FaSting (Saum)

Rules and Regulations of Fasting

Fasting is known to man since time immemorial and it has existed as an institution through ages in almost all religions and philosophies of life. The prophets, philosophers, sages, saints, religious leaders and thinkers adopted fasting as a means of controlling passions and attaining spiritual and moral elevation. Not only the revealed religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam have prescribed fasting for their followers but even the followers of other religions like Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism have been practicing fasting. Thus institution of fasting is universal among mankind. The Holy Qur’an in its very first verse on fasting (2:183) emphasizes this fact that fasting was also prescribed by God for those religious communities who lived before the Muslims.

Fasting which is another fundamental article of Islam was made obligatory for Muslims in 2 A.H. before the Battle of Badar. It is compulsory for the month of Ramadan which is the ninth month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar and has 29 or 30 days. The Ramadan is also the month in which the Holy Qur’an was revealed. Fasting starts from dawn and closes at sunset on everyday and during fasting total abstention from eating, drinking and sexual intercourse is essential. It is obligatory for every Muslim, male or female, rich or poor, slave or free, to fast during the month of Ramadan. However, sick and those who are on a journey are allowed exemption from fasting but they are required to fast the same number of other days when they recover health or their journey terminates. But those who are permanently sick or are too old to keep fast are allowed the option to feed one poor person in lieu of one day’s fast. During the night of fast, the fast observer is allowed to eat, drink and have sexual intercourse. However, when a fasting person is engaged in I’tkaf (Secluded devotion), he is not permitted to sexual intercourse even during nights of fast. During month of Ramadan, special prayers called “Taraweeh” are offered after night prayer (Isha). In these prayers a memorizer (Hafiz) of the Holy Qur’an recites the Qur’an in portions to complete its recitation in the month. These prayers are quite lengthy and comprise generally twenty “Rakats” each.

Those who cannot hear the Qur’an in these prayers due to some valid excuse, try to read it in their homes. The last nine or ten days of the month are spent in special worship called secluded devotion (Itikaf) when the men sit in the mosque and women in secluded place at homes and read the Qur’an and pray. The day following the end of the month is the day of Eid-ul-Fitr or the day of celebrations and is a holyday. On that day, the Muslims felicitate each other, give charity, exchange gifts, visit each other, purchase new clothes especially for children and enjoy good food.

Besides compulsory fasting of the month of Ramadhan, optional fasting is also encouraged by Islam for earning reward from Allah. Fasting has also been prescribed for atonement of certain offences and sins. Muslims are encouraged during Ramadhan especially to do acts of devotion, charity and piety as the reward of each such act during Ramadhan is increased manifold. Offering of morning meal (Sehri) and evening meal (Iftari) to the poor fasters is considered to carry great merit in terms of reward.

In addition to being a fulfilment of a religious obligation, fasting has many benefits. It helps in controlling the passions. It is useful in attaining spiritual advancement and purification of the soul. It sharpens intellect and promotes the thinking faculty of the man. Fasting contributes in maintaining health as it reduces weight of the body and removes unnecessary fat and cholesterol deposits in the body. Fasting teaches sympathy for the poor as it makes everyone realize, through his or her own experience, how it feels to be hungry and thirsty. Thus the fasting person gains true appreciation of the needs of the poor and when he helps the poor his act promotes cause of unity and brotherhood. Fasting teaches regularity, punctuality and self-discipline. And above all, fasting brings nearness to Allah because He likes the act of fasting and because fasting makes the man pious and God-fearing. The excellence and merits of fasting have been highlighted by the Qur’an and the Prophet of Islam, and many rewards have been promised to those who regularly fulfil this obligation.

Itikaf (Seclusion)

Itikaf means to isolate oneself and stay in a place. In Islam, it signifies the practice of the followers of Islam in the tradition of their beloved Prophet to seclude themselves from worldly duties and stay in a mosque for the last nine or ten days of the Holy month of Ramadhan for whole-time devotion. In these days they are not allowed to have sexual relation with their wives even during night of fast and to leave their place (mosque) except for a very short period and that too for very urgent necessity like call of nature or to join a funeral in the courtyard of the mosque. Besides fasting and usual five daily prayers, they devote their full time to worship of Allah and recitation of the Holy Qur’an.

Itikaf is Sunnat Kefayah, which means that although it is not compulsory but it must be performed at least by few believers of a locality in the mosque. Otherwise all the believers of that locality would be guilty.

The women are directed to perform this act of devotion in their homes. Itikaf begins from the Magrib (sunset) prayer of the 20th of Ramadhan and terminates with the sighting of new moon of the month of Shawal and thus it may comprise a period of nine or ten days.

Verses of the Qur’an about Fasting

Please refer to Al-Qur’an:- 2:183-185; 2:187

Ahadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) about Fasting

1)     Abu Hurairah reported that the Apostle of Allah said: When Ramzan comes, the doors of heaven are opened. (In a narration: The doors of Paradise are opened), and the doors of Hell are shut up and the devils are put under chains. And in a narration: The doors of mercy are opened.   (Bukhari, Muslim)

2)     Sahl-b-Sa’ad reported that the Messenger of Allah said: In Paradise, there are eight doors of which there is a door named Rayyan. None but those who fast will enter it.   (Bukhari, Muslim)

3)     Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Whoso fasts Ramzan out of faith and hopeful of reward, all his past sins will be forgiven; and whoso stands up (in prayer) in Ramazan out of faith and hopeful of reward, all his past sins will be forgiven and whoso stands up (in prayer) at the Blessed Night out of faith and hopeful of reward, all his past sins will be forgiven.   (Bukhari, Muslim)

4)     Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Every good action of the son of Adam shall be multiplied to ten times like it up to seven hundred times. The Almighty Allah said: Except fasting, because it is for Me, and I shall Myself compensate it. He gives up his passions and food for Me. For a fasting man, there are two rejoicings: one rejoicing at the time of his breaking fast, and one at the time of meeting his Lord, and certainly the fragrance of the mouth of a fasting man is more pleasant to Allah than the smell of musk. And fasting is a shield. So when some one of you is observing fast, he shall not utter foul words, nor shall he cry hoarse. If then anybody rebukes him or fights with him, let him say: I am a man observing fast.   (Bukhari, Muslim)

5)     Salman al-Faresiy reported: The Messenger of Allah admonished us on the last day of Sha’ban. He said: O men! Verily there has come to you a magnificent month, a blessed month, a month wherein there is a night which is better than one thousand months. Allah has made its fast obligatory and the standing (in prayer) of its nights optional. Whoso comes therein with a good habit, becomes like one who performs an obligatory thing in what is besides it; and whoso performs an obligatory thing becomes like one who performs 70 obligatory duties in what is besides it. And it is a month of patience; and as for patience, its reward is Paradise. And (it is) a month of mutual sympathy, and a month wherein the provision of a believer is increased. Whoso gives ‘Iftar’ therein to a fasting man, there is for him forgiveness for his sins, and emancipation of his neck from the Fire, and there is for him the like of his reward without anything being diminished from his reward. We asked: O Messenger of Allah! Nobody of us finds means wherewith to give ‘Iftar’ to a fasting man. Then the Messenger of Allah said: Allah will bestow this reward on one who gives iftar to a fasting man with a sip of milk, or date, or a sip of water. And whoso gives satisfaction to a man, Allah will give him drink from my Fountain, which will not make him thirsty till he will enter Paradise. And it is a month of which the beginning is mercy, the middle is forgiveness and the end is freedom from the Fire.   (Baihaqi)

6)     Abdullah-b-Amr reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Fasting and the Qur’an will intercede for a man. Fasting will say: O Lord! I denied him food and sexual satisfaction during the day-times. So make me an intercessor for him. And the Qur’an will say: I denied him sleep during night. So make me an intercessor for him. So they will both intercede.   (Baihaqi)

7)     Anas-b-Malek al Ka’bi reported that the Apostle of Allah said: Allah has put down half the prayer from a traveller and fast from a traveller and from a suckling woman and from a pregnant woman.   (Abu daud, Tirmizi, Nisai, Ibn Majah)

8)     Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Whoever does not give up false talk and action according to it, there is no need of Allah that he should give up his food and drink.   (Bukhari)

9)     Amr bin Al As reported that the Messenger of Allah said: The difference between our fasting and the fasting of the People of the Book is pre-dawn tiffin.   (Muslim)

10)  Sahl reported that the Apostle of Allah said: People will continue in prosperity so long as they are quick in breaking fast.   (Bukhari, Muslim)

11)  Ayesha reported that the Apostle of Allah said: Search for the blessed night in an odd (night) from the last ten (nights) of Ramzan.   (Bukhari)

12)  Ayesha reported that the Messenger of Allah used to seclude himself for the last ten (nights) of Ramzan till Allah took away his life. Afterwards his wives secluded themselves after him.   (Bukhari, Muslim)

13)  Ayesha reported: It is sunnat upon the men of seclusion that he shall not visit the sick, nor shall he be present at funeral prayer., nor shall he touch a woman, nor shall he cohabit with her, nor shall he come out for a necessity except for a thing from which there is no escape, and there is no seclusion without fast, and no seclusion except in congregational mosque.  (Abu Daud)


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