Summary of Hadith on Ramadan: All the deeds of the children of Adam are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.” (The Messenger of Allah said): “Fasting is a shield from the fire and from sin. If one of you is fasting, he should avoid…arguments. If somebody should fight or argue with him, he should say, ‘I am fasting.’ By Him in Whose Hand is my soul, the unpleasant smell coming from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast and the other when he meets his Lord; then he will be pleased because of his fasting.”
As a peacemaker I often reflect on Ramadan and the capacities we develop in this month. It is time for creating a model of Muslim conflict resolution that is far more preventive in its approach than interventionist. By this I mean that the very adab or etiquette we embody can be a source that eliminates the negative interactions between people and emphasizes the proactive ways that Muslims might engage with one another. In conflict mediation, we often look towards the role of a third party intervener who can facilitate a new pattern of positive behavior between people. What if however, we began to emphasize the daily methods of relations between people in such a way that the seeds for nurturing relations were planted and bloomed throughout the course of the year?
Ramadan and Its Somatic Impact
Conflict, anger and fighting do not emanate only emotionally. The effect of anger and argument is found in the stress our bodies manage to produce in response to these types of situations. Hence, fasting is a deeply physical act of discipline. It is a method of controlling the self that is found in our bodies and connecting us to a higher form of awareness and capacity to control and self-regulate. Note how a fasting person is to respond to argument with a simple answer, “I am fasting,” he/she has a physical shield against arguments which are a verbal interaction. Yet, if one begins to connect the physical, emotional and spiritual states, and even more importantly knows how to exert a directed set of behaviors we learn a true lesson in Ramadan and fasting that consists of changing the whole human being.
Ramadan and Its Emphasis on Practice
Ramadan is a special time as Qur’an and Hadith instruct us. Allah multiplies the goodness in our lives and we have a chance to practice. I think of it as training wheels for spiritual development. The triggers that push us to anger easily can be lessened in this month. The usual responses to anger and indulgence of one’s self both physically and emotionally are held in check. We in a sense interrupting negative patterns of physical and emotional consumption. To me this disruption is welcome. It is a heightened state of consciousness. Perhaps the greatest lesson of this month is how we sustain the changes made possible by such concentrated peacemaking that is more than just intervening in conflicts. It is moving into being a peace-producer where your very presence supports your capacity to be a peacemaker and illuminates the possibility for others to deescalate conflicts as you respond with warmth and love to anger. How can we hold this place in our heart for the month? How can open the rooms for peace within and for behavior with others throughout the year? How will Ramadan change the people we are for the month, and for our lifetimes? What specifically can we change after this month and how can we deepen our capacity for peace production throughout the year? May Allah accept our efforts!