Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community. In this holy month Muslims fast from the food, drink, smoking, and sexual activity, and other specific activities drawn by Islam between dawn to nightfall until when the evening adhan is sounded in order to practice abstaining. There is definitely a higher purpose beyond not eating or drinking behind fasting. Fasting is one of the Principles of Islam, a religious duty commanded by Allah. Muslims who obey such commands or duties are said to receive thawab* each time for each good deed and receive redemption in the afterlife. Today we are going to discuss the real philosophy behind this Principles but at first, let us see some of the Quran verses pointing to fasting and its place in Islam.
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous –
(The Holy Quran 2:183)
The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion
(The Holy Quran 2:185)
This principle is often emphasized in the principles of Islamic jurisprudence “The basis for the formation of all religious and divine rules is the interests and corruptions that philosophy is its cause”.
The second surah of The Quran (Al-Baqarah) clearly telling us the purpose of the act of fasting, talks about Divine bowing (verse 185), thanksgiving (verse 185), Benefiting from divine help (verses 45 and 153), benefiting from Allah (verse 184), attaining piety (Verse 183) and victory and success in deeds (verses 45 and 153) are among the wisdom and goals of fasting. We will discuss them deeply now:
Fasting has other benefits and effects, the most important one is identifying the sincere; Because fasting means abstaining from drinking and eating and sexual pleasures as well as other prohibitions, it is very difficult for many people who cannot wash their hearts of material pleasures and are only humble and submissive who give up by divine command. Therefore, it can be said that fasting is one of the most important divine tests through which sincerity can be recognized. Imam Ali (AS) says about this function of fasting: Allah made fasting obligatory in order to test the sincerity of the people. (1) Also, Lady Fatemeh (AS) says about the role of fasting insincerity: Allah has made fasting obligatory in order to establish sincerity. (2)
Other functions of fasting include the element of empathy; Because the fasting person understands the difficult conditions of others by fasting, and because of the suffering he suffers during the fast, he feels the suffering of the poor deeply now. Creating similar conditions and assimilating the living space with the lives of the poor, in the most important dimension, namely the lack of food and drink and other pleasures, causes a feeling of sympathy and provides the ground for financial benevolence and charity. Some rich people, for various reasons, including illness or intentionally not fasting, have to pay atonement, so one of the purposes of fasting is to reach a part of the wealth and property of the rich to the poor so that at least the life of the poor is provided and the level of class distance becomes slightly lower.
we can also refer to this wisdom that Imam Sadigh (AS) has stated about the obligation of fasting: Allah has made fasting obligatory so that the rich and the poor become equal (3) Imam Reza (AS) also says about this matter: People are commanded to fast in order to understand the pain of hunger and thirst, and through it to find the poverty and misery of the Hereafter. (4)
Another wisdom mentioned in the narrations for fasting is zakat of the body. In the sense that zakat is for everything; That is, just as it is zakat for property, which by paying for it provides the ground for proper growth and development of the body. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH&HP) said: Zakat is for everything and zakat on the bodies is fasting. (5) Also, our dear Prophet (PBUH&HP) said: Fast to stay healthy (6)
Medical research has proven today that fasting has a very effective role in eliminating diseases, especially cancer; this is because the lack of nutrients in the body has the first effect on cancer cells and dries out their roots. Therefore, in order to have a healthy body and all the organs of the body to work properly, we must accept fasting as a treatment and use it for the proper development of our body.
In the teachings of Islam, Jihad, especially its military one, has been set as a standard for other tasks due to its difficulty to achieve. Therefore, matters such as gaining halal, marrying well, and the like are considered and measured as jihad. Fasting is a difficult and arduous task because it is even permissible to step on carnal pleasures. Fighting against carnal desires and confronting erotic issues is one of the most important jihads known as the Great Jihad; and it is more difficult to fast in the heat of summer and under the sun and with work and labor. Such a fast is one of the best examples of deeds from the ideals of Prophet (PBUH&HP) that he said: Fasting in the heat is jihad. (7)
Imam Sadegh (AS) also says about fasting in extreme heat: Whoever fasts for Allah on a very hot day and becomes thirsty, Allah will appoint a thousand angels to touch his face and give him the good news until he breaks his fast. (8)
Achieving true fasting means that not just a person's body and tongue fasting, but also his heart and mind are fasting. Imam Ali (AS) says in expressing the best types of fasts: The fast of the heart is better than the fast of the tongue, and the fast of the tongue is better than the fast of the belly (9). So, in the real fast, all the organs of a person must be fasting from sin and mistakes. It is also narrated from Lady Fatima (PBUH) that: What is the use of fasting for a fasting person who has not preserved his tongue, ears, eyes, and joints? ** (10)
There is no point in Islam that hasn’t been checked by wisdom higher than human ones. If there are acts in Islam that are hard or pointless in our sight, that means we can’t see their higher purpose. Islam is always fresh and never gets old like other religions and it seeks human redemption so follow its orders to find yourself in the righteous path
- Nahj al-Balagha (verse 252)
- Bihar al-Anwar (96th volume – page 368)
- Man La Yahduruhu al-Faqih (second volume – page 43)
- Wasa'il al-Shia (4th volume – page 4)
- Al-Kafi (4th volume – page 62)
- Bihar al-Anwar (96th volume – page 255)
- Bihar al-Anwar (96th volume – page 257)
- Al-Kafi (4th volume – page 64)
- Exalted Aphorisms and Pearls of Speech (first volume – page 417)
- Bihar al-Anwar (93th volume – page 295)
* Thawab means punishment and has been used in both good and evil deeds of the human, and of course it is often used in good deeds.
**Lady Fatima (AS) has made a Denial interrogation in this narration of hers that it makes it more understandable
If you have ever experienced such hard conditions in life that you see your life or other peoples’ lives completely purposeless or absolutely miserable and you may have thought of killing yourself or ending miserable peoples’ lives, then I suggest you read this text to the end and realize why suicide in Islam is strictly forbidden.
Although I know that if you are close to one of those highly hopeless phases of your life, you may even wish to kill me over the net!!! But, you probably have no important task right now, as you probably don’t care. So read on and do not lose your opportunity of accompanying me in this meaningless life!
Have you ever come across a person who is seriously ill, and his existence seems to be real trouble for himself and his family members? He stays all day in bed, with no capability of moving, or talking or transferring emotions or anything else, and he lives a plant life. Have you ever thought that killing such a useless and incapable person would bring more mental, physical and economic benefits to the society?
These thoughts and many other thoughts that may be on your mind, and may have remained unanswered for ages, can make life meaningless. But let us see how our creator answers these types of thoughts;
All human beings try to reach high positions in life, whether economic, social, political, educational, physical or spiritual. Some people reach those high positions, and many of them remain normal people in society. Among those who think that they have not achieved such reasonable positions in life, there is a group who has never set a real goal to achieve and have only dreamt of those situations.
But there are also a group of people who have set realistic goals and tried hard to achieve them, but they have never been successful. A percentage of the latter group may become disappointed and may think of this life as a pointless life, and some of them may think of suicide.
The tragedy that repeats in the history of humankind, and has been the reason for many suicide attempts is a broken heart, and not gaining the love of your life. People, who are not in love, may think that the suicidal decisions of disappointed lovers are very shallow and childish. But the person, who is trapped in the hands of powerful love, sees nothing more important than reaching the love of his/ her life.
The worldly loves may not be limited to the opposite sex only. Some people desire wealth, different jobs, cars, buildings, and towers, or even knowledge. This sort of love can also remain unattained and lead people toward disappointment.
Some people face problems in every aspect of their life. It can be individual problems such as debt, disease, family problems, loneliness, etc. Or it could be much bigger than that; social problems, war, the unjust power of imperialism and capitalism, environmental pollutions or the spread of oppression in the world.
These great issues are enough to make one totally disillusioned with living in this cruel world and to lead him toward ending his/ her life.
In all the issues mentioned above, that may take a person to the point of hopelessness, God gives us guidelines and answers. He says in the Holy Quran that most of the hardship that human beings go through is to test their level of faith and to distinguish those who are truthful and those who verbally talk about faith with no real belief in it (29: 2-3).
The life of this world is only a place for us to prove our capabilities and talents for greater eternal life, and in this path, only the patient will win;
“We will surely test you with a measure of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth, lives, and fruits; and give good news to the patient.” (2: 155)
Imagine that you have entered a challenge or a test. In the middle of the tackle, you find it really hard that you feel like you cannot take it anymore. Will you stop the challenge and decide to kill yourself, or will you think about your goals and keep going with the rest of your energy?
Usually, people who have set goals in life, will keep moving and find ways of overcoming problems. Therefore, the main problem of those who may think of suicide is that they don’t have a clear goal, nor they have a clear vision of the meaning of challenges in life.
From an Islamic viewpoint, the life of this world is full of different tests, and by going through them and passing the tests, people elevate their spiritual level and build their eternal life more comfortable. Therefore, the harder the tests are, the stronger the person will become, and he will have an easier life in the hereafter.
First of all, He wants us to choose the right path in life; “rectitude has become distinct from error.” (2: 256)
After choosing the path of righteousness, He wants us to follow the guidelines that He sent us through His messengers; “should any guidance come to you from Me, those who follow My guidance will not go astray, nor will they be miserable.” (20: 123)
Then, He promises that whoever sets his goals in the direction of helping the religion of God and gaining God’s satisfaction, He will show him/her the right way: “As for those who strive in Us, We shall surely guide them in Our ways, and Allah is indeed with the virtuous.”(29:69)
Therefore, whoever forms his lifestyle based on teachings of God, will never feel disappointed, since Allah says: “indeed no one despairs of Allah’s mercy except the faithless lot”. (12: 87)
When you face problems you should:
1. Revise your goals and lifestyle. If it is against the path that Allah has sent us, disappointment will overcome you at some points.
2. Remember God, knowing that it will give you strength; “—those who have faith and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah.’ Behold! The hearts find rest in Allah’s remembrance!” (13: 28)
3. Form a strong Islamic family to keep you in peace; “And of His signs is that He created for you mates from your own selves that you may take comfort in them, and He ordained affection and mercy between you.” (30:21)
4. Never hang around aimlessly and idly; “so when you are done appoint (to a new task).” (94: 7)
5. Keep in mind that the real life is to come after death. So live every day of your life knowing that it may be your last day. Many of us are the last minute people!!
And there are many other solutions that can help us get rid of satanic thoughts, if we just read the Quran while we are depressed and feeling suicidal.
“He turned away from them and said, ‘Alas for Joseph!’ His eyes had turned white with grief, and he choked with suppressed agony.” (12: 84)
Reading the above verse of the Quran, many people may not perceive why prophet Jacob (PBUH) wept so hard on the loss of his son, Josef (AS) until he became blind. And he continued grieving on the loss of Josef so much that his sons told him “By Allah! You will go on remembering Joseph until you wreck your health or perish”. (12: 85) Was his grief merely because of the loss of Josef or the oppression that his brothers had towards him? Or was it because of his disappointment with his other sons who committed such a cruel act toward Josef?
When we read the story of prophets in the Quran, each of them say to their people that I want no reward from you, as “my reward lies only with him who originated me” (11” 51), while among all the prophets of God, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) made an exception as God ordered him to tell people “Say, ‘I do not ask you any reward for it except the love of [my] relatives.” (42:23)
And therefore, it is for this straightforward order of God in the Quran that Muslims love the household of Prophet so dearly. It is narrated from the prophet who said: “Surely, there exists in the hearts of the believers, with respect to the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, a heat that never subsides.” 
Therefore, if you visit Muslims who are weeping and mourning on the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS), many of them may not be able to explain why they are doing so. They may only tell you that there are a pain and grief that I feel within my heart, and they may speak of their love for the prophet’s household. However, apart from those feelings and emotions, let’s see what the logical reasons behind mourning for Imam Hussain (AS), his family and companions are?
The mourning for Imam Hussain (AS) that is increasingly spreading all over the world after about 1400 years is one of the miraculous aspects of Imam Hussain’s (AS) uprising. However, aside from strong feelings that Muslims have for the household of the Prophet, there are so many narrations from the progeny of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that encourages people to weep on the sorrow of Imam Hussain (AS) and his family. For example the narration from Imam Reza that says: “If you weep over the afflictions of Hussain (AS) such that tears flow from your eyes and fall upon your cheeks, Allah will forgive all your sins whether big or small and less or large in number.” 
But why would great Muslim leaders emphasize so hard on spending time and energy on weeping and mourning, while people could spend the same amount of time and energy for doing scientific research or inventing something that helps humanity?
This question is raised by many people, and here I wish to mention a few reasons why reviving the tragedy of Karbala is so important.
“We will recount to you the best of narratives in what We have revealed to you of this Quran, and indeed prior to it you were among those who are unaware [of it].” (12:3)
When you read the Holy Quran, you see it full of stories of the past generations through which God portrays the most important human values in life.
The event of Karbala is full of lessons that are worth being reviewed every day and night, to help the growth of human society; lessons of heroism, standing against cruelty, defending human dignity, and complete obedience of God.
Holding mourning gatherings is a great reason where people of the society, from all different social classes and different ages, sit together and revise the most important humanitarian issues and values which awaken the spirit of chivalry in them and give them the courage to stand against the oppressors of their time.
After the event of Karbala occurred, there were no specific media to convey the message of Karbala and the aim of Imam Hussain (AS) from going to the land of Karbala. From then on, it was only the mourning gatherings that were a place to recite the tragedy of Karbala to others and through it, illuminate the right from wrong. This great event at the time of Imam Hussain (AS) where the rulers of society were trying to hide the way of righteousness was a magnificent move to help the religion of God: “O you who have faith! Be Allah’s helpers, just as Jesus son of Mary said to his disciples, ‘Who will be my helpers for Allah’s sake?’” (61: 14)
In today’s psychology, many believe that if you have a goal to reach, having an image of that goal in mind will help you reach it. In mourning ceremonies for Imam Hussain (AS) we keep repeating the great morals and values of Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions and household. We keep revising their kindness, wisdom, courage, their humbleness toward God and good people and chivalry toward the oppressors, etc.
Naming the above characteristics in such ceremonies and trying to be like those great courageous men and women, is more beneficial than any life-coaching sessions that try to help us revive ourselves and our lives, and it is at everyone’s access for free.
If we hate oppression and wish to stand against it, we need a guide to know how to behave in different situations; when to negotiate, when to disagree, when to yell our beliefs, when to make our movement revolutionary and call others to assist us, when to make peace, and finally when is the time to fight against the oppressor?
It is hard to find a true answer to all the above questions when we face the oppressors. But revising the history of Karbala and studying Imam Hussain’s (AS) behavior in a different situation can help us find the choice when we face similar conditions, as he has gone through the same path. Mourning ceremonies are the situation where this history is revised every time, and we can perceive through reading the history that Imam Hussain (AS) did not tend to start a fight from the beginning. At some point he even migrated from his hometown to avoid the war, When he was forced to give allegiance to the corrupt caliph, Yazid, instead of making riots, he left the city, while he had received so many invitation letters from people of Kufah to become their leader. But since the Kufies broke their oath, he had to faith towards Karbala.
However, even in Karbala, he did not tend to fight. But he sent letters and made negotiations. He gave speeches to illustrate the truth for people. He wrote letters to different classes of the society and advised people and invited them to follow the true path. Although his enemies never accepted to change their minds and follow the true path, he still did not start the fight, until he was attacked by the enemy. And he defended himself and his household only when he had no other choice. Therefore, Hussain (AS) and his behavior in different conditions can be a great role model for us, in life.
Hussain (AS) does not belong to Muslims only. His behavior and lifestyle represent a way of life for all humans who wish to live a prosperous life. It is in the nature of all human beings who hate oppression and cruelty and would like to stand against it. Hussain (AS) teaches us to have courage and chivalry in life. That is why he faced the army of the enemy on the tenth day of Muharram and said: “If you do not believe in any religion and do not fear the resurrection day, at least be free men in this world.” This saying clearly shows that Hussain’s teachings are not limited to Muslims only, but his way of life can be a role model for all of those who wish to live a humane life.
- Mustadrak al-wasail, vol. 10, p. 31
- Shaykh Abbas Qummi: Nafasul Mahmum, tradition. 9
- Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 45, p. 51