hunt and fish for sustenance, which is permitted in Islam under certain conditions. But killing animals for fun and using them for target practice is strongly disapproved. Some acts of animal's protection, as not "hunting the endangered animals to save them from going extinct" is also compatible with the Islamic teachings.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) said: "There is no man who kills a sparrow without its deserving it, but Allah will question him about it [on the Day of Judgment]" . Of other considerations stated in the narrations of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and Imams (AS) are: not killing the livestock that provide milk or the one that is pregnant; not killing animals for no reason; not killing the animals at night (since they rest like humans at that time), unless there is a necessity; and, not burning animals alive .
Avoiding unnecessary pain and not causing suffering to the innocent creatures are repeatedly reminded in Islamic teachings. Regarding the slaughtering, for example, the regulations laid down in Islam are the least painful, some of which are: the Halal-meated animal must be alive at the time of slaughter; the animal must be watered before the slaughter; a sharp knife must be used to minimize suffering; slaughtering an animal within the sight of another animal is abominable (Makruh); the animal must show some sign of movement after being slaughtered; and, skinning or cutting any part of the animal’s body is not allowed right after the slaughter (before the animal is entirely dead) , .
Knowing this, although the methods (stunning with a blow to the head or an electric shock) used in some slaughterhouses to reduce the animal movement before slaughter might be accepted in veterinary medicine since these methods reduce the animals’ pain, they are condemned in Islam as the examples of torture to animals .
Animal Fur and Leather
Hunting and killing animals for their fur, skin, and oil have been common practices since many years ago and happened more often these days. Wearing the fur obtained from certain animals is legally permitted in Islam when it is required for warmth (16:5). However, animals raised on fur farms are usually abused and killed in brutal ways  that is against the Islamic teachings of kindness to animals; some cruel methods used by trappers to catch animals from the wild are the same .
About leather productions, even though leather products produced by applying Islamic regulations are permissible to use if the leather is obtained from abused and mistreated animals and if the animals suffer in the leather production processes, it will conflict with every Islamic standard on the matter.
- H. A. Hosseini Shah Abdolazimi, “Tafsir asna-ashari”.
- M. H. Tabataba'I, “Tafsir al-mizan”, (45 :13).
- M. H. Tabataba'I, “ Tafsir al-mizan”, (2:30).
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 64, p. 173.
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 660.
- Ibn Babawayh, “Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih”, vol.4, p.9.
- animals and Islam
- Ibn Babawayh, “Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih”, vol.2, p.287.
- H. T. Nuri Ṭabarsi, “Mustadrak al-Wasail”, vol. 8, p. 258, T. 9393.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 64, p. 201.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 64, p. 214.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 22, p. 459.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 64, p. 216.
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 652.
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 665.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 64, p. 306.
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 663.
- M. H. Banihashemi, “Towzih al masael of Maraje”.
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 662.
- treating animals