FASTING– AN OBLIGATORY WORSHIP
Sawm (fasting) is the one of the main pillars of Islam. It is mentioned in the Glorious Qur’an and Sunnah. Fasting (siyyam or sawm) is an act of worship which involves abstaining from all food, drink, sexual activity and anything which is bound to break the fast from dawn (the time of calling to the Fajr prayer) till sunset (the time of calling to the Maghrib prayer).
In the Qur’an we read: O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that you may remain conscious of Allah [or so that you may learn self- restraint]. Quran Surah Al-Baqarah 2:183
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:“Islam is built on five pillars; to testify that there is no one worthy of worship but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger; to perform (the five daily) prayers; to pay Zakah; to fast the month of Ramadan and to make Pilgrimage if one is able to.” Sahih al Bukhari Vol.1:8
In another hadith, he said: “He who fasts during Ramadan with faith and seeking reward from Allah, Allah will forgive his past sins. And he who prays during the night in Ramadan with faith and seeking reward from Allah, Allah will forgive his past sins. And he who spends the Night of Decree (Lailat-ul-Qadr) in prayer with faith and seeking reward from Allah, Allah will forgive his past sins.” Sahih Al-Bukhari 2014
Like other injunctions of Islam, the benefits of fasting are not exclusively “spiritual” or “temporal”. In Islam, the spiritual, moral, social, economic and political aspects are all inter-related and integrated, constituting a consistent and cohesive whole. The significance of fasting is discussed under four subheadings; spiritual and moral, psychological, social, physical and medical.
Fasting enhances the feelings of inner peace, contentment and optimism. These feelings result from the realization of Allah’s Pleasure. It teaches patience and perseverance and enhances the feeling of moral accomplishment. Voluntary abstinence of the lawful appetite leads one to appreciate the bounties of Allah which are usually taken for granted (until they are missed).
For a whole month every year, Muslims go through a different and exciting experience which breaks the normal routine of life. Not only can this be refreshing, it also teaches the person to adapt to varying conditions, difficulties and circumstances in his life.
Fasting promotes the spirit of human equality before Allah. All able Muslims, male and female, rich and poor, from all ethnic and national backgrounds go through the same experience of deprivation with no special privileges or favour for any groups or class.
Fasting promotes the spirit of charity and sympathy towards the poor and the needy. A rich person may be able to imagine the suffering of the poor or think about hunger. Yet, one cannot fully appreciate suffering or hunger until he actually experiences or feels it.
This may explain, in part, why Ramadan is also known as the month of charity and generosity. It promotes Islamic sociability. This provides a better chance for socialization in a brotherly and spiritual atmosphere.
Fasting promotes the spirit of unity and belonging within the Muslim Ummah. Millions of Muslim all over the world fast during the same month following the same rules and observances.
A great deal has been written about the medical and health benefits of fasting, both by Muslim and non Muslim scientists. These benefits include the elimination of harmful fatty substances from the blood, helping in the cure of certain types of intestinal and stomach ailments and the renewal of body tissues. Needless to say that some ailments may be aggravated by fasting in which case the person is exempted from fasting.
For those who may be engaged in (medically) undesirable habits such as over-eating or smoking, the self-control and discipline exercised in Ramadan provide an excellent beginning to kick out these bad habits.
In a sense, fasting is an annual physical overhaul of the body. It should be reiterated; however that the main motive behind fasting is to obey Allah, manifest the believer’s love of Him and to seek His pleasure and reward.
Written by By Dr. Jamal Badawi