Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting, but it's about much more than simply abstaining from food and drink during the daylight hours.
HuffPost Religion asked some of our favorite writers to share with us their thoughts about the spiritual meaning of Ramadan, collected here. You can also send in your own reflections to our Ramadan Live Blog.
We wish all our Muslim sisters and brothers Ramadan Kareem!
Strengthening Bonds- Hind Makki
"Before his prophethood, Muhammad bin Abdullah used to spend the entirety of the sacred month of Ramadan in solitude, at Cave Hira, escaping the corruption of the mercantile class in Makkah while contemplating Divine Truth. Today, when Muslims observe Ramadan, we echo our Prophet's solitude, fasting by day and praying at night, yet we do not fully seclude ourselves from the secular. We honor our faith as we spend Ramadan strengthening bonds with neighbors, hosting interfaith and intrafaith iftars, volunteering at places like food kitchens, and donating resources to local underserved communities."
Ramadan Is A Gift- Qasim Rashid
"Ramadan is an priceless opportunity to take action and become a better servant to humanity.
Ramadan is a precious gem that attracts God’s nearness, His mercy, His blessings, and His forgiveness.
Ramadan is a narrow path that reminds us fasting is not just about abstaining from food and drink, but also from back biting, gossiping, malice, suspicion, miserliness, extravagance, vulgarity, immodesty, infidelity, arrogance, ignorance, cowardice, and thinking ill of others, so that when food and drink become permissible once again, we have built an internal fortress to permanently abstain from the aforementioned bad habits."
Qasim Rashid is the author of the critically acclaimed book The Wrong Kind of Muslim. The Wrong Kind of Muslim received the Kirkus Star and was selected as Kirkus' Top 100 Indie books of 2013.
What It Means To Be Human- Qamar Ul Huda
"In the Bible it is stated 'Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in us' (I Cor. 6:19), and in the Qur'an God says, 'I breathe into him [Adam] My Spirit' (28:72).
With these verses in mind, the spiritual practices of fasting, prayers, charity, and intense meditation during Ramadan reminds us that our body is a base for the presence of the Spirit. Experiencing the presence of the Spirit reminds us to appreciate the body as sacred as well as rediscover and reconnect the sacredness of nature. The combination of reestablishing our link with nature’s ecology and a deeper God-consciousness (tawhid) fosters a heightened awareness of the One present in all things.
Ramadan’s sacred time re-delivers what it means to be human; it provides insight into knowledge of love, beauty, and truth while living a life of gratitude. Ramadan tells us that cultivating wisdom is beyond dogma and doctrine, rather the focus is on the Spirit."
-Qamar Ul Huda is a Senior Program Officer at the Religion and Peacemaking Program, U.S. Institute of Peace; and the author of 'The Crescent and Dove.'
Closeness Of The Divine- Ayesha Mattu
"Ramadan is a celebration of the closeness of the Divine, of family & community - which makes it the perfect time to welcome the stranger into our midst. When inviting loved ones for iftar, ask them to bring someone whom you do not know. Make room especially for those who are without family, partners, or friends during this sacred month, growing both our hearts & our ideas of community."
- Ayesha Mattu is the editor of "Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex & Intimacy" (Beacon Press, 2014)
Energies Of Love- Shaikh Kabir Helminski
"Muslims who participate in Ramadan are not only supporting and reinforcing each other's spiritual state in a coherent field of resonance, they are also contributing to the global coherence of humanity by sending the energies of love, devotion, and ego-transcendence into the collective soul. Fasting in Ramadan, because it offers an intense lived experience of the holy, saves Islam from being merely a form of belief and takes it to the level of spiritual perception, which is the sustenance of faith."
-Shaikh Kabir Helminski is a translator of the works of Rumi and others; a Shaikh of the Mevlevi Order, co-director of The Threshold Society (Sufism.org); and a Director of the Baraka Institute (Barakainstitute.org).
The Fruits Of Patience- Sarah Sayeed
"This Ramadan, may we strive to be as fully present as possible, experiencing our physical hunger and thirst as the soul’s yearning for divine nourishment. May we find new meaning in our daily prayers and be refreshed by extra supplications. May Muslim communities be as the flowering trees of well-tended orchards, growing in abundance the fruits of patience, kindness, compassion and love."
-Sarah Sayeed is the Director of Community Partnerships at the Interfaith Center of New York.
Mindfulness- Eboo Patel
"In my normal life, I'm always rushing around. Mach 5 is my standard speed. During Ramadan, I embrace the slowdown (which is the only way to physically survive the month) and try to channel it into mindfulness."
-Eboo Patel is the founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core.
A Spiritual Gym- Abdullah Antepli
"Ramadan is a month long spiritual gym where we work on metaphysical muscles through more deliberate disciplines, prayer, reflections and worship. It is an annual Muslim attempt to simultaneously grow vertically in their relationship with their Lord and horizontally with fellow human beings through emphatic and various acts of charity. It is a month of self-auditing and self-evaluation where believers check their accounts in Heavenly currency terms. May we all able to bring ourselves to a level where we can accept and welcome all what Ramadan can give us."
-Imam Abdullah Antepli is the Muslim chaplain at Duke University.
Removing Vices- Harris Zafar
"What I would encourage Muslims to do during this month is to focus on what qualities and characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad have they made a part of their own personality. Ask yourself if you are they as loving, as compassionate, as forgiving, as just, as honest as we know him to have been? Spend this month inculcating his qualities in yourself, and look into yourself to find one vice and make it your unshakable commitment to remove that vice from yourself this month."
Harris Zafar is the author of Demystifying Islam and national spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.
Solitude and Community - Laila Alawa
"I have found, through trial and error, that the best ways to gain spiritual and emotional nourishment from the month of Ramadan are found both in spending time with oneself, and with the community. The fast is, at its core, deeply personal, a struggle between one's ego/lesser self and the Creator. Yet through maintaining a balanced connection with a strong community - either online or in person - I have found myself able to pull through on the fast in a way that dealing with it all on my own doesn't result in: a feeling of God given support and understanding arises, that pushes my fast to another level spiritually. It truly is a balance I endeavor to maintain."
Laila Alawa is a Muslim American activist, blogger and outspoken feminist.
A Lesson In Humility- Myriam Francois-Cerrah
"Ramadan is an opportunity to reorganise your life and establish your priorities. From chasing dreams to seeking God, for the believer, it's about reminding ourselves of the direction of travel and seeking to lay down positive habits for the future. Restraint, contemplation, patience, it's also a good lesson in humility as one begins to recognise the myriad blessings in our day to day. Not least a sip of water on an over-crowded hot tube ride..."
Myriam Francois-Cerrah is a journalist with a DPhil from Oxford University.