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Jesus is Born Again

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER

… and is formally  inducted into the Essene institutional  structure    

In March 6 AD, about three months before  the insurgency  of Judas of Galilee, Jesus turned exactly 12 years old, having been born in March 7 BC (there was no Year Zero; hence 1 BC was immediately followed by 1 AD). According to Essene custom, the order had to celebrate his coming of age, a ceremony known as Bar Mitzvah. In the Bar Mitzvah ceremony, the birth of the person was re-enacted. The Bar Mitzvah ceremony was therefore a symbolic rebirth. It is this symbolic second birth of Jesus that Luke records and not his biological birth. Jesus’ ceremony was particularly significant in that he was the de facto future King of Israel.  


The ceremony was held at the Queen’s House, exactly 1 km south of the Qumran HQ. Jesus had been born at the Queen’s House in accord with the edict of the then Jerusalem High Priest Simon Boethus as befitted a child who was conceived through “fornication”. The mistress of the Queen’s House was the Davidic Queen, who was Mary at the time. The Queen’s house was also referred to as the Manger and as Bethlehem of Judea in coded Essene language.   


Present at the ceremony was Simeon. Another prominent figure in attendance was Annas, who had succeeded Joazar as High Priest of the Jerusalem temple. Annas came to formally acknowledge Jesus as the Davidic heir, meaning James, who had been recognised as such by Joazar, was once again relegated to second in line.


Jesus was dressed in a swaddling band, wrongly translated as “swaddling clothes” in the gospels. This was a piece of fabric 15-18 feet long, which was wrapped around his body  all the way down to the ankles, the same way he had been dressed when he was born. As hosts and in mimicry of their  situation back in 7 BC, Mary and Joseph were symbolically  a live-together couple although in practice they  lived separately (a dynastic Essene husband was only allowed to live with his wife when it was time to produce a child; otherwise, he lived apart from his wife as a  monastic celibate). As such, the couple were not allowed into the Katalyma. This word is translated as “inn” in the gospels but it also means “upper room”. The upper room was the sacred dining chamber where a special meal was being had by separated celibates, a category which Mary and Joseph had in the circumstances provisionally forfeited. That is the explanation of the phrase, “there was no room in the inn” in the gospel of Luke.

JESUS REINSTATED AS DAVIDIC MESSIAH
Meanwhile, the next four highest ranking figures in the Essene hierarchy (after Annas, who was holding fort for the young John the Baptist; Simeon; and Joseph the father of Jesus) were busy at work at Ain Feshika, codenamed the “farm”. These were the Cardinal; the Archbishop; the Bishop; and the Presbyter. They specialised in pastoral duties and were presently ministering to pilgrims who had come to Qumran to co-observe the equinox as well as celebrate the forthcoming Passover feast.  In the gospels, the ministers are cryptically  referred to as “shepherds”, and the pilgrims as the “flock”, both terms of which are metaphorically apt as even today we figuratively refer to pastors as shepherds and the congregation as the flock.


Simeon, whose other title was the “Angel of the Lord”, called on the ministers  to announce the “good news”, accompanied by  Theudas Barabbas, who according to the pesher of the Dead Sea Scrolls was also known as the “Glory of God” – God being a title of  the late Zechariah and presently of Annas. Remember, Theudas Barabbas had broken ranks with the belligerent faction led by Judas of Galilee to align with the peace faction now led by Annas. The “good news” Simeon came to deliver was that  Jesus had been officially recognised by the new High Priest Annas as the Davidic messiah. With the announcement of such good tidings, Simeon, Barabbas, the four ministers, and the pilgrims – collectively referred to as the “host of heaven” in the gospels – burst into a hymn of praise titled “Peace on Earth” because they all belonged to the peace faction and both Annas and the new Roman governor of Judea Lucious Coponius had committed to forging peaceful relations with the Essenes. Simeon then told the ministers that young Jesus was being feted at the Queen’s House and described his attire. The ministers then hurried to the house, which was only 3 km away,  and when they got there they venerated Jesus in song.  


Whilst Joseph was elated by the euphoria over his son, Mary had mixed feelings. As far as she was concerned, she would rather the Davidic toast went to James once and for all rather than Jesus. This was not because she did not approve of Jesus: she was simply haunted by the fact that Jesus had been controversially begotten and therefore he would always carry this badge of “shame”. Annas had recognised him all right, but the High Priest who came after him could well de-recognise him again, just as Simon Boethus and Joazar had done before: his princely status would continue to ebb and flow. On the other hand, James had been sired procedurally and would therefore not be as susceptible to such vicissitudes. No one would ever call him a bastard whereas Jesus was already being so calumniated.  


On Day 8 of the ceremony, Jesus was dedicated to the evangelical cause of the Essene fraternity through admission into its ecclesiastical hierarchy. He was given Grade 18, the entry point, the highest grade being 0, that of the Zadok priest, also referred to as the “Lord God”. This dedication was euphemistically referred to as circumcision of the heart (ROMANS 2:29), meaning having a pure heart/being separated unto the works of the Creator God as directed by his earthly representative – the “Lord God’, who previously was Zechariah but now was Annas standing in for the youngster John the Baptist.

PROPHETESS ANNA ENDORSES JESUS
Luke is the only one of the four evangelists to have made mention of the characters Simeon and Anna. Anna is the subject of LUKE 2:36-38, which reads thus: “And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” What this passage reads in English is not exactly the way it reads in Greek, the language in which it was originally written. Furthermore, the underlying pesher language is significantly different from the surface language. I will therefore properly explicate for you in line with knowledge derived from the Dead Sea Scrolls and other extra-biblical sources.  


Just as Simeon was the highest ranking Essene after the death of Zechariah, Anna was the seniormost of the Essene womenfolk.


Anna belonged to the order of Asher. Women of the order of Asher bore the titles “Sarah”, “Rebecca”, and “Rachel”, the wives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob respectively. Anna was the Sarah of the day, actually the first Sarah of the Essene order.  She was born in 93 BC, meaning in 6 AD she was 98 years old (in one of his copious works, the legendary Jewish historian Flavious Josephus marvels at the longevity of the Essenes, owing, seemingly, from the medical wizardry of the Therapeutae).  The 84-years in the Luke passage is her age as counted from her symbolic rebirth – the Bar Mitzvah ceremony, which took place in 79 BC, when she attained 14 years, the age of early initiation for girls.


The Sarah of the Old Testament bore Isaac at age 91. As such, the Sarah of the order of Asher was classified as a “virgin” when she turned 91, which simply meant she had officially ceased to bear children and had figuratively speaking become a virgin again (in his book, Contemplative Life, Philo of Alexandria talks of “aged virgins” who were members of the Qumran Therapeutae). Since Anna turned 91 in 2 BC, in AD 6 she had been a virgin for 7 years.  


In the Essene hierarchy, Anna’s superior, the priest who initially supervised her when she was younger, was the Phanuel, an “angelic” title which had the same grade as the Raphael (“daughter of”, or “son of”,   sometimes meant “immediate subordinate of”).  The Phanuel was of Grade 3, the fourth from the top.  Anna was the Essene prophetess and intercessor, the counterpart of Simeon, who was the Essene prophet and intercessor as Josephus chronicles for us. She was therefore symbolically the mistress/wife of Simeon. She had actually been looked after by Simeon since she was widowed at age 84.  


When Jesus was presented at the Qumran temple, Anna, now frail, bent, and possibly immobilised, was present. She gave a vote of thanks to High Priest Annas, the acting “Lord God”, for recognising Jesus as the Davidic messiah and   also acknowledged Jesus as the redeemer of Israel, in a political sense, not in a spiritual sense. By spotlighting Simeon and Anna, therefore, Luke wanted to demonstrate that Jesus was endorsed as the Davidic heir by both the menfolk and the womenfolk of Qumran.

SIMEON CALLS IT A DAY
In LUKE 2:25-35, Simeon is explicitly made mention of as follows: “ Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29  “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,  according to your word; 30  for my eyes have seen your salvation 31  that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32  a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”


Once again, the Greek original more or less differs from the doctored English version. To give just one example, the correct translation for Verse 28 should be “he received him into his arms,” or better still “bear-hugged him”, which one can do for anybody of any age. This is actually the more apt scenario as Jesus was at this time not a baby who could be received up in the arms but a 12-year lad.  


According to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Essenes had been awaiting two messiahs and one prophet. The two were the messiah of David and the messiah of Aaron, or the political and priestly messiah. Both messiahs had arisen in the persons of Jesus, born in March 7 BC, and John the Baptist, born in September 8 BC. In AD 5 and 6 respectively, the two had been symbolically reborn and assumed their ranks in the Essene pecking order.   


Simeon had long wanted to step down  from his priestly duties following the birth of the two messiahs but Joseph, the “Holy Spirit”, had dissuaded him against such a course of action till  Jesus had undergone the Bar Mitzvah ceremony at age 12. This had now happened. Furthermore, Zechariah, the highest ranking Essene and the father of John the Baptist, had been killed by Judas of Galilee. The fault lines in the Essene substructure were not only aggravating but were spilling blood in the very midst of the hitherto harmonious fraternity. Simeon therefore decided to quit as an active priest in pursuit of purely peaceful and spiritual causes, thereby detaching himself completely from the insurrectionist bent of the Zealots.  


As a prophet, Simeon did provide a preview of the kind of life Jesus was destined to live. When Jesus  was  presented at the Qumran temple, not only did Simeon invoke God’s blessings on Jesus but served notice that  he would be a contentious figure and cause some high-standing personages to either wane or wax. Exactly who rose or fell on the Davidic prince’s account?  We will get to know these as the Jesus Papers progress.     

NEXT WEEK: THE FAMILY OF JESUS

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GONE FISHING

28th March 2023

In recent years, using personal devices in working environments has become so commonplace it now has its own acronym, BOYD (Bring Your Own Device).  But as employees skip between corporate tools and personal applications on their own devices, their actions introduce a number of possible risks that should be managed and mitigated with careful consideration.  Consider these examples:

Si-lwli, a small family-run business in Wales, is arguably as niche a company as you could find, producing talking toys used to promote the Welsh language. Their potential market is small, with only some 300,000 Welsh language speakers in the world and in reality the business is really more of a hobby for the husband-and-wife team, who both still have day jobs.  Yet, despite still managing to be successful in terms of sales, the business is now fighting for survival after recently falling prey to cybercriminals. Emails between Si-Iwli and their Chinese suppliers were intercepted by hackers who altered the banking details in the correspondence, causing Si-Iwli to hand over £18,000 (around P ¼ m) to the thieves. That might not sound much to a large enterprise, but to a small or medium business it can be devastating.

Another recent SMB hacking story which appeared in the Wall Street Journal concerned Innovative Higher Ed Consulting (IHED) Inc, a small New York start-up with a handful of employees. IHED didn’t even have a website, but fraudsters were able to run stolen credit card numbers through the company’s payment system and reverse the charges to the tune of $27,000, around the same loss faced by Si-Iwli.  As the WSJ put it, the hackers completely destroyed the company, forcing its owners to fold.

And in May 2019, the city of Baltimore’s computer system was hit by a ransomware attack, with hackers using a variant called RobinHood. The hack, which has lasted more than a month, paralysed the computer system for city employees, with the hackers demanding a payment in Bitcoin to give access back to the city.

Of course, hackers target governments or business giants  but small and medium businesses are certainly not immune. In fact, 67% of SMBs reported that they had experienced a cyber attack across a period of 12 months, according to a 2018 survey carried out by security research firm Ponemon Institute. Additionally, Verizon issued a report in May 2019 that small businesses accounted for 43% of its reported data breaches.  Once seen as less vulnerable than PCs, smartphone attacks are on the rise, with movements like the Dark Caracal spyware campaign underlining the allure of mobile devices to hackers. Last year, the US Federal Trade Commission released a statement calling for greater education on mobile security, coming at a time when around 42% of all Android devices are believed to not carry the latest security updates.

This is an era when employees increasingly use their smartphones for work-related purposes so is your business doing enough to protect against data breaches on their employees’ phones? The SME Cyber Crime Survey 2018 carried out for risk management specialists AON showed that more than 80% of small businesses did not view this as a threat yet if as shown, 67% of SMBs were said to have been victims of hacking, either the stats are wrong or business owners are underestimating their vulnerability.  A 2019 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests the latter, stating that the majority of global businesses are unprepared for cyber attacks.

Consider that a workstation no longer means a desk in an office: It can be a phone in the back of a taxi or Uber; a laptop in a coffee shop, or a tablet in an airport lounge.  Wherever the device is used, employees can potentially install applications that could be harmful to your business, even from something as seemingly insignificant as clicking on an accidental download or opening a link on a phishing email.  Out of the physical workplace, your employees’ activities might not have the same protections as they would on a company-monitored PC.

Yet many businesses not only encourage their employees to work remotely, but assume working from coffee shops, bookstores, and airports can boost employees’ productivity.  Unfortunately, many remote hot spots do not provide secure Wi-Fi so if your employee is accessing their work account on unsecured public Wi-Fi,  sensitive business data could be at risk. Furthermore, even if your employee uses a company smartphone or has access to company data through a personal mobile device, there is always a chance data could be in jeopardy with a lost or stolen device, even information as basic as clients’ addresses and phone numbers.

BOYDs are also at risk from malware designed to harm and infect the host system, transmittable to smartphones when downloading malicious third-party apps.  Then there is ransomware, a type of malware used by hackers to specifically take control of a system’s data, blocking access or threatening to release sensitive information unless a ransom is paid such as the one which affected Baltimore.  Ransomware attacks are on the increase,  predicted to occur every 14 seconds, potentially costing billions of dollars per year.

Lastly there is phishing – the cyber equivalent of the metaphorical fishing exercise –  whereby  cybercriminals attempt to obtain sensitive data –usernames, passwords, credit card details –usually through a phoney email designed to look legitimate which directs the user to a fraudulent website or requests the data be emailed back directly. Most of us like to think we could recognize a phishing email when we see it, but these emails have become more sophisticated and can come through other forms of communication such as messaging apps.

Bottom line is to be aware of the potential problems with BOYDs and if in doubt,  consult your IT security consultants.  You can’t put the own-device genie back in the bottle but you can make data protection one of your three wishes!

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“I Propose to Diana Tonight”

28th March 2023

About five days before Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed landed in Paris, General Atiku, a certain Edward Williams was taking a walk in a woods in the Welsh town of Mountain Ash. Williams, then 73, was a psychic of some renown. He had in the past foretold assassination attempts on US President Ronald Reagan, which occurred on March 30, 1981, and Pope John Paul II, which came to pass on May 13, 1981.

As he trudged the woods, Williams  had a sudden premonition that pointed to Diana’s imminent fate as per Christopher Andersen’s book The Day Diana Died. “When the vision struck me, it was as if everything around me was obscured and replaced by shadowy figures,” Williams was later to reminisce. “In the middle was the face of Princess Diana. Her expression was sad and full of pathos. She was wearing what looked like a floral dress with a short dark cardigan. But it was vague. I went cold with fear and knew it was a sign that she was in danger.”

Williams hastily beat a retreat to his home, which he shared with his wife Mary, and related to her his presentiment, trembling like an aspen leaf as he did so. “I have never seen him so upset,” Mary recounted. “He felt he was given a sign and when he came back from his walk he was deeply shaken.”

The following day, Williams frantically sauntered into a police station to inform the police of his premonition. The officer who attended to him would have dismissed him as no more than a crackpot but he treated him seriously in view of the accuracy of his past predictions. He  took a statement and immediately passed it on to the Special Branch Investigative  Unit.

The report read as follows:

“On 27 August, at 14:12 hrs, a man by the name of Edward Williams came to Mountain Ash police station. He said he was a psychic and predicted that Princess Diana was going to die. In previous years, he has predicted that the Pope and Ronald Reagan were going to be the victims of assassination attempts. On both occasions he was proved to be correct. Mr Williams appeared to be quite normal.”

Williams, General, was spot-on as usual: four days later, the princess was no more.

Meanwhile, General,  even as Dodi and Diana were making their way to the Fayed-owned Ritz Hotel in central Paris, British newspapers were awash with headlines that suggested Diana was kind of deranged. Writes Andrew Morton in Diana in Pursuit of Love: “In The Independent Diana was described as ‘a woman with fundamentally nothing to say about anything’. She was ‘suffering from a form of arrested development’. ‘Isn’t it time she started using her head?’ asked The Mail on Sunday. The Sunday Mirror printed a special supplement entitled ‘A Story of Love’; The News of the World claimed that William had demanded that Diana should split from Dodi: ‘William can’t help it, he just doesn’t like the man.’ William was reportedly ‘horrified’ and ‘doesn’t think Mr Fayed is good for his mother’ – or was that just the press projecting their own prejudices? The upmarket Sunday Times newspaper, which had first serialised my biography of the princess, now put her in the psychiatrist’s chair for daring to be wooed by a Muslim. The pop-psychologist Oliver James put Diana ‘On the Couch’, asking why she was so ‘depressed’ and desperate for love. Other tabloids piled in with dire prognostications – about Prince Philip’s hostility to the relationship, Diana’s prospect of exile, and the social ostracism she would face if she married Dodi.”

DIANA AND DODI AT THE RITZ

Before Diana and Dodi departed the Villa Windsor sometime after 16 hrs, General, one of Dodi’s bodyguards Trevor Rees-Jones furtively asked Diana as to what the programme for the evening was. This Trevor did out of sheer desperation as Dodi had ceased and desisted from telling members of his security detail, let alone anyone else for that matter, what his onward destination was for fear that that piece of information would be passed on to the paparazzi. Diana kindly obliged Trevor though her response was terse and scarcely revealing. “Well, eventually we will be going out to a restaurant”, that was all Diana said. Without advance knowledge of exactly what restaurant that was, Trevor and his colleagues’ hands were tied: they could not do a recce on it as was standard practice for the security team of a VIP principal.  Dodi certainly, General, was being recklessly by throwing such caution to the winds.

At about 16:30, Diana and Dodi drew up at the Ritz Hotel, where they were received by acting hotel manager Claude Roulet.  The front entrance of the hotel was already crawling with paparazzi, as a result of which the couple took the precaution of using the rear entrance, where hopefully they would make their entry unperturbed and unmolested. The first thing they did when they were ensconced in the now $10,000 a night Imperial Suite was to spend some time on their mobiles and set about touching base with friends, relations, and associates.  Diana called at least two people, her clairvoyant friend Rita Rogers and her favourite journalist Richard Kay of The Daily Mail.

Rita, General,  was alarmed that Diana had proceeded to venture to Paris notwithstanding the warning she had given Dodi and herself in relation to what she had seen of him  in the crystal ball when the couple had consulted her. When quizzed as to what the hell she indeed was doing in Paris at that juncture, Diana replied that she and Dodi had simply come to do some shopping, which though partially true was not the material reason they were there. “But Diana, remember what I told Dodi,” Rita said somewhat reprovingly. Diana a bit apprehensively replied, “Yes I remember. I will be careful. I promise.” Well,  she did not live up to her promise as we shall soon unpack General.

As for Richard Kay, Diana made known to him that, “I have decided I am going to radically change my life. I am going to complete my obligations to charities and to the anti-personnel land mines cause, but in November I want to completely withdraw from formal public life.”

Once she was done with her round of calls, Diana went down to the hair saloon by the hotel swimming pool to have her hair washed and blow-dried ahead of the scheduled evening dinner.

THE “TELL ME YES” RING IS DELIVERED

Since the main object of their Paris trip was to pick up the “Tell Me Yes” engagement ring  Dodi had ordered in Monte Carlo a week earlier, Dodi decided to check on Repossi Jewellery, which was right within the Ritz prencincts, known as the Place Vendome.  It could have taken less than a minute for Dodi to get to the store on foot but he decided to use a car to outsmart the paparazzi invasion. He was driven there by Trevor Rees-Jones, with Alexander Kez Wingfield and Claude Roulet following on foot, though he entered the shop alone.

The Repossi store had closed for the holiday season but Alberto Repossi, accompanied by his wife and brother-in-law,  had decided to travel all the way from his home in Monaco  and momentarily open it for the sake of the potentially highly lucrative  Dodi transaction.  Alberto, however, disappointed Dodi as the ring he had chosen was not the one  he produced. The one he showed Dodi was pricier and perhaps more exquisite but Dodi  was adamant that he wanted the exact one he had ordered as that was what Diana herself had picked. It was a ploy  on the part of Repossi to make a real killing on the sale, his excuse to that effect being that Diana deserved a ring tha was well worthy of her social pedigree.  With Dodi having expressed disaffection, Repossi rendered his apologies and assured Dodi he would make the right ring available shortly, whereupon Dodi repaired back to the hotel to await its delivery. But Dodi  did insist nonetheless that the pricier ring be delivered too in case it appealed to Diana anyway.

Repossi delivered the two rings an hour later. They were collected by Roulet. On inspecting them, Dodi chose the very one he had seen in Monte Carlo, apparently at the insistence of Diana.  There is a possibility that Diana, who was very much aware of her public image and was not comfortable with ostentatious displays of wealth, may have deliberately shown an interest in a less expensive engagement ring. It  may have been a purely romantic as opposed to a prestigious  choice for her.

The value of the ring, which was found on a wardrobe shelf in Dodi’s apartment after the crash,  has been estimated to be between $20,000 and $250,000 as Repossi has always refused to be drawn into revealing how much Dodi paid for it. The sum, which enjoyed a 25 percent discount, was in truth paid for not by Dodi himself but by his father as was the usual practice.

Dodi was also shown Repossi’s sketches for a bracelet, a watch, and earrings which he proposed to create if Diana approved of them.

DIANA AND DODI GUSH OVER IMMINENT NUPTIALS

At about 7 pm,  Dodi and Diana left the Ritz and headed for Dodi’s apartment at a place known as the Arc de Trompe. They went there to properly tog themselves out for the scheduled evening dinner. They spent two hours at the luxurious apartment. As usual, the ubiquitous paparazzi were patiently waiting for them there.

As they lingered in the apartment, Dodi beckoned over to his butler Rene Delorm  and showed him  the engagement ring. “Dodi came into my kitchen,” Delorm relates. “He looked into the hallway to check that Diana couldn’t hear and reached into his pocket and pulled out the box … He said, ‘Rene, I’m going to propose to the princess tonight. Make sure that we have champagne on ice when we come back from dinner’.” Rene described the ring as “a spectacular diamond encrusted ring, a massive emerald surrounded by a cluster of diamonds, set on a yellow and white gold band sitting in a small light-grey velvet box”.

Just before 9 pm, Dodi called the brother of his step-father, Hassan Yassen, who also was staying at the Ritz  that night, and told him that he hoped to get married to Diana by the end of the year.

Later that same evening, both Dodi and Diana would talk to Mohamed Al Fayed, Dodi’s dad, and make known to him their pre-nuptial intentions. “They called me and said we’re coming back  (to London) on Sunday (August 31) and on Monday (September 1) they are

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RAMADAN – The Blessed Month of Fasting

28th March 2023

Ramadan is the fasting month for Muslims, where over one billion Muslims throughout the world fast from dawn to sunset, and pray additional prayers at night. It is a time for inner reflection, devotion to Allah, and self-control. It is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. As you read this Muslims the world over have already begun fasting as the month of Ramadan has commenced (depending on the sighting of the new moon).

‘The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was revealed as guidance for people, in it are clear signs of guidance and Criterion, therefore whoever of you who witnesses this month, it is obligatory on him to fast it. But whoever is ill or traveling let him fast the same number of other days, God desires ease for you and not hardship, and He desires that you complete the ordained period and glorify God for His guidance to you, that you may be grateful”. Holy Qur’an  (2 : 185)

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars upon which the structure of Islam is built. The other four are: the declaration of one’s belief in Allah’s oneness and in the message of Muhammad (PBUH); regular attendance to prayer; payment of zakaat (obligatory charity); and the pilgrimage to Mecca.

As explained in an earlier article, fasting includes total abstinence from eating, drinking, smoking, refraining from obscenity, avoiding getting into arguments and including abstaining from marital relations, from sunrise to sunset. While fasting may appear to some as difficult Muslims see it as an opportunity to get closer to their Lord, a chance to develop spiritually and at the same time the act of fasting builds character, discipline and self-restraint.

Just as our cars require servicing at regular intervals, so do Muslims consider Ramadan as a month in which the body and spirit undergoes as it were a ‘full service’. This ‘service’ includes heightened spiritual awareness both the mental and physical aspects and also the body undergoing a process of detoxification and some of the organs get to ‘rest’ through fasting.

Because of the intensive devotional activity fasting, Ramadan has a particularly high importance, derived from its very personal nature as an act of worship but there is nothing to stop anyone from privately violating Allah’s commandment of fasting if one chooses to do so by claiming to be fasting yet eating on the sly. This means that although fasting is obligatory, its observance is purely voluntary. If a person claims to be a Muslim, he is expected to fast in Ramadan.

 

The reward Allah gives for proper fasting is very generous. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) quotes Allah as saying: “All actions done by a human being are his own except fasting, which belongs to Me and I will reward it accordingly.” We are also told by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that the reward for proper fasting is admittance into heaven.

Fasting earns great reward when it is done in a ‘proper’ manner. This is because every Muslim is required to make his worship perfect. For example perfection of fasting can be achieved through restraint of one’s feelings and emotions. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that when fasting, a person should not allow himself to be drawn into a quarrel or a slanging match. He teaches us: “On a day of fasting, let no one of you indulge in any obscenity, or enter into a slanging match. Should someone abuse or fight him, let him respond by saying: ‘I am fasting!’”

This high standard of self-restraint fits in well with fasting, which is considered as an act of self-discipline. Islam requires us to couple patience with voluntary abstention from indulgence in our physical desires. The purpose of fasting helps man to attain a high degree of sublimity, discipline and self-restraint. In other words, this standard CAN BE achieved by every Muslim who knows the purpose of fasting and strives to fulfill it.

Fasting has another special aspect. It makes all people share in the feelings of hunger and thirst. In normal circumstances, people with decent income may go from one year’s end to another without experiencing the pangs of hunger which a poor person may feel every day of his life. Such an experience helps to draw the rich one’s conscience nearer to needs of the poor. A Muslim is encouraged to be more charitable and learns to give generously for a good cause.

Fasting also has a universal or communal aspect to it. As Muslims throughout the world share in this blessed act of worship, their sense of unity is enhanced by the fact that every Muslim individual joins willingly in the fulfillment of this divine commandment. This is a unity of action and purpose, since they all fast in order to be better human beings. As a person restrains himself from the things he desires most, in the hope that he will earn Allah’s pleasure, self-discipline and sacrifice become part of his nature.

The month of Ramadan can aptly be described as a “season of worship.” Fasting is the main aspect of worship in this month, because people are more attentive to their prayers, read the Qur’an more frequently and also strive to improve on their inner and outer character. Thus, their devotion is more complete and they feel much happier in Ramadan because they feel themselves to be closer to their Creator.

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