The month of fasting for Muslims, also known as Ramadan, is looming. But why is it that Muslims fast?
Fasting is a Quranic injunction prescribed upon the believers so that they may attain self restraint (2:183). The idea of discipline is all about taming the human soul and not allowing the evil that often emanates from it to manifest into your daily life. Fasting is undertaken to do exactly this: to discipline oneself.
Abstaining from food and drink is just one aspect of the fast: Muslims should also abstain from vain talk; raising their voice; using foul language; having sexual relations with their spouse (between dawn and dusk) and becoming angry. It is therefore a fast of the mind, body and soul.
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is the month in which the Quran was revealed and is therefore held in high esteem amongst Muslims. According to Muslims, the Quran is able to govern a Muslims day to day life with instructions about every matter pertaining to life - it is therefore a holistic and complete book. It advises in 20: 81 "Eat of the good and wholesome things that We have provided for your sustenance, but indulge in no excess therein." Ironically, Muslims seem to do exactly the opposite of this during Ramadan. Not only do they eat rubbish for both their morning meal (Suhoor) and their evening meal (iftar) but they end up over-eating. Not only is this contrary to Islamic teachings, but it often results in the gaining of weight.
Fasting is about the detoxification of the mind, body and soul after it has become corrupted throughout the course of the year. I believe that fasting helps get rid of the toxins in the body, it gives the digestive system a break (a well needed one for some excess-eaters). It is also known that the person who can refrain from eating can stop themselves from indulging in other capricious activities.
Fasting, essentially, is about bettering oneself. It is a time for reflection and contemplation. To look at your character and improve it; to master your ego, and suppress your desires.
Like many other acts of worship, many Muslims treat fasting as a perfunctory ritual. When, in reality, nothing should be done in a perfunctory manner. It is the time, more than ever, to realize your spiritual dimension and return to the fitrah (a human beings innate nature).