Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Fasting: A Means for Purifying the Soul

By Saniyasnain Khan

Fasting during the twenty-nine or thirty days of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The fast for a whole month is incumbent on every healthy adult, male and female. However, one is not required to fast if poor in health. Pregnant and nursing women are exempted from fasting.

Menstruating women are also exempted, but must make up for the fast afterwards. Travelers are exempted from fasting during journeys (though they may fast if they can). Fasts which remain unobserved for reasons of health or travel must be made up during the year. Those who cannot do so, because of poor health, old age, etc., should feed the poor and needy instead.

Fasting is a sort of annual crash course in self-discipline. Believers are trained intensively during this one month so that they may live the whole year round in the spirit of fasting. According to the Qur’an there are two purposes in fasting. One is to make us cautious in life, and the other is to make us thankful to God. During Ramadan, when believers keep the fast, they become extremely correct in their actions. They are is very particular about everything they do. They are very conscious of when to eat, and when not to eat; what to do and what not to do. They give more time to daily prayers. They also spend longer on recitations of the Qur’an than they usually do, they give more to the poor, and so on. This kind of awareness—this kind of disciplined life—is required of believers, not only during Ramadan, but throughout their entire lives. In this way fasting trains the individual to live a life of proper self-control.

When believers starve for the whole day, ending the fast only at sundown, the importance, the need and the value of food and drink become so alive to them at that time that words in praise of Almighty come rushing to their lips.

At the time of iftar, (the breaking of the fast) the Prophet Muhammad used to be lavish in his praise of and thanks to God. Here, two short invocations show how much the Prophet used to value the experience of iftar: "Praise be to Allah, Who helped me to keep my fast, and who nourished me so that I could break my fast. Praise be to Allah, the thirst is quenched, and the veins are moist. And by God’s will our reward is certain."

Iftar is represented in many sayings of the Prophet as being symbolic of the life Hereafter: "Those who fast are destined to have two joys: one at the time of iftar and the other when they meet their Lord."

Just as being prudent in life is required of us, so being thankful to God is required of us in our day-to-day life for His countless rewards and blessings.

Like other forms of worship, fasting too has a physical, outward form which we are very aware of. But we should never forget its inner spiritual essence. Those who refrain from taking food and water on specific days, but who go throughout life without a qualm about telling lies, persecuting their fellow men, obstructing justice and so on, have missed the whole point of the fast of Ramadan. They have concerned themselves all along with outward realities. The Prophet Muhammad warned that the only thing such a person would receive as a result of fasting would be hunger and thirst.

Those who fast in all sincerity takes care to cast their entire life in one consistent mould. They refrain from indulging in anything that is prohibited by Allah. As the Prophet said, "such a person can be likened to a tethered horse, which can go only as far as its rope permits."


Dr. Farida Khanam

Sawm, or ritual fasting is the third pillar of Islam. This fast takes place each year during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar. The fast of Ramadan lasts for the whole month. From dawn to sunset we are required to refrain from all food and drink. If one is sick or on a journey, one is allowed not to fast. But the missed fast has to be made up by fasting the same number of days afterwards.

According to the Qur’an, the main purpose of fasting is to attain taqwah or God-consciousness. Thus fasting brings us closer to God.

Fasting, according to the Prophet, is a shield, which guards us from evil ways.In Ramadan extra salaah in performed. There are extra sunnah salaah on Ramadan nights called salat-ut-Tarawih. In the last ten days of Ramadan, some retreat to the mosque to perform. Itikaaf, to pray and to read the Qur’an as much as they can.

Ramadan is a blessed month. The Qur’an was revealed in this month. Ramadan is also called the month of the Qur’an.

Benefits of Fasting

  1. There is a feeling of togetherness, as all Muslims, rich and poor, fulfil the same demands of the fast and then share their food together at night.
  2. The rich gain a better understanding of what it must be like for the poor who can not always eat when they want to. This should make them more generous towards them.
  3. Muslims will learn to appreciate all the good things they have each day, and to thank Allah for them, instead of just taking them for granted.
  4. Muslims learn self Control.
  5. Muslim learn how to endure hardship.

Ramadan thus brings us closer to the path of goodness and God-consciousness.

Fasting and Qur’an

Dr. Saniyasnain Khan

The Qur’an makes special mention of its revelation in the month of Ramadan, while making it obligatory upon the followers. This indicates that there is a close link between Ramadan and the Qur’an. In the words of the Qur’an:

The month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was revealed

is guidance for people and are upon signs with path.

And it determines the truth from the falsehood. So

those of you who get this month, ought to fast.

The revelation of Qur’an started in 610 a.h., in the month of Ramadan according to the lunar calendar. The first revelation was made to the Prophet when he was in the cave of Hira, and it continued for the next 23 years, finally reaching completion in Medina.

The guidance given in the Qur’an is the best blessing to the mankind from God, because it shows man the path to ultimate success. It tells man how to conduct himself so that in his eternal life he can gain entry into paradise. Paradise is the goal of man. Fasting is the path to it.

The month of Ramadan is the annual reminder of this blessing. The celebration of the revelation of the Qur’an is not observed in the usual way but by abstinence and being thankful to the Almighty. Fasting in this month is acknowledgment of the divine blessings. It is like saying, ‘O Lord I have heard and I accept it.’

Also this is a month during which the Qur’an should be read and understood. The Qur’an is specially recited in this month. In the night the Qur’an is also recited during Tarawih. This month has been made special so that the blessings of God may be counted even more.

When the Qur’an is read during the month of its revelation, it reminds us of the time when the divine light from heaven fell upon the earth. Man remembers this and cries out, ‘O Lord, fill my heart with your divine light!’ He cries out, ‘Make me among those who are near you!’ When he reads about Hell and Paradise, his inner self cries out, ‘O Lord, save me from Hell, and let me enter Paradise.’

In this way the Qur’an becomes a guiding force in man’s life. He earns his livelihood according to its dictates. He bathes in the ocean of its life to cleanse his soul.

The Qur’an is a reward to His servants from God. And fasting is acknowledgment of the reward. Through fasting man makes himself worthy of being thankful to God. He obeys the command of God and thus revels in the supremacy of God. Having gone through a month’s fasting, he creates an ability in himself to lead a life of piety as ordained in the Qur’an.

Fasting is a special deed. It makes a man kind-hearted, and enables him to awaken his finer feelings. He is then able to feel and experience what God desires of a man in this world.

Fasting, a form of training to create the capacity in a man to become the most devoted worshipper, makes him most grateful to God and creates a fear of Him which makes him shiver. The very hardship of fasting carries a man from the material world to the plain of spirituality.

Fasting and Self Purification

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Fasting is an exercise in self-discipline. During the month of Ramadan, the believer abstains in the daytime from food and drink of his own free will. It is only after sunset that he satisfies his hunger and quenches his thirst. In this way, he builds up his self-control. By practicing restraint for one month in a year, he is able to lead a life of self-discipline in all matters for the rest of the year.

Apart from man, there are in the universe innumerable other things, all of which - having no free will of their own - adhere strictly to Allah's law. Man, however, is not in the same category as these things, for Allah has given him the freedom to choose which path he will tread. Not withstanding this divine gift of freedom of will, it is still the desire of the Almighty that man should, by his own choice, tread the path of obedience.

It is therefore to condition him to follow the path of restraint that the rule of fasting has been laid down. No mere annual ritual, fasting is a form of training undergone every ninth month of the Muslim year. It is not just a matter of temporarily enduring hunger and thirst; it is a lesson in the permanent practice of patience tolerance throughout one's entire life.

While on a fast a man may have food and water before him, despite his hunger and thirst, he will make no move to eat or drink. He exercises self-control and then Allah desires that he should also exercise the same restraint whenever he has the opportunity to display his ego and his arrogance. He must not fall into unjust ways just because the bait is tempting and all doors have been opened for him. If man is to earn Allah's favor, he must eschew the path forbidden by Him, and set his feet firmly on the path of modesty and humility.

The path followed perforce by the universe has to be adopted by man of his own free will. That is why it is desirable that he should lead a life of self-imposed curbs. The unflinching self-restraint, which prevents him from eating or drinking while on a fast, is the virtue that will guaranty moral behavior throughout his life.


In the Hadith, Ramadan is called "month of patience" (Mishkat al-Masabih, 1/613). This month is meant to serve as a training course, which will enable the individual to lead a successful life in this world by keeping his negative feelings under control. Negative feelings, it must be remembered present the greatest obstacle to human progress. Fasting is the pious way to solve this biggest of human problems.

As the Hadith says: "There is a Zakah for all things, and the Zakah of the body is fasting" (mishkat Al-Masabih 1/639). Here, the expression Zakah is used in the sense of purification. There is, indeed, a way of purifying everything. Just as bathing purifies the body, so fasting purifies the soul.

According to Hadith, the Prophet Muhammad observed: "Whenever one of your is invited to a meal while he is on a fast, he should inform his host that he is fasting" (Mishkat 1/611). According to another tradition the Prophet gave this very sound advice; whenever one of you is on a fast, he should be soft in his demeanor. In the event of being abused or provoked, he should simply say that he is on a fast" (Mishkat, 1/611).

Leading a life of restraint for a whole month produces a transformation in one's thinking. It enables one to offer a positive response even to others negative behavior. Even strong abuse and other types of provocation will not push the fasting-believer into retaliating in the same coin. Rather than sink to that level, he will simply explain that he is on a fast. His own heart tells him that by observing a fast he has pledged himself to piety and that he cannot contemplate any evil action.

In this way, fasting inculcates in man the necessity to abstain at all costs from anti-social activities, and from all ungentlemanly words and deeds. He is thus brought to a life of moral restraint in this world.

The Essence of Fasting

Fasting is prescribed once a year, in the month of Ramadan. One fasts every day of the month, from the first light of dawn until sundown. During that time one abstains completely from food and drink. According to the Quran, there are two purposes of fasting:

  1. To make one cautious in life
  2. To make one thankful to God (Quran, 2:183,185)

Food and drink is man’s most basic necessity. When he is consumed by hunger and thirst, he sees how weak he really is; he realizes how much he is in need of the succour of God. This experience makes him aware of his duties as God’s humble servant. This feeling leads to caution in life. Then in the evening, when he eats and drinks, he sees how God has made complete provision for his needs. His heart is filled with gratitude. He praises God, and offers thanks to Him.

The Prophet is reported as saying that God rewards good deeds from tenfold to 700 fold. His reward for fasting, which is especially for Him, will be infinite. In another Hadith he is reported as saying, “There are many who fast and receive nothing in return, but hunger and thirst.”

What is the difference between one fast and another, while in appearance both are alike. In actual fact, the appearance is not all that there is to it. The act serves only as a symbol of the essence. One who observes fasting in its essence as well as in its outward form will deserve the promised reward. On the other hand, one who attaches importance to symbols alone will have nothing to his credit when he comes before God. Fasting of the latter type is of no value in the eyes of God, since the true value of something that is symbolic in its nature is always determined by the will to virtue, which it represents.

The outward form of fasting is to abstain from food and water. This abstinence symbolizes the fact that man is at God’s disposal. He should, therefore, be willing, at all times, to sacrifice anything for His sake; even if it involves relinquishing such basic necessities as food and water.

Obviously one who refrains from taking food and water on specific days, but does not do likewise regarding other things forbidden by God, like telling lies; persecuting his fellowmen; perpetrating injustice and so on mistakes the symbols for the essence, appearance for reality. Such a man cannot expect to deserve a reward from God.

The real fast is that of one whose whole life is cast in the same consistent mould: who applies in all his affairs, the constraints and bounds that God has laid down; who checks his tongue from abusing others; who stays his hand from persecution; who halts in his steps towards injustice. As the prophets said “ Such a man can be likened to a horse tied to his rope, which moves only as far as his string permits him. He cannot transgress.

The essence of fasting thus is to eschew all evil ways throughout the year. The true fast is that from which one learns a lesson.


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RASHID JAMIL listworld-tipstricks.blogspot.com 2009

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