Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan is a pillar of Islam and a practice that has been observed by Muslims for over 1400 years. This act of worship involves abstaining from food, drink, and marital relations from dawn until sunset. Fasting is not only about food and drink, but it is also a powerful means of developing discipline, self-control, and spiritual growth. How exactly does it do this?
The marshmallow study is a famous psychological experiment that took place at Stanford University in the late 1960s and early 1970s, led by researcher Walter Mischel. It is a classic experiment that has been used to study the relationship between delayed gratification and success. The study involved placing children in a room with a marshmallow or another treat and giving them a choice: they could either eat the treat immediately or wait for the researcher to return and receive a larger reward (two marshmallows) for their patience. The purpose of the study was to investigate delayed gratification and self-control in children. The results of the study showed that the ability to delay gratification was strongly linked to success later in life. The children who were able to resist the temptation to eat the treat immediately and wait for the larger reward tended to have better academic performance, higher SAT scores, and greater overall success in their adult lives.
The marshmallow study has since been replicated and expanded upon in various forms, and it continues to be a topic of interest in the fields of psychology and education.
There is a clear connection between delayed gratification found in such studies and the discipline required for fasting during Ramadan. Just as the children in the marshmallow study were faced with the choice between immediate gratification and delayed reward, Muslims who observe Ramadan must resist the temptation to eat, drink, or engage in other pleasures during daylight hours for an entire month. This requires a great deal of self-control and discipline.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and is considered a way to purify the body and soul. It is also seen as a way to develop discipline and self-control. When Muslims fast, they are reminded of the importance of controlling their desires and impulses, not just with regard to food and drink, but in all aspects of their lives. This can lead to greater discipline and self-control in other areas, such as work, relationships, and personal habits.
In fact, the Quran and Hadith, the holy texts of Islam, provide numerous references to the importance of self-control and discipline. For example, the verse about fasting directly implies that fasting is meant to instill self-discipline: “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may attain taqwa” (2:183). The word taqwa here is often translated as God consciousness, but “discipline” or “self-control” are also embedded in the meaning of the word.
Similarly, the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: “Whoever does not give up false statements (i.e., telling lies), and evil deeds, and speaking bad words to others, Allah is not in need of his (fasting) leaving his food and drink” (Bukhari). Thus, the practice of fasting during Ramadan is not only a religious obligation for Muslims, but also an opportunity to develop self-control and discipline in all aspects of their lives. By resisting the temptation to eat, drink, or engage in other pleasures during daylight hours, Islam teaches people to learn to control their desires and impulses, and develop a greater sense of discipline and self-control. This can lead to improved decision-making, better time management, and a more focused and productive approach to life.
Fasting teaches Muslims to resist the basic temptation and desire to eat or drink during the day, even when they are hungry or thirsty. This act of restraint helps them to develop the ability to control their desires and impulses, which is a crucial aspect of self-discipline and making life choices. Through fasting, Islam teaches Muslims to regulate their behavior and become more mindful of their actions. They become more aware of their thoughts and feelings, and they learn to respond to them in a measured and controlled way. This self-awareness and self-control are essential qualities that can help individuals to make better choices in all areas of their lives and has a positive impact on the larger society. Every act of worship in Islam is meant to instill positive qualities at the individual and societal levels. Fasting is just one example of the many benefits and wisdoms of Islamic rituals. We encourage you to learn more about Islam and its beautiful teachings.
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