Hunger, Thirst and Paradise

Hunger, Thirst and Paradise

A careful examination of the cultic obligations (arkan) reveals to us that they are all intimately linked to the Edenic realities of the future life of believers. So it is with fasting, of which God points out to us in a holy narration (“fasting belongs to Me and it is I who give the reward”), that it is an exceptional ritual act at the heart of which a relationship is formed “secret” between God and individual fasting.

Fasting, legally, consists of abstaining from eating, drinking and having sexual relations between dawn and sunset. However, one thing not to lose sight of is that the Messenger of God, sallalla 'alayhi wa sallam, warned us against fasting from which we would obtain nothing other than “hunger and thirst”.

It is also commonly accepted that fasting is a means by which the believer can sympathize with those who continually endure hunger and deprivation. This conception is certainly not devoid of common sense, but is it not possible to disentangle from the aforementioned legal definition some more subtle understandings residing beneath the surface of this personal sacrifice? In what and how can we connect food and sexual abstinence with the supreme realities of Paradise? And why does God give fasting such a special meaning?

One of the chapters of the Qur'an memorized by almost all practicing believers, Surah Nisba, contains some elements of answers. Meccan polytheists who had engaged in a discussion about their gods came to meet the Prophet, sallalla Allahu 'alayhi, to question him: “Ya Muhammad, ansib lana rabbak” (O Muhammad, describe your God to us) God Himself then revealed: “Say: God is One…”. Surah Nisba (surah of description) is one of the names of the surah “Ikhlas”.

Considered equivalent to a third of the Qur'an, this very concise surah reveals some fundamental truths about the nature of God postulating His radical dissimilarity from creation. It is in the “created” human and the “uncreated” Divine that the ritual of fasting can find a nodal point. Indeed, if fasting consists of suspending one's diet and sexual relations, it consists, consequently, of suspending all of what, in the most basic way, defines our contingency.

These three essential acts (eating, drinking, copulating) are essential to the survival of our species and our individual existences. Our Creator nevertheless obliges us to extend them in order to temporarily donate ourselves to Him, and in doing so actualize a faculty that we have in common with Him: His absolute independence with regard to these three fundamental needs (God is and remains al -Qayyum, He who is self-sufficient).

This act of renunciation thus provides the believer with a way of entry to the supreme realities of Paradise: food and drink, although always savored, no longer play any role as biological resources, but are adjuvants to pure pleasure, because at unlike this current world, the Garden, the place of residence of the blessed, is a place where death cannot occur.

Ramadan is a path of ascension to the higher life, and He who offered us this life invites us, in the immediacy of this world, to clothe ourselves now in the states and realities of those to whom He will reveal Himself. Himself, when they finally arrive at their destination.