Significance of Ramadhan fasting
Fasting is a religious institution almost as universal as prayer, and
in Islam it is one of the five fundamental practical ordinance, the
other four being declaration of faith, prayer, poor rate (Zakath) and
pilgrimage to Mecca (Haj).
Muslim devotees praying. File photo
‘O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was
prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard against evil’,
says the Holy Quran (2:183) The object of fasting has been stated in the
said verse (2: 183), (also) as the attainment of righteousness. The
meaning is derived in two senses, (a) to guard oneself against evil and
sin. Thus the real object of fasting is, first to be saved from harm and
suffering and secondly to be saved from sin and evil.
The object of fasting is attained in two ways. (1) When a man commits
evil deeds and becomes deserving of Allah’s punishment on account of
those deeds, but later feels ashamed of them and turns to Allah in
repentance; in such an instance fasting serves, as an atonement for his
sins. Secondly, fasting not only makes a man fit and able to bear
hardships, but also makes him realize the suffering of his brethren in
distress and feel sympathy for them. Thus fasting goes a long way to
remove and minimize the pains and sufferings of humanity.
Command to fast, whatever its details may be, is to be found in most
religions in one form or another. The early devotions and fastings of
the Buddha (Refer Laalitha Visthara and Buddha Charithaya), the fasting
of Moses, before he received the Ten commandments (Exod 34: 28 Deut 9:9)
the fast of Jesus before his receiving the heavenly call (Matt 4:1), all
testify to the importance of this institution. Certainly, fasting is a
form of devotion and self-discipline, which has a natural appeal to man.
However, fasting was not prescribed for the Muslims in the same form
in which it was prescribed for the people of earlier faiths. Islam has
introduced quiet a new meaning into this institution of fasting. Before
Islam, fasting meant the suffering of some privation in times of
mourning and sorrow. Islam greatly spiritualized this institution by
attaching to it a number of highly useful regulations and restrictions.
While fasting, a person has not only to abandon eating and drinking
but also, to a certain extent, to keep himself aloof from worldly
connections and to abstain from indulging in his desires, with the
result that his thoughts naturally tend towards spiritual things.
The Holy Quran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammed (Sal) in the
month of Ramadhan. This month is chosen for fasting because it was the
sacred month in which the Holy Quran was revealed. The Holy Quran is the
sacred book full of right guidance and of bright signs and things that
help to differentiate between Truth and False.
What is (Sawn) fasting?
Fasting means abstaining from eating, drinking and conjugal relations
during the hours of fasting: Fasting is observed from dawn to dusk.
Travellers and the sick can differ fasting during Ramadhan and make up
for it later.
Fasting also develops self-control and helps man to overcome
selfishness, greed, lusty emotions, laziness and many other faults, that
take root in a man. It is also an annual training programme to refresh
us for carrying out our duties toward Allah, the creator and sustainer.
Sawm enables us to experience the pains of hunger and thirst. It
facilitates us to understand for our-selves, what is like to have an
empty stomach. We can begin to realize what it must be like for the poor
and the unfortunate the millions who go hungry every day.
Spiritual men of all religions unanimously testify, on the basis of
personal experience, that a certain degree of severance from physical
relations and worldly connections is essential for spiritual advancement
and has a powerful purifying effect on the mind. On the other hand, it
cannot be denied that to carry such severance too far is sure to weaken
the body to such an undesirable extent as to render a person unfit not
only to fulfill his social and religious obligations but also to
withstand temptation which requires a certain amount of strength. Islam
therefore has gifted to mankind the path of the golden mean.
While it does prescribe a certain degree of abstention from material
pleasures, it does not permit such a weakening of the body as should
incapacitate it for performing its normal functions. This is why the
Holy Prophet has forbidden continuous fasting saying, ‘Your self has a
claim upon you and your family has a claim upon you and your guests have
a claim upon you’ (Thirmidhi). On another occasion, he is reported to
have said, ‘Verily, I am the most righteous of you all, yet sometimes I
fast and sometimes I abstain from fasting, and so must you do.’ (Bukhari)
Islam does not manifest any commandment which is impossible of
compliance. Hence while referring to its injunctions about fasting, the
Holy Quran makes it clear that, whosoever is ill or is on journey should
not fast but should redeem the omission by fasting an equal number of
days at some other time when the sickness is gone or the journey is
over. These conditions are applied to those people who include old men
and women, raw youths, weak persons, pregnant women and mothers giving
suck to their infants, may not fast but should make amends for their
non-observance of each day’s fast by feeding a poor man, according to
their standard of food.
True obedience and piety are developed through fasting. The month of
Ramadhan is a month of forgiveness, mercy and a mean of avoiding the
punishment of Hell. The obligation of fasting is only for Allah’s sake
and there is a delightful and attractive reward for this in the life
Factors that nullify the fast
The following acts will break the fast if they occur during fasting
a) deliberate eating or drinking.
b) anything entering the body through the nose or mouth; this includes
smoking, sniffing and powder substance.
c) having conjugal relations (Sex between husband and wife).
An injection in the muscle is allowed during fasting but not a
nutritional injection. Unintentional eating or drinking due to forget
fulnes or rinsing out the mouth or bathing and putting drops in the eye
do not make the fast invalid.
A Muslim is expected to keep away from all bad actions during his
fast. He should not tell a lie, break a promise or do any deceitful act.
The exact purpose of fasting is to guide one-self able to control his
passions (Nafs) so that he becomes righteous.
His deeds, his intentions and everything will become devoted deeds.
Anger is one of the worst weaknesses in a man. This can be brought under
control, by fasting.
Patience is one of the most significant possessions that Islam has
instituted. This is one of the righteous characteristics that fasting
has introduced. When fasting, man has to experience sometimes, a few
unusual difficulties, where intolerance and anger may be provoked.
Patience against these common elements are taught and practised through
fasting. Patience is a contribution of faith and it is the main source
to salvation. Islam teaches us that patience helps to attain Jennah. The
prophet as well as spiritually acclaimed righteous persons, attained
high degree of excellence and the help of Allah through patience. We
should know that there is wisdom behind various aspects of calamities.
And if patience is established, there will be great reward in return.
Charity during fasting is instituted as the next valuable deed of
action. Helping the disadvantaged sector of the society, such as the
orphans, the widows, the needy, the sick and the poor, are recommended
in collaboration with the institution of fasting. These groups of people
in the society have to be supported financially and in kind and they
should be given a helping hand to redeem of their embarrassing and
We should show sympathy and move with them in harmony, as they are
our brothers and sisters. These sort of charitable approach will enable
to embrace the forgiveness of Almighty. Allah will shower His Divine
Mercy and blessings over these devoted men and women. According a Hadees
of Prophet (Sal) ‘Charity prevents seventy kinds of calamities’ and also
in another communication, Prophet (Sal) has said that Charity
extinguishes the wrath of Allah. As a result of all these righteous acts
during Ramadhan, Allah opens the doors of mercy and closes the doors of