Part IV: Fasting (As-Saum)
Basic Teachings about Fasting
Saum means to restrain oneself, to give up something, to abstain from. In Islamic Shariah, Saum implies abstaining from eating and drinking, and also from gratification of sexual urge, etc. from dawn to sunset. Saum (Fasting) is one of the five pillars or fundamental articles of Islam and to keep fasts for the month of Ramadhan is obligatory on every adult Muslim.
Before discussing the subject of fasting any further, it would be most appropriate if we produce the relevant Verses of the Qur’an and some Ahadith of the Prophet which provide foundations of this important article of Islam.
Verses of the Qur’an
1- O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become pious (or God-fearing). Fasting is for a certain number of days; but if any of you is sick or is on a journey, he should fast the same number of days (which have been missed) from other days; and as for those who can afford it (but do not fast) there is Fidyah (redemption) i.e. the feeding of a needy person; but whoso does more good of his own accord, it is better for him; and that you fast is better for you if you only knew. – (2: 183-184)
2- It is the month of Ramadhan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs from guidance and a criterion (of right and wrong); therefore, any of you who finds this month must fast therein; and whosoever is sick or is on a journey should fast the same number of days (which have been missed) later on. Allah intends for you ease, and He does not desire for you hardship; and He wants that you should complete the period and that you should magnify Allah for having guided you and that you may be thankful to Him. – (2:185)
3- It has been made lawful for you to have sex with your wives during the night of the fast. They are a garment for you and you are a garment for them. Allah knows that you were deceiving yourselves in this respect, so He has turned in mercy toward you and has forgiven you. Therefore you can now have sex with them and seek (children) which Allah has ordained for you. And eat and drink until white thread (of light) of dawn becomes distinct to you from black thread. Then strictly observe the fast till nightfall. And do not have sex with them when you are in seclusion (Itikaf) in the mosques. These are the limits of Allah, so approach them not. Thus Allah makes his Verses clear to mankind that they may become God-fearing (2:187)
Ahadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
1. Ibn Umar reported that the Apostle of Allah said: The foundation of Islam is laid on five pillars, namely; (1) to bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the servant and Messenger of Allah, (2) to keep up prayer, (3) to pay Zakah, (4) to fast for the month of Ramadhan and (5) to perform Hajj of the House of God. – (Bukhari, Muslim)
2. Abu Hurairah reported that the Apostle of Allah said: When Ramadhan comes, the doors of heaven are opened. (In a narration: The doors of Paradise are opened), and 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)
3. Sahl-b-Saad reported that the Messenger of Allah said: In Paradise, there are eight doors of which there is door named Rayyan. None but those who fast will enter it. – (Bukhari, Muslim)
4. Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Whoso fasts Ramadhan out of faith and hopeful of reward, all his past sins will be forgiven; and whoso stands up (in prayer) in Ramadhan 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)
5. 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 the fasting of some one of you comes up, 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)
6. Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: There came to you Ramadhan, a blessed month. It’s fasting, Allah made obligatory on you. The doors of Heaven are opened up therein; and the doors of Hell are shut up therein; and the mischievous devils are put in chains by Allah. There is a night therein which is better than one thousand months. Whoso is deprived of its good is deprived of all good. – (Ahmad, Nisai)
7. Salman al-Farsi 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 an optional good thing 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 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 end is freedom from the Fire….. – (Baihaqi)
8. 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)
9. Anas-b-Malik al Ka’bi reported that the Apostle of Allah said: Allah has put down half the prayer from a traveler and fast from a traveler and from a suckling woman and from a pregnant woman. – (Abu Daud, Tirmizi, Nisai, Ibn Majah)
10. Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Fast at the sight of it (new moon) and break it at the sight of it; if there is cloud over you, then complete the number of Sha’ban thirty. – (Bukhari, Muslim)
11. Salman bin Amer reported that the Messenger of Allah said: When one of you breaks fast, let him break it with date because it is a blessing; if he does not find it, let him break fast with water, because it is pure. – (Abu Daud, Ahmad, Tirmizi)
12. 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)
13. 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)
14. Sahl reported that the Apostle of Allah said: People will continue in prosperity so long as they are quick in breaking fast. – (Bukhari, Muslim)
15. Ayesha reported that the Apostle of Allah said: Search for the blessed night in an odd (night) from the last ten (nights) of Ramadhan. – (Bukhari)
16. Mu’az-b-Jabal reported: I heard the Holy Prophet say: Whoever meets Allah without having associated anything with Him, praying five times (a day) and keeping fast of Ramadhan, will be forgiven. I enquired: Should I not tell them this good news, O Prophet of Allah? He said: Leave them to work. – (Ahmad)
17. Ibn Abbas reported that the Messenger of Allah was the most generous of men with regard to wealth, and he was charitable to the extreme in Ramadhan. Gabriel used to meet him in every night of Ramadhan and the Prophet used to recite the Qur’an before him. When Gabriel met him, he was more charitable with regard to his wealth than the passing wind. – (Bukhari, Muslim)
18. Abu Hurairah reported that the Qur’an was presented to the Prophet once every year. It was twice presented to him in the year which he died; and he used to seclude himself every year for ten (nights) while he secluded himself for 20 (nights) in the year in which he died. – (Bukhari)
19. 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)
Importance and benefits 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 of fasting (2:183) emphasized this fact that fasting was also prescribed by God for those religious communities who lived before the Muslims.
Fasting is one of the fundamental articles of Islam and it 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.
The objective and the purpose of fasting, as told by the Qur’an (2:183), is that the believers may attain Taqwa. Taqwa means piety or God-consciousness or restraint from evil. It is a moral quality. Taqwa is one of the best moral quality which is the product of love for God as well as fear of Him. Taqwa is indeed the basis of all virtuous acts and it is a great deterrent against evils and disobedience to God.
In addition to being a fulfillment 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 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 Allah 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 fulfill this obligation.
However, the above benefits of fasting, especially the religious and spiritual benefits, can only be earned if it is obeserved with sincerity and devotion and one completely abstains from all the things which are forbidden in the fasting. The Prophet has enjoined: “When you observe the fast, it is necessary that you restrain your eyes, your ears and your tongue and your hands and other limbs from everything forbidden by Allah”. If the regulations of fasting are not complied with, there is no benefit of fasting. According of the Prophet: “There are many fasters who gain nothing from fasting except hunger and thirst.
Kinds of the Fast
The fasts are of the following kinds:-
1. Fard (obligatory) fasts: The fasts of the month of Ramadhan, which is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, have been prescribed as obligatory by the Qur’an and the Sunnah. It is compulsory for every adult Muslim male and female to observe fasting during this month which sometimes consists of 29 days and sometimes 30 days.
2. Wajib (imperative) fasts: If you have vowed to observe some fasts, you are required to fulfill this vow. If you have committed such a sin for which fasting has been prescribed by the Qur’an as atonement (e.g. see verse 196 of Surah 2, verse 92 of Surah 4 and verse 89 of Surah 5), you are required to observe it.
3. Sunnat fasts: These are the fasts which were observed by the Prophet and he also recommended his followers to observe them, such as: Muharram 9 and 10; Zil-Hajjah 9 (if one is not on Hajj); and 13, 14, 15 of every lunar month.
4. Nafl (voluntary) fasts: These are the fasts which one keeps to earn Thawab (rewards) from Allah such as six fasts of Shawal after Eid-ul-Fitr; eight fasts during first ten days of Zil-Hajjah; as many fasts as one can in Shaaban; fasts on Monday and Thursday.
5. Makruh (undesirable) fasts: Examples of such undesirable fasts are: fast observed only on Friday or Saturday or Sunday; fast observed only on Muharram 10 (unaccompanied by 9); fasting without a break called Saum of Wisal i.e. continuous fasting.
6. Haram (forbidden) fasts: Fast on day of Eid-ul-Fitr, on day of Eid-ul-Azha and during 11 to 13 of Zil-Hajjah.
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