يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ کُتِبَ عَلَيْکُمُ الصِّيَام ُ کَمَا کُتِبَ عَلَی الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِکُمْ لَعَلَّکُمْ تَتَّقُون
‘You, who are faithful, fasting has been ordered upon you, as it was ordered to those before you, so that you shall you reach devotion.’
According to the Koran, fasting with the aim of becoming spiritually closer to God already existed before Islam in every monotheistic religion. In fact, this is the door to divine mercy which enables us to step back from everyday life and reinforce human values in social life.
Unlike the fundamentalist ideology which makes fasting practically unbearable, the purpose of the fast is to liberate oneself; to liberate oneself from all social constraints and instincts so that genuine human values, such as forgiveness and mercy, flourish. To make devotion replace egoism. To make friendship and love replace hatred and hostility. To make patience and tolerance replace anger and intolerance. To make resistance replace submission and silence in the face of dictatorships. To revive the flame of struggle against poverty and discrimination in one’s heart, by helping the poor or by searching for freedom and social equality. Yes, the month of Ramadan is the month of change.
During the month of Ramadan, there is the night of Ghadr - the night when human beings can change their destiny. This is a change of habits and culture when one can choose new behaviors and a new way of thinking. Human beings are capable. Normally, a whole generation is needed to carry out a change of culture.
Yet, according to the Koran, the night of destiny is worth more than a thousand months.
ليله القدرخير من الف شهر
Therefore, human beings are able to change in one night as much as in one thousand months. This is the proof of their capabilities. The Koran states that the night of destiny leads to the dawn of peace and unity.
سلام هي حتي مطلع الفجر
The Koran adds that through fasting, God wants easiness and an opening for us, not difficulty.
ُيرِيدُ اللّهُ بِکُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَ لاَ يُرِيدُ بِکُمُ الْعُسْرَ
But Iran’s rulers, who misuse religion, have completely reversed this message in the name of Islam. In their speeches and slogans, they pass themselves off as the only representatives of Islam. They say they are opposed to the policies of the big powers and in favor of the oppressed. But this is not true; they use demagogy to cover up their crimes and their plundering of Muslim people in Iran and Iraq.
Every year, during the month of Ramadan, they flog young people under the pretext that they have not fasted, whereas, according to the Koran, there is no constraint in religion.
لااکراه في الدين
Reactionary fundamentalists who are only looking for power are very far from the genuine meaning of fasting and of the other ritual practices. They keep only the formalities and remove its content and its purpose. They lash people under the pretext that they have not fasted and they completely destroy Ramadan’s message of mercy and liberation.
There are two interpretations of Islam. On the one hand there is the authentic Islam which defends people and democracy. And on the other hand there is the fundamentalist Islam of the ruling mullahs in Iran. We have been discussing these two radically-opposed visions of Islam for years.
Today, many experts and both male and female political figures speak of two concepts of Islam and the threat of religious fascism.
In fact, the Koran is more opposed to those who misuse religion and demagogues than others are. According to the Koran:
َفويْلٌ لِّلْمُصَلِّينَ الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَن صَلَاتِهِمْ سَاهُونَ الَّذِينَ هُمْ يُرَاؤُونَ وَيَمْنَعُونَ الْمَاعُونَ.
‘Woe to those who pray in a hypocritical manner and who deprive the people of the common wealth.’ The Koran says that they are the worst enemies of God because they distort the words of God and turn the message of mercy and emancipation into tools of repression, brutality and hostility to peace.