Why, puasa?
Article by: Ruiz Asri

Well, why?
Simon Sinek, in his TEDTalk video which has received an outstanding 27 million views on TED’s website (https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action) – that makes it the 3rd most watched video on TED, introduces a simple yet powerful rule which he calls “The Golden Circle”. In short, Sinek argues that in all human endeavor, the “Why”of that effort is most important, even more so than the “How” and “What” of that effort.

Extending this thought, an important question that begs to be answered in this month of Ramadhan is: Why fast?

I am pretty convinced that most people, in the Malaysian muslim context at least, can tell you WHAT is fasting, and HOW to do it. One question, however, is seldom asked; and it may just be one of the more important questions to ask: why fast?

Now, I have to clarify that my question is NOT to ask Muslims why they fast during Ramadhan. I believe that your Muslim friends will be helpful to tell you that Ramadhan is the month during which the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad. It was commanded by Allah via the Quranic verses (Surah Al Baqarah 2:183), that Muslims ought fast during the month of Ramadhan. This explicit commandment by Allah, by a matter of faith acts sufficient as the logical reasoning behind why Muslims fast during this month.

My question, instead, is: why the act of fasting?

Why did not God decree that Muslims should do something else?
Why not command that Muslims pray 10 times a day in addition to their five daily prayers?
Why not meditation? Why not volunteer work?
Of all the things that God could command Muslims to do, He chose “fasting”.

So, once again – why fast?

When you are fasting, especially under this summer heat and humidity, the hunger that clutches onto you is a bold presence that demands your attention. Every time you swallow your saliva, thirst introduces itself even more harshly that the previous time. It does not matter who you are – Hunger and Thirst do not discriminate, and this pair is persistent in telling your biology to drink and eat up.

But for those who fast, despite your body scolding you to stop starving yourself from food and water, despite your dire urges to fulfil the basic of your survivalistic needs – you keep it under control.

“No, stop. Not till sunset.”

That is you telling yourself to shut up, and be patient. That is you exercising your will to overcome your urges and cravings. There is this “willpower” inside you that undergoes training when you fast. The more you train this “willpower” of yours, the stronger it grows. When the time comes where you are challenged to will yourself to do what is difficult but morally right, to fight your desires and act righteously; that is when this “training” will prove you useful.

The toughest of our Malaysian soldiers (e.g. Special Forces Malaysia Commando GGK

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9KULN_KYfw) are built by undergoing strenous training regimes under gruelling conditions. For these soldiers, their training programs are essential to enhance their physical ability and hone their mental endurance for the battlefield. They undergo such rigorous exercises so that when their call of duty arrives, they will be up to face the challenge.

As how a standard of physical and mental ability is demanded of Malaysian soldiers, it would seem that God too has raised the bar for Muslims and set a higher level of “willpower” requirement for Muslims. Fasting for a whole month? It seems to me like Muslims have a “willpower” training regime built in their religion.

But that IS the point of fasting.
That is the WHY of fasting.

I have come to reason, and to believe, that fasting was decreed for Muslims in order to enhance the individual’s willpower. Within that one month of fasting, you diligently train your willpower to become stronger, so that during difficult times ahead and when challenges come to face you, you will be able push yourself to do what is right, to do what is best.

Noone wants to control what they eat, and rather just eat ice cream all the time – but it is important to maintain your health.
Noone desires to study textbooks, and rather just play games all day – but that is how you hone your knowledge.
Noone likes to go to break their sweat for work, and rather just get easy money – but that is the way to earn an honest living.

If you are capable of blocking your wants, and denying yourself even the most fundamental of your needs, using your willpower to bend your actions in the right direction; you are among those who have strong willpower. And from what I have come to known, “strong willpower” is what winners and heroes are made of.

“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights”- Muhammad Ali

Quoting the legend in boxing, I believe that many would agree with his words that training is such a vital part in preparing for any fight. Your training will determine your winning or losing of the fights to come. And of all the fights to prepare for, what other fight is more important than the fight against your own self-will?

So fight, fast.


1) Ramadan in Allah’s Words – How to Approach Ramadan – Nouman Ali Khan


2) Start with why — how great leaders inspire action | Simon Sinek | TEDxPugetSound


3)  Special Forces Malaysia Commando GGK – History Channel Documentary