Pillars of Islam

FASTING FOR THE SAKE OF GOD

Ramadan is the seventh month of the lunar calendar. According to the Islamic teachings, Muslims must observe fast throughout this month. The form taken by the fast is abstinence from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. It begins after the sighting of the new moon of Ramadan and continues on a daily basis up to the end of the month. 

FASTING FOR THE GREATEST REWARD

In the Chapter Al-Baqarah of the Quran, there are five verses that deal with fasting in the month of Ramadan. (2:183-187). In the book of Hadith Mishkat al-Masabih, seventy-three sayings of the Prophet have been quoted with regard to fasting. Detailed provisions regarding Ramadan can be found in the books of fiqh.

In a Hadith, the Prophet of Islam has said: “Every deed in Islam is rewarded from ten to seven hundred times. But God says, ‘Fasting is for me, and I will give unlimited reward to one who fasts.’” (Sahih Muslim, Hadith No. 1151)

FASTING AS A SPIRITUAL CULTURE

According to Islamic teachings, Ramadan, the ninth month of the Hijra calendar, is the month of fasting. In this month, believers refrain from food and drink for a limited period each day, that is, from dawn till sunset. They eat and drink during the night. This practice continues for one month.

What is fasting? Fasting does not simply amount to observing hunger for a temporary period. In fact, it symbolizes a lifelong culture, that is, a culture of dedication.

FASTING AND QURAN

The Quran 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 Quran. In the words of the Quran:

In the month of Ramadan the Quran was revealed, a book of guidance with proofs of guidance distinguishing right from wrong. Therefore whoever of you is present in that month let him fast. But he who is ill or on a journey shall fast a similar number of days later on. (2:185)

Fasting and Self-purification

Fasting is an exercise in self-discipline. During the month of Ramadan, the believer abstains from food and drink in the daytime 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.

FASTING—A TRAINING IN HUMILITY

The Quran tells us that fasting is prescribed for you so that you may fear God (2:183). So, what does it mean to fear God? Fearing God means that man should acknowledge his helplessness vis-a-vis God’s greatness.

The truth is that the acknowledgement of one’s helplessness is the beginning of imaan. When a person realizes God, at that point, he is overwhelmed by the feeling of his helplessness. (ijz).

Belief in God is, in fact, to discover this boundless greatness of God. And one who discovers this boundless greatness will be overwhelmed with the feeling of helplessness.

DUA AND FASTING

While giving commands regarding fasting, the Quran makes special mention of Dua (remembering God). “And when my servants ask you about Me, say that I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on Me: let them also, with a will, listen to My call, and believe in Me, so that they may be rightly guided.” (2:186)

Zakat (Almsgiving)

By zakat is meant that fixed amount which is subtracted at the end of each year by affluent people. In this way the remaining wealth is purified. By one part of it being given to the cause of God, the rest is rendered lawfully usable for the almsgiver. Deducting zakat from one’s earning is a material acknowledgement of the fact that the actual giver is God. Since the giver is God, the recipient is duty bound to spend it in His cause. The law of zakat is to take from those who have wealth and give it away to those who do not. This rotation of wealth is a way to balance social inequality.

Without Prejudice

During the lifetime of the Prophet of Islam many of his fellow men opposed Islam and engaged in plotting against Islam and Muslims. The Qur’an has mentioned this at several places. But the counter strategy advocated by the Qur’an was not to unearth their plots and launch movements to defeat them, or even finally to wage war against them. On the contrary, the Prophet and his companions were enjoined to place their trust in God alone.