From dawn to dusk Muslims are ordered to abstain from food, drink, and sexual relations with their spouses. But why??
Some people give random answers like...
"Oh its so we feel bad for the poor" ... sure I guess but what does sexual relations have anything to do with that?
"Oh its a month that we get to finally become healthy and lose weight in!" ... um yea except most people stuff their faces with food at sundown and end up gaining weight...
God says in the Quran,
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
"Oh you have believe, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you so that you may become God-conscious." [2:183]
God states the purpose of fasting during Ramadan clearly in the verses* and that is to become God-conscious. The word used in the Arabic is تقوى (taqwa) which is a hard word to translate but I think the best translation is God-consciousness.
Literally the word taqwa in Arabic means a barrier. It is a barrier that forms through increasing faith in God which prevents a person from doing that which is impermissible out of fear of God and Hellfire. It is also something which pushes a person to do good deeds out of love for God and desire to enter His Paradise. This taqwa is embedded in a person's heart and manifests itself through his or her actions.
The purpose of physically abstaining from certain things during Ramadan is to help a person have a certain level of self-discipline so that he or she may be better able to have self-discipline with internal qualities. So in essence we're not just fasting from physical things but also from any negative or disliked action such as lying, swearing, backbiting, hurting people's feelings, listening to inappropriate things, going to inappropriate places, etc. The physical fast reminds you that you must focus internally to better yourself as a person and stay away from that which is impermissible and not beneficial.
The hope is that this blessed month will serve as a sort of boot camp for Muslims so that they can spiritually develop themselves to be people who are more conscious of God's existence during their everyday life. There's a beautiful concept in Islam that if you do something for the intention to please God (so long as its a good action) that you will be rewarded for it.
The Prophet Muhammed, peace and blessings upon him, said, "The reward of deeds depend upon the intentions (of those deeds) and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended." Because of this concept, mundane actions like eating, talking, sleeping can incur reward! For instance, if I remember God before I eat and make the intention to gain enough strength to go out and do other good deeds and to worship Him then I get rewarded for eating...even if its this amazing cheeseburger or whatever. Or if I help someone out with a situation with a sincere action then I get rewarded by God for doing it.
Basically Ramadan is this amazing month that brings us back to our faith and works on strengthening it because faith in it of itself that naturally goes up and down. So lets all strive to be more God-conscious individuals who seek to do good deeds and spread goodness on their earth!
*Read Chapter 2 verses 183-187 for more details on Ramadan