Parting with Ramadan: A Month of Fasting
By Zartasha Zainab
The month of Ramadan has ended and the Muslim community now commences back to daily routines. This sacred month in which Muslims in Canada and across the world fast from dawn to dusk, where food is distributed freely by donations to the community, where families and friends get together for community iftar parties. A month full of prayers and worship where masajid are filled during the five daily prayers and the night prayers of Taraweeh. During this sacred month, Muslims seek to fulfill a divine obligation of fasting and improve their character by refraining from unnecessary fighting, vulgarity and profanity. They work to better their character, improve their relationships, fulfill social rites and obligations to their families and the larger community and seek to re-connect with their higher purpose by living a life of taqwa (God consciousness) in their daily life. The Qur’an states, “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may develop God-consciousness” (Quran 2:183). It is a month marked by the revelation of the Holy Qur’an and in addition to fasting, it is a month to do abundant dhikr (Quran recitation and remembrance of God) and increase in doing good deeds.
In contemporary society, oftentimes due to the consistent stereotypes and misrepresentation highlighted in the media as well as the constant violence both locally and internationally we miss out on many positive contributions and achievements. We have seen increased shootings and hate crimes in places of worship as Muslims perform their religious rites during this sacred month both locally and internationally. We are oftentimes not able to reflect on the immense blessing as it robs us of our sense of peace and security. The National Council of Canadian Muslims which works to tackle Islamophobia and is dedicated to promoting the human rights and civil liberties of Canadian Muslims reported various hate crimes including on April 26, 2023, a Black Muslim in Edmontonian leaving Eid Friday Prayer subjected to excessive force, attacks in the Markham Masjid where a man yelled slurs to worshippers and tried to run them over with a car, Muslim women being followed home from the masajid and a gun being pointed at them, vandalism of the Towfiq Islamic Center and so many more incidents within the GTA! (Zhou, 2023). Oftentimes, we miss out on the many positive contributions and achievements of the Muslim community and the purpose of this month. It is my hope that this article will shed light on the true spirit of Ramadan.
A Month of Abundant Charity
Ramadan is a month in which Muslims increase in giving abundant charity as the rewards of good deeds are believed to increase during this sacred time. Zakah donations are believed to be one of the five pillars of Islam along with shahadah (testimony of faith), salat (obligatory prayers), sawm (fasting from dawn till dusk on prescribed days) and hajj. It literally means ‘to increase’ and technically it means ‘that which purifies’. It includes gold, silver, agricultural produce, livestock earnings and profits from stocks and investments as it liberates from individual greed and selfishness and is a way to maintain peace and harmony. It is mentioned within the Qur’an more than 80 times (ZamZam, 2022).
This month in Ramadan Project Ramadan, an initiative by Muslim Welfare Canada supported families in need within our local community by fundraising, assembling, and distributing baskets containing staple foods. They worked closely with food banks, women’s shelters and impoverished communities entirely run by volunteers across GTA, Hamilton, Durham Region and Ottawa (Project Ramadan, 2023).
Local masajid including Pickering Islamic Center, Islamic Foundation of Toronto and others also host regular community Masajid Iftars throughout the month of Ramadan. It is a month full of sharing, community, spirituality and giving.
A Month of Reflection, Contemplation
Reflection and deep contemplation is a huge part of Ramadan at an individual level. The spirit of Ramadan includes not only the physical aspects of worship but the spiritual ones as well including a sense of submission to the will of Allah (God), engaging in introspection and tazkiyya (purification of the soul). One writer, Hamza Yusuf, translated and commented on the work of Im?m Mawl?d’s Ma?harat al-Qul?b in his novel, ‘Signs, Symptoms and Cures for Spiritual Diseases of the Heart’ looking at spiritual vices including hatred, inequity, envy, stinginess, anger and other spiritual vices and cures. One thing he noted was how this desire for cutthroat competitive behaviours didn’t exist until the impact of massive consumerism and capitalistic values that were focused primarily on exploiting and mass consumption for profits. There was a spirit of giving, generosity and community (Yusuf, 2012).
The Impact of food waste within our community is numerous! Studies have found that about 50% of the food wasted in the City of Toronto comes from single-family households which are avoidable, including leftovers and untouched food. This is often the result of buying too much, not eating mindfully or not storing food correctly. The cost of food waste is also about $1100 for the average household per year! If you accumulate these amounts and look at the total food wasted in Canada, it is about 2.2 million tons which is equivalent to 9.2 million tons of CO2 and 2.2 million cars on the road! This food waste ends up in landfills and produces greenhouse gases like methane. This methane then traps heat in the ozone layer and contributes to respiratory diseases from smog to air pollution (City of Toronto, 2022). Yet businesses and corporations will produce food based on the amount that is profitable to them and do everything in their power to market and sell their products and follow trends in demand and supply, and consumers will buy more than they need as a result of both marketing tactics and insatiable want resulting in food waste. There is a joint moral responsibility on the part of individual households, policymakers, and business & corporate responsibility in our increasingly capitalist society for the sake of our health, the health of the next generation and the planet to monitor marketing trends, consumerism in supply and demand chains and equitable distribution of resources.
The Physical Benefits of Fasting
I discussed how fasting is great for our spiritual well-being, but what about our physical beings? Well, it turns out the benefits of fasting are numerous to our health and well-being as well! Fasting provides several benefits including fat loss, improved blood sugar control, and decreased inflammation and also might provide protection against conditions like cancer and neurodegenerative disorders (Ajmera, 2023).
However, it is noteworthy that there is an exemption for people who are unable to fast due to health reasons or social constrictions including travel and ways for them to make up the fast by giving charity.
A Month of Mercy, Forgiveness & Redemption
In the ‘Beginning to the End’ series by Bayyinah Institute, speaker Dr. Omar Suleiman explains the concept of creation starting with the understanding that human beings have very limited perception. Our faculties are limited even as we compare our vision and hearing to other creatures including those of birds, whales, and elephants and touch upon various physical and metaphysical creations mentioned within the Qur’an. How the universe is created in such delicate balance and harmony that not even a leaf falls without God’s knowledge and comprehension and every great and minute matter is recorded. Dr John Linux, he notes, states that the more we know our universe, the greater the hypothesis of there being a creator free of the notion of time, cause and effect and who has to have a will. He further explains the creation of mankind, the throne of Allah, the Pen and the Tablet, divine decree, prophets and messengers and more!
This is a month to truly reflect on our purpose in life both by being introspective and by reflecting on creation around us and to engage in both being true to ourselves, seeking forgiveness for our misdeeds, seeking to better ourselves and to attain mercy, forgiveness, redemption and guidance in our lives by living in peace and harmony within our cosmos.
In conclusion, the benefits and blessings of fasting, introspection, dhikr (remembrance of God), restraining vices, and contemplation have numerous benefits at the individual, spiritual and communal levels. A lot of achievements include fostering balance and harmony within our ecosystem and universe, being more charitable and helping those who are struggling and increasing self-awareness and God consciousness to contribute to a healthier community. It is unfortunate that hatred, bigotry, prejudice and Islamophobia are growing ever so pervasive within our community and it is my hope we can work to build more harmonized communities and acknowledge the many contributions and achievements by the Muslim community during this month.
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City of Toronto. (2023, March 14). Food waste. City of Toronto. Retrieved April 26, 2023,
What is zakat? – meaning, importance, who is eligible, and facts. Zamzam Blogs. (2022,
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Yusuf, H. (2012). In Purification of the heart: Signs, symptoms and cures of the spiritual
diseases of the heart. essay, Sandala.
Zhou, S. (n.d.). NCCM calls for action after attempted islamophobic attack on TTC.
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