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Ramadhan

The Month of Blessings, in which the Holy Quran was Revealed

Ramadhan

The Holiest Month of Fasting in Islam

Ramadhan and Fasting

The Truth About Fasting

In the Holy Qur’an fasting has been prescribed from dawn to sunset in the lunar month of Ramadhan. It is a discipline which promotes righteousness and makes it easier for a seeker to scale spiritual heights. One who is fasting becomes aware of all Divine bounties, and fasting thus helps one to employ them beneficiently.

 

یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا کُتِبَ عَلَیۡکُمُ الصِّیَامُ کَمَا کُتِبَ عَلَی الَّذِیۡنَ مِنۡ قَبۡلِکُمۡ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تَتَّقُوۡنَ

O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous. [Holy Quran – 2:184]

In the above verse, Muslims are told in the first place that fasting is not a new institution. It is not a new burden laid upon them; it is a very old institution and all those nations that have passed before them and among whom prophets appeared were commanded to observe fasts.

Ramadhan

Muslim Fasting

The Holy Month of Fasting in Islam

 

O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous. (Ch.2:V.184)

In the above verse, Muslims are told in the first place that fasting is not a new institution. It is not a new burden laid upon them; it is a very old institution and all those nations that have passed before them and among whom prophets appeared were commanded to observe fasts. Secondly, they are told that they should not look upon fasting as a useless burden; it is meant for their good and the chief advantage they will derive from it will be that they will learn to be pious.

How does fasting lead to piety? In order to understand this, we must see what a keeper of fasts is required to do. He is required to restrain himself from the indulgence of his appetites from the break of dawn till sunset, for one whole month. He may have plenty of good things to eat and drink, but in obedience to the command of God, he will not touch them during these fasting times.

 

Now, when he has practised the avoidance of what is otherwise lawful for him, merely to seek the pleasure of God, it becomes easier for him to avoid those things that his divine Master has declared to be unlawful. When, for instance, during his fasts, he did not taste the food which he had earned by lawful means and he practised this abstinence for one full month, how could he be expected to taste a food which had not been so earned? Thus it is that fasting leads to piety.

 

Again, it is not only from the indulgence of his appetites that a Muslim is required to abstain during his fast; he is also required to abstain from all kinds of false words and false actions. “If you don’t abstain from evil words and evil deeds,” said the Holy Prophet(sa), “God has no need of your abstaining from food and drink.” For the acceptance of fasts, it is essential that the person who fasts should also abstain from all sorts of evil words and evil deeds.

Similarly, said the Holy Prophet(sa), “When you are fasting, abuse not anybody nor quarrel with any; and if any person quarrels with you, turn away from him, saying, “I cannot quarrel with you, for I am observing a fast.” Mark how fasting is meant to teach a Muslim not only to lead an innocent and spotless life, but also to live as a peace-loving citizen.

Again, not only is a keeper of fasts required to eschew all forms of evil, but he is also exhorted to practise charity. The Holy Prophet(sa), says a tradition, “was the most liberal of men, but in the month of Ramadan he was more liberal than a gale.”

Thus, fasting is a sort of drill a Muslim is made to undergo that it may become easy for him not only to abstain from all kinds of evil and to live peacefully as a law-abiding citizen, but also to do good to his fellow-beings.

Fasting serves another purpose also. The rich and the well-to-do are enjoined by Islam to help their less fortunate brethren; and fasting is designed to prepare them for this purpose. By fasting they are enabled to realise the trouble and the pain which the poor and the indigent have to suffer on account of their poverty. It often happens that the poor have nothing to eat, and have to remain without food for days. But the rich who have had no occasion to experience starvation cannot fully realise the distress of the starving poor. Fasting, however, provides that occasion. While keeping fast, they have to go with­out food and drink from the break of dawn till sunset; and feeling thereby the pinch of hunger and thirst they come to know what the sufferings of the poor and the indigent really mean. Thus feelings of sympathy for the poor are engendered in their minds and they are made to love the poor all the more.

Fasting has a lesson for the poor also. “Every act of virtue has a reward,” said the Holy Prophet(sa), “which varies in degree; but fasting is an act of which God Himself is the reward. Man fasts for God and God Himself will be his reward.” Thus fasting is held out to be a deed of the highest virtue which brings the highest reward, and the lesson which the poor can learn from this, is, that if they bear the sufferings of poverty with complete resignation to the Will of God, like a fasting man who bears the pain of hunger and thirst in obedience to His will, they will be entitled to the same reward which is promised to a keeper of fasts.

Many and varied are the uses of fasting, but the few I have tried to indicate above suffice to bear out the truth of the words of the Holy Qur’an which say:

O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous.

The prescribed fasting is for a fixed number of days, but whoso among you is sick or is on a journey shall fast the same number of other days; and for those who are able to fast only with great difficulty is an expiation — the feeding of a poor man. And whoso performs a good work with willing obedience, it is better for him. And fasting is good for you, if you only knew.

The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was sent down as a guidance for mankind with clear proofs of guidance and discrimination. Therefore, whosoever of you is present at home in this month, let him fast therein. But whoso is sick or is on a journey, shall fast the same number of other days. Allah desires to give you facility and He desires not hardship for you, and that you may complete the number, and that you may exalt Allah for His having guided you and that you may be grateful. (Ch.2:Vs.184-186)

Blessings of Ramadhan

Fasting is an old universal institution, practised since ancient times. A study of the Old Testament books, Exodus and Samuel, shows that Moses and other Israelite Prophets, on whom be peace, observed the ritual of fasting on important occasions. So did Jesus, as is said of him in Matt. 4:2-3 “And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, then be felt hungry.” Indeed, Jesus, on whom be peace, is reported to have told his disciples in Matt. 17 that evil spirits cannot be exorcised except through prayer and fasting. In Matt. 6 he appears to have gone to considerable lengths to describe the manner in which fasting should be carried out. He says:

“But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face. That you appear not to men to fast, but to your Father which is in secret: and your Father, which sees in secret, shall reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:17·181)

In Encyclopaedia Brittanica, p. 104 Vol. IX, Fasting is explained as follows:·

“Commonest by far, however, of all the uses of voluntary fasting, in the past and at the present time, is its practice as an act of self-denial with definite religious intention. By the greater number of religions, in the lower middle and higher cultures a like, fasting is largely prescribed, and where it is not required it is nevertheless practised to some extent by individuals in response to the prompting of nature.”

Objectives of observing Fasts

The Quranic verse quoted on pages 4 and 5 stipulates three objectives for fasting:

  1. So that you may become righteous“. The very act of fasting to comply with the commandment of Allah, creates a sense of obedience to Him which leads man to conduct his life generally in accordance with His wishes, avoiding evil ten­dencies and doing good all round for the attainment of His pleasure. Thus is righteousness achieved.
  2. That you may exalt Allah for His having guided you“. The prime object of man’s creation is to exalt Allah and that is why during the month of Ramadhan and during the Eid prayers following it considerable stress is laid on the recitation of Takbir.
  3. That you may be grateful“. This is a necessary corollary to the attainment of the two preceding objectives.
Attributes of the month of Ramadhan

The month of Ramadhan carries many special attributes which have been described by no less an authority than the Holy Prophet himself, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. Some of these are:

(a) The opener of Paradise. Abu Huraira relates that the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said that from the first night of the month of Ramadhan, satanic forces are chained, rebellious elements are disciplined and the shutters of Hell are drawn without exception. All the gates of Paradise are opened and a crier shouts: O the seeker of righteous deeds proceed, and O the recliner to evil intentions desist. Many sinners are granted amnesty from Hell, and this occurs every night of the month”. (Bukhari and Muslim).

(b) Abstention from evil tendencies. Abu Huraira says that the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said: When Ramadhan arrives the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of hell are locked up and satans are put in chains. (Bukhari and Muslim).

(c) Month of Munificent Charity. Ibn Abbas relates that the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was the most generous of men and he was at his most bountiful during Ramadhan when Gabriel visited him every night and recited the Quran to him. During this period the bounty of the Holy Prophet waxed faster than the rain-bearing breeze (Bukhari and Muslim).

(d) Intercession from Quran and the Fast. Abdallah bin Amar says that the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said that the fasting and the Quran intercede with Allah on behalf of a servant. Fast shall say: O my Lord, I kept this man from food and other physical comforts throughout the day, so please God, condescend to my intercession on his behalf. And Quran will plead: I kept him away from sleep at night, so please accept my recommcndation for him. Both these intercessions would be carried.

(e) Basic purpose of fasting. Abu Huraira relates that the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said that if one did not eschew falsehood and false conduct, Allah has no need that he should abstain from eating and drinking. (Bukhari). In Arabic language, falsehood includes wrong deeds, illegal means, bribery, adulteration, make believe, musical concerts, etc.

(f) Excellence of Fasting over other exercises. Abu Huraira relates that the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said: A man’s good works carry multiple rewards, from ten times to seven hundred times. Allah says: A fast is an exception, for it is observed for My sake and I shall bestow the reward for it. He who observes a fast gives up his passion and his food for My sake. For such a one there are two joys: a joy when he breaks his fast and a joy when he meets his Lord. His breath is purer in the estimation of Allah than the fragrance of musk. The fast is a shield. When any of you is fasting he should eschew loose talk and noisy exchanges. Should anyone revile him or seek to pick a quarrel with him, be should respond: I am observing a fast. (Bukhari and Muslim).

(g) RAYYAN chambers of Paradise. Saad ibn Sahl relates that the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said: There is a gate of Paradise called Rayyan through which only those will enter on the Day of Judgment who are regular in observing the fast and no one else. A call will go forth: Where are those who observed the fast regularly? and they will step forth and no one beside them will enter through that gate. After they have entered the gate will be closed and no one else will enter thereby. (Bukhari and Muslim).

(h) The Holy Prophet’s sermon on Ramdhan. Salman the Farasi relates that the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, delivered us a sermon on the last day of the month of Shaaban and said: O people, a great month has dawned upon you, a month of blessings in which there is the Lailatul Qadr[1] (Night of Decrees) which is better than a thousand months. Fasting during the month is obligatory from God and nightly prayers are voluntary. Anyone who partakes of a good deed in it is like the one who discharges an obligatory ritual in other months. Anyone who discharges an obligatory article in this month is like the one who dis­charges seventy of them in other months. This was a month of patience and patience has its reward in Paradise. This was a month of reconcilliation and a month in which a believer’s wealth was enhanced. Anyone who fed a fasting person at the time of his breaking fast will have his sins remitted, will be shielded from fire and will earn a reward equivalent to that earned by the person who fasted without the latter suffering any diminution. We asked the Holy Prophet that not every­ one of us could afford to help feed a fasting person. The Holy Prophet replied that this kind of reward would be available even if a little quantity of milk, yogurt or water was offered at the time of breaking the fast. Anyone who fed a satisfying meal to a fasting person would be offered drinks from my springs so that he would never suffer any thirst to the day he enters Paradise. The earlier part of the month was mercy, its middle remission from sins and the last portion was manumission from fire. Anyone who lightened the work of his servants in this month will have his sins forgiven by God and will find himself saved from fire.

(i) Fasting — a peerless act. Abu Imamah relates that he asked the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, for an advice which could be beneficial to him from God, and he replied that he should keep fasts for there was nothing quite like them.

(j) Skipping fast without excuse. Abu Huraira relates that the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said that anyone who did not fast on any of the days of Ramadhan without lawful excuse or illness would never be able to ransom the loss even if he fasted for the rest of his life.
The Holy Quran, wisely refrains from defining the terms ‘ailing’ or ‘journey’ leaving them to be defined by common usage of the people and the attending circumstances. If doctors do not recommend fasting, one must refrain from fasting.

(k) Hypocritical fasting. Abu Huraira relates that the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said: Many a fasting person had nothing except the suffering of thirst. and many a person standing in nightly prayers had nothing but suffering sleeplessness — and no reward.

There are various kinds of blessings of God Almighty which accrue to a Muslim, both as an individual and as a brotherhood of mankind, when he prays, or fasts, or does both, or gives alms, or performs the Haj or fulfills all these obligations. One apparent difference between prayers and fasting is that in the case of prayers, the ablution (wudhu) becomes void on the ejection of food and water, whereas in the case of fasting, the fast is invalidated upon the swallowing of food and water. For prayers, that which leaves the body, admittedly impure, breaks the wudhu; for fasting, that which enters the body, though wholesome and nourishing, breaks the fast. A person enjoys the true blessings of prayers as long as his ‘wudhu’ is intact and a good Muslim will always try to safe­guard himself accordingly. He will even control his emotions and will not let loose in a fit of anger lest his wudhu be treated broken. He will also endeavour to refrain from listening to lies and backbiting nor permit these evils to enter him lest his fast be broken. Unlike other forms of worship, the discipline of fasting involves abstention, desisting and relinquishing and by its very nature is con­cealed from human sight, whereas other forms of worship like prayers, giving of alms, pilgrimage are apparent and exposed to human sight. It is an inward act of worship and a method of subduing Satan.

[1] Said to be the night when the Holy Quran began to be revealed. This was on 24th of the month now known as Ramadhan (Jarir)

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