Human beings are made up of several components. Firstly we have our physical bodies and everything that it contains. We do what we can in order to keep these nourished and in good shape. We eat well, sleep well, study and exercise so that all these components of our human body can stay in good shape.
Yet another part of the body has been meticulously mentioned in both the Qur’an and Hadith; the soul. Until recently, humans often had the tendency (still do) to reject this part of the body, yet Islām has mentioned it clearly in the Quran and in the prophetic traditions.
Only recently, the Chinese – being advanced in many aspects of the world – have made a discovery that there is something in the body referred to as shen. Loosely translated into English, this refers to the soul or spirit. It’s basically the part of your body that tells you to do good. The self on the other hand tells you to do wrong. The soul or spirit can also be referred to as the heart. Islam tells us the same thing by reminding us that there is more to us than just the physical world.
The question you may have at this point is, why mention all these things? Why do I need to know about the spirit and the self? What’s that got to do with fasting?
Well, the answer is rather simple. In a beautiful hadith, the Prophet PBUH summed up articulately a part of our body that we don’t see, yet it affects the rest of us. He said, “There is a piece of flesh in the body if it becomes good (reformed) the whole body becomes good but if it gets spoilt the whole body gets spoilt and that is the heart.” [Sahih Bukhari]
The Ruh VS The Nafs
There are two rather important parts of the heart that we ought to describe before we move on. Whilst volumes have been written on their differences and definitions, an easy way to understand the difference is by looking at Ruh (soul)as the thing that inspires you to do good, whilst the nafs (self)is the self or ego which lures you to do wrong. Whilst the nafs (self) has been defined in this way, it can also reach the state of spiritual perfection if it is maintained well through doing good deeds.
The heart usually leans towards either the nafs (self)or the ruh (soul)depending on the state of a human being. If the nafs (self) is overpowering and dominating, the soul will require attention and rectification.
But how do you work on this and how do you go about maintaining the ruh (soul)?
Fasting in Ramadhan Nourishes The Soul
This is where Islam steps in and provides countless solutions for believers. Whilst the Qur’an provides answers for all human beings, there is so much more value for those who are Muslims. This is mainly because, for Muslims, certain acts are prescribed which go a long way in benefitting the body, mind and soul.
From the five pillars of Islam, Sawm (fasting) is known as one of the fastest and most recommended ways to adjust, maintain, fix and nourish the ruh (soul). Fasting is a state of a human being. For Muslims, this fasting takes place in the month of Ramadhān which is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar sandwiched between Sha’ban and Shawwal.
For many, fasting may seem like an old-fashioned and extreme act, yet if one reflects upon it, fasting is the most powerful way to impact everything beyond the physical body, such as the soul, spirit and mind. Hence, fasting with the soul and spirit is the only answer to fasting effectively in Ramadhan.
This is the exact reason why Ibrahim Kalin mentioned, “we can say that one reaches a true state of spiritual refinement when fasting not only with the body but also with the soul and the spirit. Controlling oneself not to indulge in physical pleasures for a certain period of time is an important act of volition. But it is also an exercise in spiritual wayfaring. By getting less from the material world, we gain more from the spiritual domain.”
The soul is often neglected in our modern context, which is why Ramadhan is the ideal time to regain an understanding of how it affects our worldly life and the afterlife. It is the nucleus which binds us together and without proper maintenance, it can decay and leave us feeling spiritually hungry.
The soul breathes life into our spiritual well-being, and through perfecting it, we can live our lives in a way that is conducive to achieving spiritual well-being. Whilst many things can help this to happen, fasting is the fast-track method which can leave us feeling fulfilled, and more in touch with Allah, as our souls are revived and transformed.
Our pious predecessors welcomed Ramadhan with delight and extreme happiness, as they viewed the month as an opportunity to renew their trust in Allah. For 11 months, we are engrossed and engaged in matters other than Allah, which is why Ramadhan is the finest opportunity to play catch up, restore your faith in Allah, and revive your relationship with him. What’s more, once the month of Ramadhan arrives, the motives of worship become a reality in the heart.
Main Image Credit: Seedbed