Ramadan & Social Action: Is THIS the Fasting that I Have Appointed?

There are poignant questions that cut to the heart. This is one: Is THIS the fasting that I had appointed? And before I tell you the reason for this revelation you already know that something is wrong. As the divine speech burns on the lips of the prophet, Nabi Isaiah (as) continues…

For day after day, they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways,

as if there were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God.

They ask me for decisions and seem eager for God to come near them.


“Why have we fasted?” they say, “and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves and you have not noticed?”


“Yet on that day of your fasting you do as you please…” 


“Is THIS the kind of fasting that I have chosen?” Isaiah 58: 2-3& 6



Can you hear the anger? Yes anger when a blessing (fasting) is turned into a weapon for manipulation…




Intertextual Bridge: Bible and Qur’an

When it comes to fasting, there is a natural intertextual thematic bridge between the OT (Isaiah 58) and the Qur’an (The Cow 2:183-187). If both texts are placed in conversation, a few important truths emerge for further exploration.



Isaiah 58 Al Baqara 2:183-188
Addressed to those who think of themselves as believers yet they are in rebellion: “(…) Declare to my people their rebellion…

Verse 1

Addressed to the believers: “Oh you who believe”

“They ask me for just decisions & seem

eager for God to come near them”

Verse 2


(Oh Mohammad) when My servants ask you about Me, tell them I am quite near 


Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you

have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’

Verse 3



I hear and answer the call of the caller whenever he calls Me. Let them listen to My call and believe in Me; perhaps they will be guided aright

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen only

a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a

reed & for lying in sackcloth and ashes?  Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

Verse 5

During the month of Ramadan the Qur’an (revelation) was sent down as a guidance to the people with Clear Signs of the true guidance and as the Criterion (between right and wrong).


The contrast is stark, and rich in meaning,

  • The opposite of a believer is not an unbeliever, but a rebellious person. God (swt) has to send someone to point to their spiritual deficiency, because they are blinded thinking that as long as they call on God (swt), their status is guaranteed. Note that rebellious is a relational term, God (swt) is pursuing a relationship with us, not a behavior.
  • They ask for a judgment, yet why not to ask for God himself? If we ask for God (swt), we will learn that the is near! God is close. Pause, reflect, where you need to see God (swt) near right now?
  • They wanted to be seen, make a show of their piety, to be noticed. Listen to Jesus’s (Isa al Masih sa) rebuke “Moreover when you fast, don’t be like the hypocrites, with sad faces. For they disfigure their faces, that they may be seen by men to be. fasting. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward.” (Honored Injil, Mathew 6:16). Instead, God (swt) wants to speak to us, and invite us to surrender our hearing. Instead, God (swt) want us to speak with Him (swt) and listen to us. How extraordinary that the God of the universe will turn his ear towards us? This is how we are guided.
  • Muslims follow the Qur’an Karim as their source of guidance, we Adventists follow the Honored Bible as God’s word. Why? Because we both pursue the divine voice that has the power to make us whole, that as we learn to hear the divine message, we may choose life (what is right in the sight of God) and repeal evil (the deceitful ways of this world).


Fasting without Taqwah

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please

    and exploit all your workers.

Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,

    and in striking each other with wicked fists.

You cannot fast as you do today

    and expect your voice to be heard on high.

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,

    only a day for people to humble themselves?

Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed

    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?

Is that what you call a fast,

    a day acceptable to the Lord? Isaiah 58:3-5


True Fasting & Social Action

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice

    and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free

    and break every yoke?

 Is it not to share your food with the hungry

    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe them,

    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,

    and your healing will quickly appear;

then your righteousness[a] will go before you,

    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;

    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,

    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry

    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,

    and your night will become like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always;

    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land

    and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden,

    like a spring whose waters never fail.

 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins

    and will raise up the age-old foundations;

you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,

    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.



Ethics derive from God (swt), not circumstances, nor our ideas, but God (swt). Are we to ignore the plight of the oppressed because we are too busy worshipping? Fasting that ends in the mouth without moving the heart and hand, is the fasting which is not acceptable in the sight of God (swt).

“And why should you not spend in the cause of Allah while Allah is the inheritor of the heavens and the earth? ” (Qur’an Karim Al-Hadid 57:10)



Fasting and the Sabbath

Now, the prophet makes a turn that connects true fasting, with a charitable spirit and the obedience to God’s law, the Sabbath commandment.

 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath

    and from doing as you please on my holy day,

if you call the Sabbath a delight

    and the Lord’s holy day honorable,

and if you honor it by not going your own way

    and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

 then you will find your joy in the Lord,

    and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land

    and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”

For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

The Sabbath was blessed by God (swt) at creation.  Keeping the Sabbath involves much more than abstinence from labor, it requires the acknowledgment of the sacredness of the Creator and his law, and offers a calls for ethical solidarity. How is Sabbath an enduring sign of hope that the poor will see justice and the distraught find peace? Because we would honor God (swt) by imitating him in the face of evil.