Perspectives

Lessons in Ramadan Fasting

By Imam Sultan R. Muhammad | Last updated: May 25, 2017 - 6:21:07 PM

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Imam Sultan R. Muhammad
This is an edited portion an interview with the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan conducted in the month of Ramadan on July 3, 2015. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan granted me the privilege to ask a series of questions for our Guidance, a message of encouragement, warning to the Muslim nations and human family during the last 10 days of the Sacred Month of Ramadan.

In this interview segment, Minister Farrakhan reminds us of our need to deepen our love for Brotherhood and Sisterhood as a Muslim community and as the human family. Minister Farrakhan explains love is based in our desire for freedom, justice and equality, which is due to all servants of Allah (God), regardless of the differences we perceive between ourselves. The establishment of justice is a key lesson of the fast, a discipline prescribed in Islam and also observed in many faith traditions to build sensitivity to the social and spiritual needs of all people.

The questions posed to Minister Farrakhan in this interview for the benefit of the followers of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad under the Minister’s guidance are based on many conversations and questions from the Believers I have received.

National Student Imam Sultan R. Muhammad

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‘Those three principles (freedom, justice and equality) of life are with us before the fast, they should be with us during the fast and they should be with us after the fast. But during the fast of Ramadan, our minds stayed on the worship of Allah (God) and stayed on the remembrance of the great gift to humanity of the Qur’an must mean then that following that sacredness of the Qur’an should be our actions in accord with what the Qur’an and Allah demands of the believer especially during this Sacred Month.’

Sultan Rahman Muhammad: How does fasting influence and sharpen us in terms of the spirit of freedom, justice and equality, as individuals and a collective Muslim Ummah (Nation) worldwide?

Minister Louis Farrakhan: Those three principles of life are with us before the fast, they should be with us during the fast and they should be with us after the fast. But during the fast of Ramadan, our minds stayed on the worship of Allah (God) and stayed on the remembrance of the great gift to humanity of the Qur’an must mean then that following that sacredness of the Qur’an should be our actions in accord with what the Qur’an and Allah demands of the believer especially during this Sacred Month.

Once you are sincere in your fast, you have a sensitivity to the hurt and pain of others who are poor, who are not eating well, who are in areas where there is drought and other calamities. You are feeling their pain but my God, if we are fasting and have no sense of what it means to be just—meaning that as the Honorable Elijah Muhammad said, ‘justice lays down with you when you lay down, justice gets up with you when you get up.’ The requirement of this universally applicable law is that you must do unto others as you would have done unto yourself. When you wake up, you wake up to that law that whatever you put out is going to come back.

During the Month of Ramadan, you should be more careful of the words that you speak to your wife, to your children, to your neighbors, in the councils that you are a part of. That counsel should always be that I want for my brother what I want for myself. And if that is not intensified during the month of Ramadan we are missing terribly what this Month signifies. It’s not just not eating and having Iftar (breaking of the fast during Ramadan usually practiced collectively) and enjoying each other at the breaking of the fast but we continue to do things that we don’t want done to ourselves.

SRM: A Tradition of Muhammad the Prophet (PBUH) regarding the last 10 days of Ramadan points to the change of our condition through the Month’s discipline of fasting as a means of our redemption through self-purification from the hells of our own vanities and vices: “Ramadan is a month whose beginning is Mercy, whose middle is Forgiveness and whose end is Freedom from the fire.” (related by Ibn Khuzaimah)

Could this mean in the Holy Month that we are not overcoming the fires of our own sin to be freed from the tyranny of our own evils and our open enemies because of our injustice to ourselves? Is the Muslim World qualifying itself through the observation of the fast to receive the Mercy, Forgiveness, and Freedom from the fires of Hell during this Month?

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MLF: I don’t know what the Muslim world is doing! Fasting is required, staying away from fighting and arguing and bombing of masjids is still going on. Hatred is still manifested between Sunni and Shi’a, I don’t know whether there is deepening of commitment to Ramadan in that part of the world. That’s what they are supposed to be doing but you know that is Haram (forbidden) that fighting is still going on in the sacred month.

Fighting is going on in Adan (in Yemen). Bombing and killing because the Houthis are supposed to be Shi’a. So, are they saying to the world that Allah’s word has no meaning? If I’m going to kill a Shi’a that I don’t have to observe the Holy Month of Ramadan?

In the fighting, there was cessation of fighting during the Holy months in obedience to Allah and His command to us, so, if there is no cessation—no one is talking about that, then their personal hatred has risen above the Word of Allah. That is a very bad situation.

SRM: We see ourselves in many ways vainly fighting tyranny of our own base desires during Ramadan but not having the strength to fight the tyranny of the enemy externally, thereby, becoming ritualistic as a Muslim family …

MLF: Those are good words Brother Imam “thereby becoming ritualistic” and once it becomes ritual, it loses its real meaning oralue. We do it because we are supposed to do it. So the prayer becomes ritualistic, the actions become ritualistic and the ritual is only getting us into the practice of something much deeper than a ritual. So, those are good words, brother, that could be used and maybe should be used during this month as we talk to ourselves and others.

SRM: The Honorable Elijah Muhammad has brought us the practice of our faith in a sense of gradualism as at one point we started in December with our Ramadan fasting and dear Minister, as you have taught us that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad also points to fasting with the Muslim world, in How to Eat to Live on page 58 saying that the Muslims as I said do not eat nor drink from before sunrise until the sun sets. If you take it with them (the Ramadan fast) with them you are doing the right thing until the evil world has vanished.

As we have transitioned over the years I want to say there has been some misunderstanding, and I think it comes to this idea of ritualism creeping in. The Qur’an has spoken about how the Jews when given a command and ordinance would ask questions so detailed that really it exposed that ultimately it would lead to a very ritualistic practice of the command given or the fact that they really didn’t want to perform the command of Allah. I think we see this in the Qur’an when it was asked and commanded to slaughter a calf and the questions became what size calf, what age calf, what color calf. By the time all of the questions were then explained, it becomes a very difficult process.

If we apply this to the Believers, as we have now grown under your instruction to fast with the broader Muslim world, there has been some concern or questioning about many details as it relates to the difference between our National Fast and the Ramadan fast and its observance.

MLF: What is our National fast?

SRM: When I think of our National fast I think of our 3 day unity fast that we strive to do once a month…

MLF: That is suspended during Ramadan.

SRM: Yes, sir. That is a frequently asked question among the Believers.

MLF: You know what, that’s really just common sense. The National Fast could never take precedence over Allah’s command. He said, “fasting especially during the month of Ramadan.”

SRM: A frequently asked question is whether or not it is permitted to eat land animals during the Ramadan fast and another frequently asked question, dear Minister, is regarding the times of fasting. According to our prayer times in this season, the Fajr prayer comes in at roughly 3:30 in the morning and we are told in the Qur’an to begin fasting before sunrise. This would mean we should stop eating when the Call to Prayer is sounded (athan). But now there is conversation of whether we stop eating at “astral twilight” or stop eating at “civil twilight.”

MLF: I don’t know what you are talking about ‘astral’ and ‘civil’? What does that mean?

SRM: Yes sir, this is part of the issue. I feel among some Believers we now start to strain at details when it really is common sense and our intention. If we go to the Qur’an it simply states that we are to “eat and drink until the whiteness of the day becomes distinct from the blackness of the night.”

MLF: Thank you! What does that have to do with these two words that you mentioned to me that I never saw in the Qur’an?

SRM: Yes sir, the Qur’an speaks of it in Arabic it mentions a thread, it uses the word thread of white and thread of black …

MLF: Brother, you know, this to me is damn hypocrisy really. I’m more righteous than you because I follow that thread to the letter— I solved it, come on man. That’s just like you say, they slaughter the calf—how big, how small, how this, how that? It didn’t say it—just said sacrifice the calf. That’s it. What are you putting weight in it for, size in it for, color in it and you just keep going because you really don’t want to do what Allah has ordered.

Now, the thing with us is that we took our fast not with the Muslim world. We took it following the order of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and that order was rooted in, “Allah does not wish hardship for you, He desires ease for you.” So, we took Ramadan in December— the shortest daylight of the year. Now, some would argue, well I think we should go back to that because this is hard. Well, of course it is hard, but damn this is harder. You’re not killing yourself to fast, if you’ve been doing your National Fast for three whole days why should it bother you to fast a few more hours? We’re making excuses and since the Messenger has put me in his seat to give an order and tell the Believer whatever he tells you to do you do it and don’t bother me about nothing else! He gave me an order: “Find a way to unite with the Muslim world” and I found a way in our observing Ramadan with the entire Muslim world. Some are angry with me for that, some are saying well that’s not what we did when the Messenger was here—the Messenger is still here!

SRM: Yes sir. That’s the truth.

MLF: Just tell them to keep trying. Even if you miss, you’ve tried. Allah is not going to kill you because you tried and you were overtaken for a day, or two, or three— keep trying. And one day Allah will bless you to do the whole fast in the hottest month of the year which we are in right now. It eases up as time goes on. It’s not like this every year. So, when your mind is focused and made up you don’t make excuses. You try. If you fail you try again. And if you mess up you can make up days. I don’t know—everything has been given to us. I don’t know why we have to now try to find a way back to December.

SRM: And in regard to the eating of land animals during Ramadan?

MLF: That’s your choice. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught us to eat fish during that month (of Ramadan). He is breaking us away from meats. That was a wonderful way to do it and use the month of Ramadan for fish. I did that too during one of my Ramadan’s. We would just eat fish. Breaking away from land animals is a right thing to do. He already told us no meat is good for us. So, when are we going to get to that point where we are meatless? But occasionally, I will eat a piece of meat—a decision that the faster has to make. He is not breaking the fast if he eats a piece of meat or if he eats a piece of fish. If he’s vegetarian none of that will matter anyway. That makes it easy for the Believer.

I would go back to the law that the Hon. Elijah Muhammad gave that is directly out of the Qur’an. And then the gray areas where you are not sure, your conscience will tell you that, “if you don’t know if it is right or wrong–then don’t do it.”

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