One of the first hadiths (sayings and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him) Muslim kids learn is the one that enumerates the five pillars of Islam. This happens to be the lesson most non-Muslims remember from their primary school RME.
The first pillar is the overarching creed Islam is built upon. The Shahaddah professes what Muslims hold fast to their heart. Unfortunately, it is the most abused. Marauding terrorists invoke the statement couching the Shahaddah in their gory videos. Laa ilaaha ilalah, Muhammadu Rasuululah! And then there is the five daily prayers, alms giving, pilgrimage to Mecca for those who can afford it and fasting in the month Ramadan.
Fasting in the month of Ramadan goes beyond simply denying yourself food and water from dusk to dawn. It is a comprehensive exercise which engages all the parts of the body in a spiritual engagement. All the actions listed as haram (unlawful) in Islam are not to be engaged. Even a couple of things made lawful to the Muslim must not be engaged in. Married couples cannot enjoy the bliss of copulation during the day.
The heightened level of piety displayed by Muslims during this month is for good reason. Islamic teachings inform us of how every good deed committed by a Muslim has its rewards but the dividends on fasting cannot be quantified. Any mere action of worship in the month is rewarded in multitudes. The concept of rewarding actions of worship in Islam does not work like a brownie point system. Yes, Muslims are encouraged to maximize their actions to attain more rewards from God for their own good on the day of recompense. But getting rewarded is not a sufficient condition to attain the flowing rivers of paradise. It is the mercy of God which He gives gratuitously that will grant you access to Jannah.
When Allah commanded Muslims to fast, the verse in the Quran did not talk about some satisfaction Allah derives from seeing His servants thirsty and hungry. It talks of the piety Allah wants to see us achieve.
Being able to deprive yourself of what has been made lawful to you for a month should instill in you the type of discipline guiding the austere life of monks in Tibetan mountains. But Allah does not seek to make hermits out of us. A Muslim must immerse himself in the world surrounding him. What he must do is restrain himself from the temptations life throws at him.
The root word for Ramadan is burn and that is exactly what Ramadan must do to sins. Burning it all and absolving you from your past. Ramadan is the Christmas of salvation which comes 30 times in a year. Missing out on its rigors is never an option for the ambitious believer. But sometimes the willing soul finds itself in a weak body.
Maximizing the blessings promised in the month does not come easy. It takes a conscious effort to trudge along as the days go by. It is the month the Quran was revealed in. So why not spend the majority of your time flipping through the pages of the glorious book instead of scrolling through your Facebook?