Non-fasting Muslims

October 3, 2008 at 12:30 am (Islam, Religion)

Qasim-Shahi Nizari Ismaili Shiite Muslims form an interesting bunch, a very unique movement within Islam. Rather than simply being a sect, they view themselves as a طريقة tareeqah (lit., “path”), which term is used for Sufi orders.

One thing that sets them apart is that they do not fast during the month of رمضان (ramadaan in Arabic, ramzaan in Urdu), which just ended. Rather then go into the historical reasons why this is so (which refers to the قيامة qiyaamah under their imam حسن على ذكره السلا hassan ‘alaa dhikrihi-s-salaam (lit., “Hassan, peace upon mention of him”)), I’ll mention the current interpretation of this practice.

Ismaili Shiite Islam believes that every law or rule has an obvious or public aspect (ظاهر, zaahir) and a hidden aspect (باطن, baatin). In the laws of fasting (صوم sawm in Arabic, روزه roza in Persian and Urdu), the outer aspects involve hunger. The inner aspects involve good behavior and deprivation. Ismailis, who believe that many of the outer requirements are done away, follow and practice the inner aspects of these rules. So, rather than making themselves hungry for a month, they develop good character and piety throughout the year.

Despite being such a radical departure of normative Islamic practice and rules, it seems the spirit of Ismaili Islam cleaves closer to the good purposes of Islamic practices.

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