Ramadan: Fasting, Spirituality, and the Link to Veganism

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» Ramadan: Fasting, Spirituality, and the Link to Veganism

Can you feel the blessings in the air? It’s the Ramadan effect.

During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims around the globe enter the realm of upgrades – upgrading their spirituality with practices like prayers, charity work, and reading the holy Quran, upgrading their social ties with increasing family gatherings and opening bridges of reconciliation, and upgrading their emotional and physical wellbeing by abstaining from eating, drinking, intercourse, and from harbouring negative thoughts and actions.

This time of the year is truly a joyous time for all Muslims. But it is also a chance to pause and ponder, as it highlights an important practice that is common with almost every other form of spirituality – fasting.

Fasting is a form of discipline, a spiritual discipline, that is intended to deepen one’s relationship with the creator, to repent certain sins, and to seek guidance by deploying hunger and thirst as agents of improving mental clarity. In a way, it is a process of putting down earthly desires in favour of spiritual gains.Najah Raya photograph outside

It cultivates self-control for the greater good.

Fasting is observed in almost all belief systems. In Christianity, fasting is often practised during Lent, where individuals abstain from certain foods or activities as a form of spiritual sacrifice.

In Hinduism, fasting is performed as a means of purifying the body and mind and is observed during specific festivals or as a personal spiritual practice.

Buddhists also practice fasting as a way of self-discipline and to develop mental clarity.

Judaism includes fasting during Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, as a way of seeking forgiveness and starting anew.

Overall, there seems to be a consensus that what we consume is directly tied to our spiritual wellbeing.

Back to Islam, and building on this consensus, we observe numerous instances where the spiritual essence of fasting as well as the general meanings of Ramadan, i.e. compassion and charity, tie in together with the main concepts of a different perspective – veganism.

In many of the hadiths reported by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his family and companions, as well as the many stories of other prophets, it is evident that compassion and charity do not halt at the borders of our non-human animal friends.

One famous story regarding compassion and respect towards non-human animals is that of Prophet Sulaiman (PBUH). According to the Quran, Prophet Sulaiman (PBUH) was marching his army across a valley when he heard an ant warning her fellow ants to retreat into their homes to avoid being trampled by the army. Prophet Sulaiman (PBUH), impressed by the level of communication and organisation among the ants, stopped his army and thanked Allah for giving him the ability to understand them.

It is important to note that Prophet Sulaiman (PBUH) was a mighty king whose army would have been enormous in size and number. A prophet of this status and an army of this size, pausing for a tiny group of ants, and the fact that such a story is documented in the Quran, the highest-ranking holy book for Muslims, and a guide that would be followed by billions of them throughout time, is perhaps stark evidence to the weight that Islam places on animal welfare. It is also an indicator that ants are sentient creatures that fear pain, a fact that extrapolates to every other animal.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) condemned a man who had taken away a bird’s younglings, saying: “Who has hurt the feelings of this bird by taking her young? Return them to her.” The fact that the prophet (PBUH) spoke of the bird in human terms and acknowledged her feelings, followed by his declaration that non-human animals are but “communities just like us”, is another clear testimony of the placement of non-human animals in Islam and the importance of compassion towards them.

These, as well as other scenes described in Islam, such as the pious woman who entered hell for entrapping and starving a cat, and the sex worker who entered heaven for offering water to a thirsty dog, are all messages and lessons. They are images derived from the heart of the compassion and charity that are embodied in Ramadan.

It seems obvious then that veganism, with its heightened awareness regarding animal rights, is a reflection of such meanings of compassion and charity.

Project, if you will, the image of that bird stressing over her younglings being taken away from her, to cows and sheep in the dairy and meat industry, being deprived of their offspring on a daily basis. Project as well, if you will, the fear of the ants in Prophet Sulaiman’s story on the fear in the eyes and hearts of each non-human animal in the agriculture industry, being confined in tiny, dark, and horrific chambers, waiting for their imminent demise.

Now consider all this fear and trauma being the main agent of the flesh that people consume, and how that reflects on spiritual wellbeing. Imam Ali (AS), the prophet’s cousin, is said to have stated: “Do not make your stomach a graveyard of animals.”

The wording used here is the takeaway, animal products are dead material. They are not fuel for a healthy body, nor are they fuel for a healthy spirit.

When we fast, we acknowledge the benefits of letting go of something we might like in favour of something much more meaningful.

When we fast, we put our physical desires on the back burner, and bring our spirit to the forefront, to enrich it and help it flourish.

When we fast, we draw upon the meanings of compassion and kindness, reaping benefits for our spirits as well as for other humans, and beings.

Fasting is an upgrade for the spirit, in all forms and religions.

All of these happen when we commit to a vegan lifestyle, too.

In my own perception, and my humble opinion, it seems to me that veganism is a form of fasting, that puts a person in a perpetual state of spiritual and physical upgrade, which reflects positively on himself, as well as every other creature surrounding him.

May we continue to seek peace and prosperity for our spirits, in holy months like Ramadan, and in every other month of the year.

Ramdan Kareem.

By Najah Raya – a communications enthusiast - that just means that I try to put my thoughts and feelings into words and designs that might make the most sense to the world. Hoping to save the animals, one article at a time.

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