When a person is overcome by material desires and
cravings, he becomes negligent of his spiritual being and indifferent to the
obligations imposed on him by his Creator. To help man in combating this
onslaught, the Almighty has made fasting compulsory once every year for one
whole month -- the month of Ramadān. With Ramadān comes restriction on our
eating and marital relationship. Compared with some other forms of worship
subscribed by Islam, fasting is somewhat demanding because its aim is to
discipline and channel our soul. This objective, obviously, can only be
achieved by a tough training programme.
When we are having sehrī, all of a sudden we hear the
A%dhān and we stop eating at once. Howsoever strong our need or want to do
certain things may be, they are not allowed to us during our fast; we do not
give in to our wishes and temptations. This restriction remains till the
maghrib A%dhān as God has appointed this time for us to discontinue our
fast. Therefore, as soon as the Mu’adhin begins his A%dhān, we rush forth to
eat and drink. After this, there is no restriction throughout the night. We
spend the whole month of Ramadān in the same way. There is no doubt in the
fact that we feel a certain amount of weakness and inability to perform to
our full capacity but the patience and piety we acquire in return is as
essential to the soul as air, water and food are to the body, for man does
not live by bread and water alone but also by that which comes from his
Fasting is obligatory for every adult and sane Muslim.
If during Ramadān, a person is ill or if he is travelling or if he is unable
to fast owing to some reason, then he is required to keep the fasts he has
missed whenever he is able to do so.
We gain a lot from fasting. The greatest achievement
is that a man’s soul is liberated from the shackles of his wishes and
desires and moves a step further towards the lofty summits of knowledge and
intellect. He moves a step closer to the Kingdom of Allah by rising above
all mundane needs. For this purpose, fasting puts a restriction on all such
things which cause an increase in our desires and incline us towards
pleasure. When a person endures such constraints, he is able to break his
bond with this world and come closer to his Creator. It is this aspect of
fasting because of which God says that fasting is for Him and He alone will
bestow the reward for it.
The second achievement of fasting is that the doors of
temptation and revolt are closed to a great extent. It is the tongue and the
private parts on which the devil attacks the most. The Prophet (sws) said
that whosoever could give him guarantee of the two things: one between the
two cheeks and the other between the two legs, he would guarantee him
Paradise. Fasting puts a check on both these instincts and weakens all
inclinations of going overboard with these two. It makes it easy for a
person to do all things that are pleasing to Allah and refrain from those
which are displeasing to Him. It is this fact which the Prophet (sws) has
stated by saying that Satan and his army are chained during the month of
The third thing which a person gains from fasting is
that his actual distinction -- freedom of will -- is given a great chance to
develop and strengthen so that his character become adorned with the
qualities of resolve and determination. He gets disciplined enough to
control all sorts of emotions and reactions rising in his self. If a
person’s will power is weak he can neither control his wishes from exceeding
the limits nor can he remain steadfast on the Sharī‘ah. Moreover, he cannot
keep such emotions as greed, provocation, hatred and love in check. This
requires patience, and, to be patient, it is necessary that he possess a
strong power of decision making. Fasting increases this power and
disciplines it. It is this power that helps a person to stand for the truth
instead of evil. This is the reason that the Prophet (sws) called fasting a
shield and asked Muslims to use it in combating evil by just saying: ‘I am
The fourth thing a person attains from Fasting is that
it inculcates and strengthens the spirit of sacrifice in a person and
urges him to show compassion to people who are less fortunate than he. To
experience hunger and thirst in a fast brings him closer to the poor and
makes him realise their needs. Fasting effects everyone according to his own
disposition. People who are sensitive become even more sensitive to and
aware of the suffering and sorrow around them.
The fifth thing that a person achieves in Ramadān is
that the solitude and isolation he has in this month inclines him to spend
more time in reciting the Holy Qur’ān with a view to understand and practice
its teachings. Allah revealed His Holy Book in this month and made this the
month of fasting so that people could thank Him for this bounty. Different
Ahadīth have revealed that Gabriel used to come to the Holy Prophet (sws) in
this month to hear and recite the Qur’ān.
It is this relationship of the Book of Allah with this
month that pious people recite the Qur’ān in their late night prayers while
the general masses hear the Qur’ān in the Tarāvīh prayer said after the Ishā’
prayer. The Holy Prophet (sws) is reported to have given glad tidings of
forgiveness of previous sins to whosoever fasts in this month and stands for
prayers at night.
The sixth thing that a person gains from fasting is
that if he so desires he can become attentive to his Creator with all his
heart and soul. For this, the ‘ibādah of I‘tikāf has been prescribed in this
month. Although this is not obligatory for everyone, it is a very essential
form of worship to incline our hearts towards God. In religious parlance,
I‘tikāf means that a person should isolate himself from everyone in the
mosque for ten days or less according to his convenience and devote himself
to the Almighty, and unless an indispensable need arises, he should not come
out. The Prophet (sws) was very particular in observing I‘tikāf throughout
All these things can be attained from fasting, but for
this it is necessary that the person who is fasting should refrain from all
wrong doings, which if present during a fast, obliterate all its blessings.
Although these wrongs are many, but there are some about which everyone
should be aware of at all times.
One of these wrongs is that people tend to make
Ramadān a month of festivities and fun time. They think that they are not
answerable for the extravagance made in this month. They relish everything
they eat. The result is that instead of trying to discipline themselves they
end up pampering themselves. Throughout their fasts they keep dreaming about
the delicious things they will eat once the fast is over. The result is that
they end up learning nothing from their fasts.
To prevent such a thing from happening, it is
necessary that a person should eat just enough to keep him working and not
make eating the sole object of his life. Whatever is obtainable without too
much of an effort should be eaten with thankfulness to the Almighty.
Whatever is presented by the family should be consumed without fuss even if
it is not tempting. The rich instead of overindulging themselves should give
more to the needy and the poor. This is something which increases the
blessings of fasting and has been commended by the Prophet (sws).
The second wrongdoing one often comes across is that
because hunger provokes makes anger, people instead of making fasting a way
of correcting it give hunger as a reason to justify it. They tend to quarrel
at the slightest pretext with their wives and children and those under them.
They do not hesitate to utter any slighting remark which come to their mind
and sometimes if matters get out of hand even resort to abusing and beating.
After this they tend to defend themselves by saying that things like this
happen during fasting.
The remedy which the Prophet (sws) of God has
suggested in this regard is that instead of using fasting as an instigation
for anger one should use it as a shield and whenever a person is incited he
should remind himself that he is fasting. If we can remember this every time
we get angry, we will see that slowly and gradually the greatest provocation
tends to lose its sting. Once we realise that we can conquer the Satan
within our soul, this feeling of conquest gives us peace and a sense of
greatness. Thus such a reminder becomes a means of our correction.
The third wrongdoing often perpetrated in fasting is
that a lot of people, when restricted from eating and enjoying some other
pleasures of life, tend to keep themselves busy with other things which they
think would not harm their fast. They play cards, read novels, listen to
music, watch movies, sit among friends and gossip, and even indulge in
backbiting. When one’s stomach is empty, one tends to enjoy his brothers’
meat more. The result is that sometimes a person begins his morning with one
of these pastimes and ends when the Mu’adhin announces the break of fast. It
is obvious that all these things ruin a fast.
One solution to this problem is that a person should
try to remain silent in respect of his fast and at least for this month put
a lock on his tongue. Allah’s Prophet (sws) says that if a person keeps
telling all sorts of true and false things during his fast, then God does
not need his abstinence from food and drink.
The second remedy for this is that whatever time he
has to spare, he should spend it in the study of the Qur’ān and Hadīth and
in understanding his religion. He should try to learn some of the
supplications mentioned in the Qur’ān and also those narrated in the Ahadīth.
In this way, he will keep away from the above mentioned activities and later
use this store of prayers to remember his God.
The fourth wrongdoing in this regard is that sometimes
a person does not fast for God but just under pressure of his family or to
prevent other people to think badly of him or just to put on a religious
posture. This is also quite obviously something which negates the purpose of
The cure for this is that every person should keep
reminding himself about the importance of fasting and think that if he is
going to abstain from food and other things then why not for Allah. Apart
from Ramadān, he should keep additional non-obligatory fasts and try to
conceal them and hope that the obligatory ones will also one day be for