Let's start our topic with a question. What is the meaning of 'special' in your life? What days have been special to you, your family, or even to your community? The answer may vary from mere personal occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, etc. to more public ones such as New Year's Eve, Easters, or any National Day. The same is true about every religion, culture, or society. Different days of the year have different meanings in every religious community; such as Laylatul Qadr for Muslims.
"(He) Who perfected everything which He created" (Quran 32:7)
"…So whichever way you turn, there is the face of Allah! Allah is indeed all-bounteous, all-knowing." Quran (2:115)
"There is nothing in existence but beauty, for God created the cosmos only in His image, that is, in the image of His infinite beauty." Ibn Arabi [i], & .
This does not, however, mean that all creatures are the same! Can river stones be equal to those of precious pearls in the oceans? The world is the world of differences, and that actually makes it delightful and adventurous. This is also manifested in people's different languages and colors, which is a sign of Allah's balanced and sophisticated creation.
"And of His signs is … the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge" (Quran 30:22)
If every stone were like a pearl would have the pearl had the same value that it has now? How about the days of the year? God is indeed in All Days, but again this is God's plan for us to value specific days or nights more than others. The Islamic Holy scripture refers to a night that has the value as equal to a thousand months, called Laylatul Qadr, the Night of Decree. Likewise, the month of Ramadan or that of Dhul Hijja has special significance in Islam during which distinct rituals and etiquettes are prescribed for Muslims. What is it that really makes them unique? For that, we will have to take a look at Islamic resources.
As indicated earlier, certain nights and days are adored in Islamic culture.
In a week, Friday does not only mark the weekend, but it has a special meaning for Muslims. The Surah "al-Juma" in the Quran declares the importance of the Friday prayer that is a congregational prayer held at Friday noon, and it is also referred to as the "the pilgrimage of the poor" in Islamic traditions. 'Forgiveness of sins,' 'reduction of the difficulties in the Day of Judgment,' and 'great rewards for every step to the place of the Friday prayer' are only a scratch over the surface of the benefits of this ritual for those who attend it .
In a year, the three months of Rajab, Shaban, and Ramadan are highly appreciated. It is narrated that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) has said: "Indeed Rajab is the month of Allah, while Shaban is my month and Ramadan is the month of my community" . Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed to the Prophet (PBUH&HP). It is also the month of fasting for Muslims .
In a grand tradition, the Prophet (PBUH&HP) narrates that Allah (SWT) said: "Fasting is for me, and I am the one who rewards for it" , "The gates of the fire are closed (in this month), so ask your Lord not to open them and Satans are in chains. So ask your Lord not to dominate them over you." This month is the best month in the sight of Allah, its days are the best, its nights are the best nights and its hours are the best hours… your breath in it (the month of Ramadan) is glorification (of God), and your sleep in it is worship" .
Moreover, it is in this month that the Night of Decree (Laylatul Qadr) is celebrated. A night that is regarded as equal to a thousand months, and it is when humankind's destiny is decreed for the coming year. It was on this night that the Holy Quran was revealed to the Prophet . Indeed, Ramadan is the best month, and the Night of Qadr (Decree) is its heart. Believers stay awake the entire night and pray for blessings and forgiveness. It is the holiest night of the year, and it would be unwise to be heedless of the tremendous benefits of this night. It is a grand opportunity that God has gifted us with; there is a night that our whole year is decreed and if praying that night, we can ask Him to bless us with a year full of the happiness, the spirituality, the health and the success and whatever good we want in our lives. That's how God gives us the chance to rebuild our destiny, and a new beginning of our spiritual calendars, to ask forgiveness for the sins we have committed in the past year while praying for a better fate in the coming year.
The above briefly indicates how some days, months, and nights are special in Islam. The question now remains how we are going to use them and benefit from them. When we are invited to such a special feast undoubtedly, we have to get prepared and plan for it; otherwise, we gain nothing but regret.
That's the beauty of having faith. Your days and nights are not equal. Each and every one of them has their own distinct meanings. It makes the spiritual journey of a servant sweeter and more enjoyable. He/she has always something to do to get closer to His Lord.
[i] An Arab Andalusian Muslim scholar, mystic, poet, and philosopher, whose works have grown to be very influential.
- Claude Addas, The Experience and Doctrine of Love in Ibn Arab, http://www.ibnarabisociety.org/addas1.html
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- divine roots
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- Al-'Allama al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 104, p. 123.
- The Quran 2:183&5
- Shaykh al-Hurr al-Amili, Wasā'il al-Shi'ah, vol. 10, p.400.
- Al-Shaykh al-Saduq, Al-Amāli, p.95.
- The Quran, Chapter 97th.
When it comes to fasting, many questions might come to mind. Is it even healthy? Is it safe? Does it benefit my fitness goals? Those are the very most typical questions that are asked by the public about fasting. The purest form of fasting, as I am sure you have heard of it, is that of intermittent fasting (IF). Which happens to be good for your health, apt to your fitness goals, and safe.
Intermittent fasting is one of the most popular health and fitness trends nowadays, except that it `is´ not, but `has been´ for thousands of years, practiced by different societies and cultures for a wide range of variable causes. Whether a Zen monk, yogi, Tibetan monk about the Himalayas, or a participant of any Abrahamic or dharmic faith, they all have one thing in common; and that is that they all have fasted.  As mentioned in the Holy Quran, “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous(2:183) and as Imam Baqir (AS) has said “Islam has five pillars, and those are: the Prayers (Salat), the alms-tax (Zakat), the holy Pilgrimage (Haj), fasting (of Ramadhan) (Sawm), and the leadership (Imamate),” further centering on the importance of Fasting . Moreover, as the Prophet (PBUH&HP) bids, “All that it is due of Zakat, and Fasting is that of the body´s” .
Fasting in Islam is a symbol of freeing oneself from false earthly desires to a more grandiose world, in which possibilities are limitless and power is infinite. In fact, we are too driven by day-to-day life that we never contemplate the things that matter anymore, or at the very least, we do not get to do so. Imam Sadiq (AS) has bid, “Allah has manifested fasting as an obligation to bring equality between the poor and the rich” .
Such spiritual undertakings such as fasting and praying have a single most important thing in common, and that is the essence of the present moment. The more engaged one is with the high vibrational energies of the moment, the less compulsive and unconscious one becomes. Now we can say that acts like prayers (which brings awareness and facilitates brain and heart coherence) and meditations separate us a little bit from the compulsive and sub-conscience-driven life style of the modern society.
But, imagine you were introduced to a life style of letting go of compulsive behaviours, thoughts, and actions; and deeply become more integrated into the present moment in which high vibrational energies reside. Ramadhan provides this opportunity for over a billion Muslims and the people of other faiths who fast because of the fun it brings, and all fasting acts for that matter. It is very important to know that we are being so driven by life that we don’t know what fun is anymore. We are so reactive nowadays, that we are no more proactive towards our lives, being triggered left and right by what the scholars call super-stimuli (over-stimulating aspects of the modern society, which our cave-man brains have not adapted to its bursts evolutionary-wise) , which our ancestors did not dispose of until as late as late twentieth century. With the rise of super-stimuli, and the further adaptation, but not evolution, of the human brain to the dopamine (the motivation, and reward neurotransmitter) hits, we live a life of chasing phantoms(reliefs) and not challenges.
One of the hot topics of modern productivity is the deactivation of the brain´s reward centre for a period of time. Our brain´s reward centre has become very reactive, and non-proactive, and keeps on rewarding us a little shot of dopamine, whether craving a cigarette, a glass of wine, a cup of coffee, or even as far as watching pornography and binge eating for several hours. Activities which have been proven to deliberately deteriorate our physical state . Yet, our brain´s reward centre keeps hitting us with feel-good chemicals. This process goes on and on as far as lowly losing the initial sensation to the initial amount, bringing up the threshold, hence; the excessive habit loop. During Ramadan, though, we break the bad old habits, we become new, as whole as a little baby, as though we have had our serotonin (wellness neurotransmitters) re-set button pushed. Fasting is not only about freeing oneself from food, but rather from all other super-stimuli, such as; negativity, excessive sexual activities, and spilling stimulating liquids down our throats all day long.
Now, we are freed of compulsive unconscious behaviours, and embrace the true happiness of life, the state of blissfulness and joy which is what we are born with. We can sit down not eating, not drinking, not engaging in highly stimulating activities and still feel joy, and a continuous state of happiness, what had since long been robbed of us by the advancements of the modern society. We can feel great now, with the strongest paradigm of manifestation, as mentioned by David R. Hawkins, the one and only superior paradigm to all others: being.  Not having, not doing, but simply letting go of the earthly, and connect to the great source of all consciousness that is “God”. As Imam Ali (AS) said “Fasting is as much staying aloof of the taboos as it is staying away of eating” .
Studies have shown that the time restricted feeding (TRF) or intermittent fasting (IMF) leads to more weight loss, which is clearly manifested in the Islamic approach to fasting. Consuming more calories in the morning has shown to be more effective than that of evening, as far as metabolism, weight loss, and prevention of obesity-which has come to be a major epidemic in the developing nations. There are self-reports of significant decrease in the volume of the fat tissues under skin which distort the good looks of our bodies. Referred experiments prove that the TRF significantly decreases the body fat, but does not affect the weight in short period of 15 days. Although more weight loss upon hitting a 30 days threshold is expected. 
Although cutting calories from everyday diet has quite similar effects like the IMF, Small reductions in total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, triglycerides, and fasting glucose and insulin with IMF have been reported in several studies. The greatest decrease of which is in bad cholesterol contributing to a lesser chance of suffering from heart diseases.
Health benefits of fasting encompasses far greater areas than that of the physical health. It mentally alleviates the individual, and activates a new set of body-substances , which grants us to focus on long-term goals and areas of our lives, and become more process-oriented than result-oriented, and adapts our brain´s reward centre to long-term rewards rather than short-term pleasures. Fasting is very complex, common people have been observed achieve the uncommon by long-term fasting; in fact, so complex that by all advancements in medical science, delving deeper into the topic is an area of future investigations.
- Armutcu, Ferah. (2019). Fasting may be an alternative treatment method recommended by physicians.
- Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni al-Razi , Forou Kafi, vol. 4, Pg. 62, 1.
- Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni al-Razi , Al-Kafi, vol. 4, Pg. 62, 3.
- Muhammad ibn Babawayh , Man La Yahdaraho al-Faqih, vol. 6, Pg. 43, 1.
- de Zwaan, M. Binge eating disorder and obesity.
- Muhammad Baqir Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 93, Pg. 249,
- Erik H. Cohen, Rachel Sagee et Rivka Reichenberg, « Being, Having and Doing Modes of Existence
- Effectiveness of Intermittent Fasting and Time-Restricted Feeding Compared to Continuous Energy Restriction for Weight Loss.
After an exhausting day of unending work, you decide to have a night out with your friends. And you end up in a nightclub or casino where you can enjoy your time by playing a fun and simple-looking game. In no time you find yourself engaged in a gamble which seems to be going on forever. And you end up either losing the money – no matter how much - you have gained through too much effort, or achieve some money without doing any profitable action in return. That is only one instance of this kind of so-called fun called gambling. Though, it sometimes turns out to be much more than simple entertainment and results in losing one’s whole living in a matter of a few seconds. But does Islam allow its followers to go through such an experience? The answer is a definite No [i] & [ii], for this is a lose-lose situation for both parties, financially and psychologically, even though it may not look so. In this matter, Islam, as always plans what is best for the lives of human beings. Let’s regard this issue in depth. Is Gambling in Islam Allowed?
According to all Islamic jurists, games that include the special means of gambling such as cards, backgammon, etc. are forbidden if they are accompanied with betting. Moreover, every kind of game that is played through betting is forbidden. Nevertheless, some scholars believe that playing with the special means of gambling, even without betting, is not allowed [iii]&. This is because the one who plays with particular means of gambling will automatically be accused of betting or may seem like doing it.
The adverse effects of gambling on one’s life as well as the society he/she lives in are many and have been mentioned by many Islamic and/or non-Islamic scholars.
According to a study done in the United States, “more than $5 billion has been lost each year to gambling addictions. In addition, $40 billion has been spent on social services and creditor losses. These studies go on to state that two out of three gambling addicts will engage in illegal acts to pay for their gambling debts. The effect is that the addiction places a severe hardship on prison systems, public assistance programs and legal systems” .
Lose of credit and job is only one among many financial losses that are caused by gambling on an individual but it will not be limited to him/her and requires the society to take care of him/her. Moreover, when a game turns to a real-life lose or win, the one who engages in it sees his/her opponent as a real-life enemy whom he/she needs to defeat. This, as a result, spreads the feeling of enmity, avarice, and vengeance within the society . Quran also emphasizes the evilness of this action: “Indeed Satan seeks to cast enmity and hatred among you through wine and gambling, and to hinder you from the remembrance of Allah and prayer. Will you, then, relinquish?” (5:91).
No matter you lose or win in this game, the effect would be detrimental for you. Let’s say you are a very lucky person and win every time you gamble, what would you do with the growing sense of greed for money? Or with this incessant desire to gamble more and more to the point that you cannot think about anything except gambling? Losing also brings its own destructive results; aside from losing the money that you could spend in a much useful way for yourself or your family, you lose your own self-confidence and feel undermined.
The pressure that is inflicted upon the gambler will inevitably lead to physical problems. According to a study, “the stress of gambling problems sometimes causes health problems, for both the person who gambles and the family. This can include anxiety, depression and stress-related problems such as poor sleep, ulcers, bowel problems, headaches, and muscle pains”. Also, in some cases this mental pressure caused the individual to feel suicidal and want to end his/her life .
When your mind is occupied with gaining more money, how to beat your opponent on the next gamble or how to pay your debts, no place will remain for you to turn and remind yourself of your duty toward Allah and His mercy upon you. And when Allah is absent from your heart and mind, the result is the constant feeling of insecurity and stress, for: “…The hearts find rest in Allah’s remembrance!”(13:28).
Finally, gambling is the cause of many harms to the individual as well as the society. Based on a general rule in Islam, no one is allowed to either “cause harm or return harm”  to him/herself or others. As it was mentioned above, gambling brings many financial as well as psychological complexities for the people involved in it and the society they live in. Therefore Islam does not allow its followers to bear such disadvantages.
[i] (2:219), (5:90).
[ii] Imam Reza (AS) Said: “Allah forbids His followers from any kind of gambling and ordered them to refuse doing them and called them impure and evil…” .
[iii] It is important to note that for the participants in horse racing and archery the action of betting is allowed . The reason for that was Islam’s attention to the importance of learning the martial arts for Muslims.