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A COURSE IN SELF-CONTROL

In the chapter Al-Baqarah (The Heifer) of the Qur’an, believers are enjoined to fast during the month of Ramadan, fasting being one of the five pillars of the religion of Islam. The translation of the relevant verse is as follows: Believers, fasting has been prescribed for you, just as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard yourselves against evil. (2:183)

What is meant by fasting? In this context, it is to abstain from eating and drinking for one whole month. The period of fasting begins from sunrise and ends at sunset. Throughout this month, believers can eat and drink during the night, but not in the daytime. According to Islamic teaching, fasting is not simply about experiencing hunger and thirst. In fact, hunger and thirst are symbolic of purifying one’s soul and training oneself to control one’s desires. The Prophet of Islam has said to this effect that one, who fails to abstain from using abusive language and persists in his evil habits, will not have his abstinence from eating and drinking accepted by God.

The fact is that everyone has enormous desires, everyone has an ego and there are so many negative thoughts hidden in the human heart. To live the life of a true believer, one is required to control one’s desires and to try to live a life of self-restraint. By giving up eating and drinking in the month of Ramadan, one tries to train oneself for a greater form of fasting, that is, refraining from all kinds of evil habits. Psychological studies show that if someone forms a habit over a period of a whole month, this habit becomes a part of his second nature. In one sense, fasting in the month of Ramadan is based on this human psychology, which is used to bring about moral training.

Self-disciplined behavior has the greatest value in the life of a man or a woman. Self-discipline makes one a predictable person and a good member of society. Self-discipline makes one a man of principle, thus enabling one to perform one’s duties. Self-discipline develops a mature personality and makes it possible for one’s potential to be utilized in significant ways. Self-discipline, in helping one to evolve as a developed personality, is the key to all kinds of success. It saves one from provocation, anger, and unnecessary involvement. It is a master formula by which one can manage all the affairs of one’s life. Without self-discipline, one is like an animal, whereas with self-discipline one becomes a man in the complete sense of the word. Self-discipline, in setting bounds to one’s freedom, helps one to manage one’s desires and checks one from going astray. To live the life of a true believer, one is required to control one’s desires and to try to live a life of self-restraint. A self-discipline is an act of the present, but it brings one great benefit in the future. Self-discipline is the best formula for future building. It saves one from saying: “Alas, I missed the bus!”

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