What is Fasting in Islam?
The fourth pillar of Islam is Fasting, which requires Muslims to fast during the sacred month of Ramadan. Ramadan fasting rules are that every pubescent Muslim is obligated to observe fasting, refraining from food, drink, and sexual activity throughout the fasting hours.
The purpose of Ramadan fasting in Islam is to enhance one's piety and provides an opportunity to empathize with the hunger and hardship experienced by the less fortunate. It instills discipline, strengthens one's devotion and religious commitment, fosters a deeper awareness of God and His favors, and serves as a method for seeking forgiveness.
Additionally, sawm serves as a beneficial exercise for the human body, as it allows us to cleanse our digestive system from the indulgence in unnecessary foods throughout the year. During the holy month of Ramadan, global markets often lower prices to support Muslims in their observance.
Blessings of Fasting
Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ has graciously granted us His immense blessing in the shape of Ramadan's fasts, aiming for us to achieve righteousness and His contentment, as Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ states in Surah Al-Baqarah (part 2, verses 183-184):
“O those who believe! Roza has been made obligatory upon you as were made obligatory upon those before you, so that you may become pious. The days are counted. Then whosoever among you is ill or on a journey then same number of fasting in other days, and those who have no strength, should give in fine meal to a needy: then whosoever does better, then that is better for him, and fasting is better for you if you know.” [Kanz-ul-Iman (Translation of Quran)] (Part 2, Surah Baqarah, Ayah 183-184)
Roza Essentials - For Whom Fasting is Compulsory
Similar to Salah, the obligation of fasting during Ramadan is also Fard upon every accountable (male and female) Muslim who has attained puberty and is sane. It is stated in Durr-e-Mukhtar that the obligation of sawm was decreed on the 10th of Shaban, two years after the Hijrah. (Durr-e-Mukhtar ma Rad-dul-Muhtar, pp. 330, vol. 3)
Importance of Fasting in Islam
Numerous practices within Islam serve as moving reminders of faith-reviving historical events. The act of running between Safa and Marwah, for instance, takes us back to the footsteps of Sayyidatuna Hajirah رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْها, who traversed between these two mountains seven times in search of sustenance for her son, Sayyiduna Ismail. The significance of fasting in Islam is that Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ favored this deed and declared it Wajib for all those who perform Hajj and Umrah to imitate her in order to keep this act alive.
Likewise, during a span of Ramadan, the Noble Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم sequestered himself within the cave of Hira. There, he صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم refrained from daytime food, dedicating his hours to the worship of Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ at night. To eternally observe this blessed practice of our Honored and Beloved Rasool صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ mandated fasting during the sacred month of Ramadan upon us.
Unseen Strength - A Testament of Deep Faith
Imagine a scorching day, where a fasting Muslim feels the intense heat and his throat and lips are parched from thirst. Even though he has access to water and food, his strong faith in Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ keeps him from even glancing at them. Despite his extreme hunger and thirst, he remains resolute in his belief. He understands that although he may appear unseen by others, Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ sees all of his actions.
This unwavering faith is a tangible result of his Roza. Unlike other acts of worship that involve visible physical actions, Roza is distinct. It's a form of worship that remains hidden from others' eyes. Only Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ is aware of it. Even if someone were to secretly eat, people would still consider them to be fasting. But this individual abstains from eating solely to please Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ.
If it's possible, encourage your children to start fasting from a young age. This way, they'll become used to fasting by the time they reach puberty. Esteemed scholars رحمتہ اللہ علیہ have advised, “When children reach the age of ten and are healthy enough to fast, they should be made to fast in Ramadan. If they do not fast despite being healthy enough to do so, they should be strictly made to fast even by beating. If they break it, they will not be ordered to make up for it (do Qada), but if they break their Salah, they will be ordered to offer it again.” (Rad-dul-Muhtar, pp. 385, vol. 3)
Benefits of Fasting in Islam
1. Health Benefits of Fasting
Sayyiduna ‘Ali رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْه shared that the Prophet of Mercy, the Intercessor of the Ummah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم stated, “Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ sent a revelation to one of the Prophets of Bani Israil commanding him to inform his Ummah that if anyone fasts a day for My pleasure, I will grant him good health and reward him greatly.” (Shuab-ul-Iman, pp. 412, vol. 3, Hadees 3923)
2. Prevents Illness
Roza itself does not cause any illness. Instead, during Ramadan, people sometimes become sick due to consuming oily and fried foods during Sahari (pre-dawn meal) and Iftar (breaking the fast). Additionally, many individuals eat various things throughout the night. Thus, it's important to avoid excessive eating during Ramadan.
During Sahari, it's advisable not to overindulge to the point of feeling overly full all day, which might diminish the experience of hunger and thirst. In reality, the essence of sawm lies in enduring these sensations. Imagine the intense heat, parched lips, and profound hunger – these should remind us of the warmth and light of Madina-tul-Munawwarah. And, if only it would remind us of the extremely heart-rending incident of Karbala where the flowers of Prophet’s Garden were brutally trampled under feet on the scorching desert.
3. Spiritual Benefits of Fasting
Sawm has spiritual advantages. It helps people control themselves and think more. It connects them with their inner self. They become more thoughtful and humbler. Roza also makes them feel peaceful inside and less interested in material things. This helps them grow spiritually and find more peace inside.
Quranic Verses & Hadith On Fasting
1. The Quranic verses on fasting states: “O those who believe! Fasting has been made obligatory upon you as were made obligatory upon those before you, so that you may become pious”. Fasting is a special gift of Allahعَزَّوَجَلَّ and it is mentioned several times regarding the importance of fasting in Quran.
2. Sayyiduna Abu Hurairahرَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْه shared that the Beloved and Blessed Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم stated, “For every act of piety, man is rewarded ten to seven hundred times more. Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ said except fasting, because fasting is for Me and I will give its reward Myself.”
3. Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّalso says, “Man refrains from satisfying his desires and eating food for My pleasure. There are two glad tidings for the man who fasts; one at the time of sunset and the other when he meets his Rab عَزَّ وَجَلَّ. Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّlikes the smell emanating from a fasting person’s mouth more than the fragrance of musk.” (Sahih Muslim, pp. 580, Hadees 1151)
4. There is another saying, “Roza is a shield; when any of you fast, he should neither utter words of indecency nor shout. If any one else abuses him or wants to fight him, he should say ‘I am fasting.” (Sahih Bukhari, pp. 624, vol. 1, Hadees 1894)
Sayyiduna Kab-ul-Ahbarرَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْه stated, “On the Day of Judgement an announcement will be made, ‘Every man will reap what he sowed (he will be rewarded equal to his deeds) except the people of the Quran (scholars of the Quran) and those who fasted; they will be given immeasurable reward.” (Shuab-ul-Iman, pp. 413, vol. 3, Hadees 3928)
Dear Islamic brothers! In the life to come, we will experience the consequences of our actions in this world. Scholars and those who fast are incredibly fortunate, as they will receive abundant rewards on the Day of Judgement.
Who is Unfortunate?
Sayyiduna Jabir Bin Abdulla رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْه shared that the Prophet of all people, the source of peace for our hearts and minds, the most Generous and Kind صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said, “The one who finds Ramadan – the fasting month in Islam, but does not fast is unfortunate; the one who has both of his parents or any one of them but does not treat them well is unfortunate; the one who hears me being mentioned but does not recite Salat is unfortunate.” (Majma-uzZawaid, pp. 340, vol. 3, Hadees 4773)
Levels of Fasting
While the obvious requirement for sawm involves refraining from intentional eating, drinking, and intimacy, there are additional aspects of sawm which we must get to know so that we can succeed in acquiring all the blessings of fasting. There are three levels of fasting:
1. The fast of common people.
2. The fast of the pious.
3. The fast of the ascetic.
1. Fast of Common People
The basic definition of Roza is 'to refrain', but in the context of Islamic law (Shariah), it means to intentionally avoid eating, drinking, and intimate relations from the early morning (dawn or Subh-e-Sadiq) until sunset. This is known as the Roza observed by most people.
2. Fast of the Pious
Apart from refraining from eating, drinking, and intimate relations, the fast of devout individuals also involves staying away from all forms of wrongdoing.
3. Fast of the Ascetic
To abstain from all worldly actions and fully dedicate oneself to the worship of Allah is the fasting practice of ascetics. In addition to avoiding eating and drinking, it is also important to keep all parts of our body away from sinful acts.