In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
One of the (very few) advantages of fasting a long (long, long) day is that there is ample time to read and reflect over Scripture. I mean, since there is really nothing else to do while waiting to eat, might as well read the Qur’an. Besides, this is one of the reasons to fast during Ramadan: to honor the revelation of the Qur’an, which occurred during this most holy of months.
One of the most significant verses, among the thousands, across which I came was this verse:
And yet there are people who choose to believe in beings that allegedly rival God,loving them as [only] God should be loved: whereas those who have attained to faith love God more than all else. If they who are bent on evildoing could but see – as see they will when they are made to suffer [on Resurrection Day] -that all might belongs to God alone, and that God is severe in [meting out] punishment! (2:165)
What I focused on the most in this verse is this phrase: “Whereas those who have attained to faith love God more than all else.” The Arabic can also read that the believers are “most intense in their love for God.” And the crux of the matter, when it comes to fasting, becomes clearly evident.
On the surface of it, fasting makes very little sense: going more than 15 hours without food or drink, not even water, during a long and hot summer day looks like torture. Yet, when I think about it a little more: it is a small thing to do compared to the enormous bounty which the Lord has bestowed upon us.
When we thirst throughout the day – and we think of the nice, cold drink that is waiting for us in the refrigerator – it is a reminder of the enormous bounty of having that drink be there. When we hunger throughout the day – and we think of the succulent meal that is waiting for us at sunset – it is a reminder of the tremendous blessing of having that meal be there. There are millions upon millions – all across our world – who are not so fortunate to have food and drink so readily accessible.
If we are healthy enough to fast, that is a blessing in and of itself. I once heard someone say that “health is a crown that someone wears, but it can only be seen by those who are ill.” We should never take our good health for granted, and one of the ways we can be grateful to the Lord, for bestowing upon us health, is to fast when we are asked to do so. Fasting also reminds us of the poor and less fortunate, and if we are blessed with wealth and means, then we should be grateful by helping those less fortunate than we are as best as we can.
All these bounties that the Lord has given us: food, drink, health, wealth, safety, security; all of these He gave to us when we have done nothing for God to deserve it. Yet, He gave it to us anyway because He loved us. His love for us preceded us, and His love for us continues to permeate every fabric of our lives and beings. Each day we breathe and bask in the light of the sun, we really bask in God’s love. The fact that He gave us life itself, without us giving him anything beforehand (and there is nothing we can give Him that He needs), is because of His tremendous and undying love for us.
Therefore, seeing and living all this love, we naturally love Him right back. And as the Qur’an states, that love is most intense for God, and we love God more than anything else. Thus, when He asks us to fast for one month out of the year, if we are able to do so, it is really a “no-brainer.” We do so because we love God so very much for all the things with which He has blessed us.
And that is what keeps me patient as my throat dries and my stomach pains in hunger as the day wears on. I remember all the love my Precious Beloved showered upon me, and I feel so much love for Him. And so I reinvigorate my resolve to keep fasting as faithfully as I can. That’s because I love God so much…because He loved me first.