Fasting & Eid al-Fitr
Fasting is not unique to Muslims. It has been practiced for centuries in connection with religious ceremonies by Christians, Jews, Confucians, Hindus, Taoists, Jains, and others as Allah says:
"O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become righteous." (Quran 2:183)
But like other rituals fasting was also altered and corrupted.
Fasting In Primitive Societies:
Fasting was made part of the fertility rites in primitive ceremonies which were held at the vernal and autumnal equinoxes and survived for centuries. Some primitive societies fasted to avert catastrophe or to serve as penance for sin. Native North Americans held tribal fasts to avert threatening disasters. The Native Americans of Mexico and the Incas of Peru observed penitential fasts to appease their gods. Past nations of the Old World, such as the Assyrians and the Babylonians, observed fasting as a form of penance.
Concept of God in Islam
Every language has one or more terms that are used in reference to God and sometimes to lesser deities. This is not the case with the word "Allah." Allah is the personal name of the One True God. Nothing else can be called Allah. The term has no plural or gender. This shows its exclusivity when compared to the word 'god' which can be made plural, i.e. 'gods' or feminine, i.e. 'goddess.' It is interesting to note that Allah is the personal name of God in Aramaic, the language of Jesus, peace be upon him. The word Allah is a reflection of the unique concept that Islam associates with God. To a Muslim, Allah is the Almighty, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, who is similar to none and nothing is comparable to Him.
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was asked by his contemporaries about Allah. The answer came directly from God Himself in the form of a short chapter of the Quran that is considered the essence of the Unity of God or the motto of monotheism:
Say: He is Allah, the One; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begets not, nor is He begotten, and there is none like unto Him. [Surah Al-Ikhlas 112:1-4]
Some non-Muslims allege that the concept of God in Islam is that of a stern and cruel God who demands to be obeyed fully. He is not loving and kind. Nothing can be farther from the truth than this allegation. It is enough to know that with the exception of one, each of the 114 chapters of the Qur'an begins with the verse: In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
Concept Of Paradise In Islam
What drives us? What makes us do the things we do? What makes us happy?
Many people will answer maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain is the ultimate key to human happiness.
If so, how come people can be happy while in pain and unhappy while experiencing pleasure? If pleasure is not the only motivating force that drives us, what does? What desires must we fulfill to live a happy life?
For most of those who see happiness in the carnal, rather than the spiritual, it is pretty basic: desire to avoid pain and anxiety, desire to spend time with relatives, desire to eat, desire for sexual gratification, desire for companionship, and desire for recognition to name a few.
Life for such can be toilsome, provoking the plain query; what is it really aiming for? In their quest for happiness, all too often people fall short of achieving any kind of inner peace. We think that by always reaching higher and accomplishing more - more money, a better body, the perfect mate - we will automatically be happy. That is an illusion. People get caught up in chasing the materialistic dream under the illusion money can buy happiness until they discover the limits of materialism. Impressing the neighbors and envy of possessions leaves us devoid of passion and depth in our lives, leading to the Modern Man's Paradox: Spiritual hunger in an age of plenty.
Can We See Allah?
The human mind is a true marvel, but in certain areas it is limited. Allah is different from anything the human mind can think of or imagine. Therefore, if the mind tries to picture Allah, certain aspects will be ambiguous and open to indefinite interpretation. Nevertheless, it is possible to understand the attributes of Allah which do not require making any mental pictures. For example, one of Allah’s names is al-Ghaffar, which means ‘Oft-Forgiver’. Everyone can understand this easily because that is how the human mind can clearly think of Allah. Jewish and Christian teachings on God are confused partly because of their incorrect understanding of this issue. The Jewish Torah teaches God is like man:
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…so God made man in His own image.’ (Genesis 1:26-27)
Moreover, certain Christians put statues or images of an old white bearded man depicting God in their churches. Some of these were produced by the likes of Michelangelo, who depicted the Face and Hand ‘of God’ – a tough looking old man - in paintings.
Rendering images of God in Islam is an impossibility, and amounts to disbelief, as Allah tells us in the Quran that nothing resembles Him:
“There is nothing like Him, but He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.” (Quran 42:11) “There is nothing comparable to Him.” (Quran 112:4)
The Divine Mercy of God
If someone were to ask, 'Who is your God?' A Muslim response would be, 'The Most-Merciful, the Dispenser of Mercy.' According to Islamic sources, the prophets, while emphasizing God's judgment, also proclaimed His mercy. In Muslim scripture, God introduces Himself as:
"He is God, other than whom there is no deity, Knower of the unseen and the witnessed. He is the Most-Merciful, the Dispenser of Mercy." (Quran 59:22)
In Islamic vocabulary ar-Rahman and al-Raheem are the personal names of the Living God. Both are derived from the noun rahmah, which signifies "mercy", "compassion", and "loving tenderness". Ar-Rahman describes God's nature of being All-Merciful, while ar-Raheem describes His acts of mercy dispensed to His creation, a subtle difference, but one which shows His all encompassing mercy.
"Say, 'Call upon God or call upon the Most-Merciful (ar-Rahman), whichever name you call - to Him belong the most Beautiful Names....'" (Quran 17:110)