Why is it that Ramadan seems to have such a profound impact on our spirituality, particularly given the physical hardships that it entails? The most distinct feature of Ramadan is that it requires able Muslims to fast the entire month. The fact that this distinct feature correlates with the auspiciousness of the month is perhaps testament to how important and beneficial fasting is. Indeed, the activity entails immense spiritual benefits that lay the foundations for the spiritual uplift we witness during the month. Since we are often unaware of these benefits, this article aims to briefly introduce how, ironically, fasting is food for the soul.

1. It weakens your nafs

The nafs is the component of an individual that compels them towards their animalistic desires. Each individual is responsible for controlling and overcoming these desires. Imam Ghazali writes that physical easements are the source of strength for the nafs, including food and drink. The logical conclusion, therefore, is that depriving the physical body from food and drink would weaken the nafs, and hence its ability to invite the individual towards evil and sin.

Since good deeds enhance one’s spirituality and bring them closer to Allah (SWT), it is quite understandable that fasting entails a great degree of spiritual benefit, particularly with regards to weakening your ability to sin.

2. It strengthens your soul

Keeping up with the first point, weakening the nafs would naturally mean strengthening the soul, since it is the vehicle through which an individual is inclined towards good deeds and hence towards developing a stronger relationship with Allah (SWT). This is why you feel that heightened sense of closeness to Allah (SWT) during Ramadan; your soul no longer has to battle your nafs in the desire to do good, and it is empowered by the fast, hence the increased willingness to do good.

3. It brings you closer to your thoughts and emotions

You have probably felt an overarching sense of calm and serenity during Ramadan. Quite often, even though the raging hunger of a long fast bothers us, we are calmed down by an overbearing sense of peace. These emotions are the direct impact of a closer connection to Allah (SWT). This calmness also allows us to be better attuned to our own thoughts and emotions, since we slowly drift away from the hurry and fuzz of worldly desires.

4. It relieves you of worldly desires

It is quite often the case that individuals refrain from all things that invite them towards sin during their fast. The natural response is that if one is making an effort to please Allah (SWT), one best not infect that effort by engaging in activities that breed evil and sin. We try to refrain from anger and from expressing our base instincts during Ramadan for this very reason, the natural result of which is a sort of deviation from the traditional chase of our worldly desires and aspirations. Fasting allows us to be more cognizant of ourselves and our actions, which in turn makes us more aware of the unnecessary pursuit of material and inconsequential gains.

In conclusion, while there are immense, visible physical benefits of fasting, the spiritual side of the activity often goes unnoticed. Imam Ghazali and others have spent a great deal of time and effort in outlining these benefits for the Ummah, which just goes on to show how the soul is often neglected in our conception of the world. Let this Ramadan be a portal for a great cognizance of the soul and its role in developing our connection with the Almighty.