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  • Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Why Abstinence is the key to strong character development

Surah Baqarah Chapter 2:187

It has been made lawful for you to go to your wives on the night of the fast: they are like a garment for you, and you are like a garment for them. God is aware that you were deceiving yourselves and He has turned in mercy towards you and pardoned you. So you may now consort with them and seek what God has ordained for you. Eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct from the black. Then resume the fast until nightfall, and do not approach them during the nights of your devotional retreat in the mosques. These are the limits set by God, so do not approach them. Thus He makes clear His commandments to mankind, so that they may guard themselves [against evil].

One of the strongest desire is the passion for one's spouse, which is permitted by God under normal circumstances. However, in the month of Ramadan, God has set the guidelines for the expression of passions, just like guidelines for having food and drink. One need to abstain from the expressions of passion during the time one is fasting, that is between the dawn and the dusk and during the last ten days of devotional retreat (Ih'tikaaf).

Fasting also serves as a form of training for a God-fearing life, which entails abstaining from all kinds of sins and evil deeds, which God has forbidden. A total abstention from food and drink from dawn until sunset is an exercise in making God one’s guardian. The entire life of

the believer is a life of fasting. During the month of Ramadan he receives his training by temporarily, abstaining from certain things, so that for the rest of his life he may permanently renounce all those things of which God disapproves

The real aim of fasting is to create such a feeling of subservience that when God commands

us to abstain from anything, we must do so forthwith. The lesson fasting gives us is that even if God wants us to stay away from lawful things, we must show no hesitation in obeying His command. Thus one who abstains from lawful things if God wants him to do so, will have no difficulty in abstaining from unlawful things if God so commands.

Abstinence helps develop Self Esteem

Developing a high self-esteem is one of the most vital traits for a developing human being. It is important not only for personal development, but also for developing relationships with God and others. The reason is that, as Brian Tracy says, "it is impossible to like or love anybody else if we do not like ourselves." The importance of developing a high self-esteem during Ramadan is obvious; it will allow one to love God and appreciate their spouse more and create a deeper relationship.

Abstinence helps develop Self-Control

Learning to discipline one's self is vital to personal development. In order to be successful in anything, we need to practice self-control and self-discipline and the spirit of Ramadan helps us do that. In fact, discipline is so important because we derive self-esteem from it. An example of this is the feeling I receive when I get my homework done instead of watching television. I feel good about myself. This feeling comes from what Tracy calls the "law of control"

"The law of control says that we feel good about ourselves to the exact degree to which we feel we are in control of our own lives... We feel bad about ourselves or out of harmony with ourselves to the degree to which we are controlled by outer circumstances."

Abstinence help us in Goal-Oriented Way of Thinking

Learning to set goals is crucial to personal development. As Tracy explains:

"The human being is built as a goal-seeking mechanism. Unless we have goals we go around in circles and drift with the tide and end up no where. When we set goals, we go straight and true, we develop direction, we develop focused and channeled energy."

Abstinence helps in Delaying Gratification

One hallmark of good character is the ability to delay gratification, making short term sacrifices for long-term, greater gain. We are receiving free bounties of God 24X7 for example food, water, air, sun, homes, families and so on, we tend to take things for granted and do not see the value of delaying gratification. This ability of fasting is closely related to self-control and having goals, still it is a distinct positive character trait in itself. When one delays gratification, one can appreciate life so much more.

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