By S N Smith
First of all, I want to congratulate the Muslim community on the beginning of another Ramadan fast. This is indeed a great favour from Allah that He has kept us alive so that we once again can fulfill this sacred obligation.

I have been invited to compose a few reflections throughout the month of Ramadan. These reflections will not be complicated or too detailed, but gentle reminders during this blessed month with a view to helping us draw closer to Allah. I do hope that you will find what I have written to be helpful as you go through this month. And may Allah make it easy for you to complete the fast. As for those who are unable to fast, I pray that Allah accepts from you as well and that you draw closer to Him with many acts of worship and obedience and He showers you with His Mercy.

In this first installment, I will offer one passage from the Quran and one narration from the Prophet (PBUH).
Allah says in the Quran (2:183-185): 
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيۡڪُمُ ٱلصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبۡلِڪُمۡ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَتَّقُونَ (١٨٣) أَيَّامً۬ا مَّعۡدُودَٲتٍ۬‌ۚ فَمَن كَانَ مِنكُم مَّرِيضًا أَوۡ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ۬ فَعِدَّةٌ۬ مِّنۡ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ‌ۚ وَعَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ ۥ فِدۡيَةٌ۬ طَعَامُ مِسۡكِينٍ۬‌ۖ فَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيۡرً۬ا فَهُوَ خَيۡرٌ۬ لَّهُ ۥ‌ۚ وَأَن تَصُومُواْ خَيۡرٌ۬ لَّڪُمۡ‌ۖ إِن كُنتُمۡ تَعۡلَمُونَ (١٨٤) شَہۡرُ رَمَضَانَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ ٱلۡقُرۡءَانُ هُدً۬ى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَـٰتٍ۬ مِّنَ ٱلۡهُدَىٰ وَٱلۡفُرۡقَانِ‌ۚ فَمَن شَہِدَ مِنكُمُ ٱلشَّہۡرَ فَلۡيَصُمۡهُ‌ۖ وَمَن ڪَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوۡ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ۬ فَعِدَّةٌ۬ مِّنۡ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ‌ۗ يُرِيدُ ٱللَّهُ بِڪُمُ ٱلۡيُسۡرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِڪُمُ ٱلۡعُسۡرَ وَلِتُڪۡمِلُواْ ٱلۡعِدَّةَ وَلِتُڪَبِّرُواْ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَٮٰكُمۡ وَلَعَلَّڪُمۡ تَشۡكُرُونَ (١٨٥)
O you who believe! fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that ye may (learn) self-restraint.― (183) (Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the prescribed number (should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (with hardship) is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more of his own free-will―it is better for him, and it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew. (184) Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an as a guide to mankind also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So everyone of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spent it in fasting, but if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you He does not want to put you to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful. (185)

And Narrated Abu Huraira (RA):

The Prophet (PBUH) said,

“Whoever fasted the month of Ramadan out of sincere Faith (i.e. belief) and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his past sins will be forgiven, and whoever stood for the prayers in the night of Qadr out of sincere Faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Bukhari)

When Allah calls upon us to do something it is for our own good. Fasting is meant to draw us closer to Him so that we may achieve God-consciousness (taqwa). Possessing a greater awareness that Allah is watching us will help us to reform our behavior and act as a reminder that we must all eventually return to Him. 

And praise be to Allah that He has made concessions for those who are permanently unable to fast due to old age or chronic illness, as well as for those who temporarily cannot fast due to either pregnancy, traveling or some illness from which the person is expected to recover from later, in which case they make up their missed days later on. Indeed, Allah has made the religion of Islam easy for His servants.

And Ramadan is a month of forgiveness, and we are all in need of forgiveness from Allah for we all have sinned. But Allah, in His infinite Mercy towards His servants, has granted us numerous opportunities to turn to Him and seek His forgiveness. And one of those opportunities is the fast of the month of Ramadan which if we observe in the way that Allah has prescribed, all of our previous sins will be forgiven. And what could be a greater blessing than to be forgiven by Allah?

Our hearts are laden with many acts of disobedience toward our creator and without His forgiveness we are doomed. But we know that Allah loves to forgive and that is why He has given us so many opportunities to turn to Him. This includes the five daily prayers, attending the Friday prayers, acts of charity and a host of good deeds all of which are a source of forgiveness from Allah as well as immense reward.

There are many other rewards associated with fasting, which I will mention throughout the month, inshallah, but these two — the attainment of taqwa and forgiveness from Allah — is something we should focus on during this blessed month. Ramadan Mubarak and may Allah accept from all of us.