Fasting (siyyaam 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).
Virtues of the Month of Ramadaan
Ramadaan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar
- It was the month in which the greatest and most exalted of all divine books, the Holy Qur’an, was revealed: “It was in the month of Ramadaan that the Qur’an was revealed, with clear signs of guidance and a criterion of right and wrong. Therefore, those of you who are resident for the month must fast it.” (Soorat Al-Baqarah, 2:185)
- The Prophet said, “When the month of Ramadaan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened, the gates of Hellfire are closed and the devils are chained.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 3103, Saheeh Muslim: 1079)Thus, it provides an opportunity for the faithful to do their utmost to get closer to Allah by doing righteous deeds and avoiding evil ones.
- Whoever fasts during the daylight hours and stands in prayer at night throughout this month will have his past sins forgiven, as the Prophet said, “Whoever fasts in the month of Ramadaan, out of sincere faith and in anticipation of Allah’s rewards [in the hereafter], will have all his past sins forgiven.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 1910, Saheeh Muslim: 760) He also said, “Whoever offers the voluntary night prayers with sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards [in the hereafter] will have all his past sins forgiven.” (SaheehAl-Bukhaaree: 1905; Saheeh Muslim: 759)
- Laylat-ul-Qadr (The Night of Decree; also called the Night of Power) occurs in this month. The Qur’an informs us that doing righteous deeds during this night is far better than doing them for many years: “The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.” (Soorat Al-Qadr, 97:3) Aposon who proys on this night out of sincere faith and in anticipation of Allah’s rewards in the hereafter will obtain Allah’s forgiveness of all past sins.This night falls on one of the last ten odd-numbered nights of Ramadaan and no one knows its exact time
The Wisdom behind Fasting
Allah commands the believers to observe the fast for numerous reasons pertaining to this world and the hereafter. These include the following:
- It helps realise taqwaa (righteousness, piety, consciousness of Allah, guarding against evil) :
Fasting is an act of worship through which the faithful seek closeness to their Lord by giving up their passionate desires and placing themselves in opposition to physical temptations at all times and places, in secret and in public, knowing that Allah is watching them. As the Qur’an states, “O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you, just as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous (Soorat Al-Baqarah, 2:183)
- It provides ample training in refraining from sin and wrongdoing
When a fasting person desistsfrom engaging in permissible acts, in total obedience to Allah, he will certainly be able to bring his whims and desires under control, easily avoid sins and will not persist in falsehood and deviation from the truth. The Prophet said, “A person who does not desist form deceitful speech and actions [while fasting] must know that Allah is not in need of him leaving his food and drink.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 1804) This means that those who do not desist from telling lies and deceiving others do not actually perceive the purpose of fasting.
- It helps us remember the needy and the distressed and encourages us to sympathise with them
Because the fasting person experiences the pangs of deprivation and hunger, which are only temporary, he realises the severe effects of such pains on his fellow Muslim brothers and sisters who might be deprived of the essentials of life for a long time and undergo extreme hunger and thirst. This prompts him to feel more compassion for them and help them.
Virtues of Fasting
Fasting has numerous virtues including the following:
Ramadaan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar.
- A person who fasts during this month, sincerely believing in Allah, in obedience to His commands and is certain of His rewards in the hereafter for doing so, will have all his past sins forgiven. The Prophet said, “Whoever fasts in the month of Ramadaan, out of sincere faith and in anticipation of Allah’s rewards [in the hereafter], will have all his past sins forgiven.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 1910; Saheeh Muslim: 760)
- The fasting person will experience great joy in the hereafter for the great rewards he will get and the bliss he will enjoy for fasting. The Prophet said, “The fasting person has two moments of joy: one when he breaks his fast and the other one when he meets his Lord.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 1805; Saheeh Muslim: 1151)
- Paradise has a gate called Ar-Rayyaan through which only those who used to fast will enter, as the Prophet said, “In Paradise there is a gate called Ar-Rayyaan, through which only those who fast will enter on the Day of Resurrection, and no one but they will enter it. It will be said, ‘Where are those who fasted?’ They will then get up, and none will enter it but them. When they have entered, it will be closed, and no one else will enter.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 1797; Saheeh Muslim: 1152)
- Every act of worship has a certain reward except for fasting, for which Allah, in His boundless bounty and mercy, will reward those who observe it abundantly. The Prophet said, “Allah said, ‘All the deeds of the children of Adam are for them except for fasting, which is for Me, and I will reward it.’”(Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 1805, Saheeh Muslim: 1151)
Things which Break the Fast
A fasting person must avoid a number of things which are bound to break the fast. They are as follows:
- Food and drink, as the Qur’an states, “Eat and drink until you can clearly discern the white thread from the black thread of the dawn, then strictly observe the fast until nightfall.” (Soorat Al-Baqarah, 2:187)
However, if a person forgets that he is fasting and so he eats or drinks, his fast is still valid and he is not considered sinful for absent-mindedly doing so. The Prophet said, “Whoever forgets he is fasting and so he eats or drinks, let him complete his fast for it is Allah who has fed him and given him to drink.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 1831; Saheeh Muslim: 1155)
- Anything that is classified as being in some way similar to eating and drinking. This includes the following:
- Injections which have some nutritional value: These serve to supply the body with the necessary minerals and nutrients it needs, hence their similarity to eating and drinking.
- Having a blood transfusion: Blood is like the body’s transportation system, and as it circulates, it delivers oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, hence its resemblance to eating and drinking.
- Smoking in all its forms renders the fast void, for inhaling smoke introduces numerous toxic substances into the body.
- Sexual activity in which a man puts his penis into a woman’s vagina, whether or not this results in ejaculation.
- Deliberate seminal emission through sexual contact, masturbation or any other means.
However, wet dreams, sexually exciting dreams) that result in an orgasm, do not break the fast.
A man may kiss his wife if he knows he can easily control himse lf and does not engage in intercourse or any act that may lead to seminal emission.
- Deliberate vomiting: Involuntary vomiting, however, does not the break the fast. The Prophet said, “If a person vomits unintentionally while observing a fast, he does not have to make up for this by fasting another day; however, if he deliberately vomits, then he must fast another day for breaking his [obligatory] fast.” (Sunan At-Tirmidhee: 720; Sunan Abu Daawood: 2380)
- Beginning of menstruation or post-natal bleeding regardless of the time or part of the day when such bleeding begins.Whenever such bleeding begins, even if it takes place just before sunset, a woman’s fast is automatically broken. If a menstruating woman becomes clean after dawn, her fast is also broken. The Prophet said, “Isn’t it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?”(Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 1850)
Nevertheless, apart from menstrual bleeding and post-natal bleeding, abnormal uterine bleeding which some women experience does not prevent them from fasting.
Those Who Are Exempt from Fasting
To make it easy for people, Allah has exempted some of them from fasting. They are:
1 Sick people whose medical condition is bound to be further worsened by fasting are permitted to break the fast but must make up the missed fasts after Ramadaan..
2 People who canno t possibly observe a fast due to old age or sick people for whom there is no hope of recovery may also break the fast but must feed a needy person for every day missed, by giving him 1.5 kg of the staple food common in the country..
3 Travellers, while moving from one place to another or during their temporary residence which lasts less than four days, are allowed to break the fast but have to make up for the fast days they have missed after Ramadaan. As the Qur’an states, “But those of you who are sick or are on a journey must fast an equal number of other days. Allah wants ease for you, not hardship.” (Soorat Al-Baqarah: 185)
4 Menstruating women، and women experiencing post-natal bleeding are forbidden to fast but must make up an equal number of days after Ramadaan.Even if they fast, it will not be valid.
5 Pregnant and nursing، women are permitted to break the fast if they fear it would be dangerous for them or for their babies if they fast. They must, however, make up for the fast days they have missed after Ramadaan..
The Islamic Ruling Regarding Those who Deliberately Break the Fast
Breaking the fast without a valid excuse is a grave sin which clearly testifies to its doer’s disobedience to Allah . Therefore, those who commit such a sin must sincerely repent to Allah in addition to making up for the fast days they have omitted. Those who engage in sexual intercourse during the day in Ramadaan must, in addition to expressing sincere repentance and making up that day, expiate for doing so by freeing a Muslim slave, hence the importance Islam attaches to liberating people from the shackles of servitude. If they cannot find any slaves to set free, as is the case today, they must fast for two consecutive months; if they are unable do so, then they have to feed sixty poor people.
Muslims are required to observe a strict month-long fast once a year, that is, during the month of Ramadaan. They are also recommended, as long as they are able to do so, to fast on other days in order to gain more rewards. These days include the following:
- The day of ‛Aashuraa’, as well as a day before it or after it:‛Aashuraa’ is the tenth day of the lunar month of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. It is the very day Allah saved Moses and drowned Pharaoh and his army. A Muslim fasts it as an expression of gratitude to Allah for saving Moses and to follow in the footsteps of our Prophet who not only fasted on this day but also asked his companions to fast a day before it or a day after it. (MusnadAhmad: 2154). When he was asked about fasting on it, he replied, “It expiates [the sins committed in] the previous year.”(Saheeh Muslim: 1162)
- The Day of ‛Arafah:‛Arafah is the ninth day of the lunar month of Dhul-Hjjah, the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar. On this day, pilgrims who perform the hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage, gather in the wide open plain of ‛Arafah and engage in invoking Allah, praising Him and glorifying Him. ‛Arafah is the best day of the year, and those who are not performing the hajj may fast on it. When the Prophet was asked about fasting on this day, he replied, “It atones for the sins committed the preceding year and the coming year.” (Saheeh Muslim: 1162)
- Six days of Shawwaal: Shawwaal is the tenth month of the Islamic calendar. The Prophet said, “Whoever fasts in Ramadaan then follows it up with six days of the month of Shawwaal will obtain the rewards of fasting for the entire year.” (Saheeh Muslim: 1164)
The Festival of Fast Breaking (‛Eed-ul-Fitr)
Festivals represent apparent rituals of religion. When the Prophet arrived in Madeenah, he found that the people there had set aside two days in the year for fun. He asked them, ‘‘What are these two days?” “We used to play and have fun on these days before the advent of Islam,” they replied. The Prophet then said, “Allah has given you two better days: ‛Eed-ul-Fitr and (‛Eed-ul-Adhaa.” (Sunan Abu Daawood: 1134) Explaining that festivals represent the religion of their followers, he once observed, “Every nation has a festival, and this is our festival.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 909; Saheeh Muslim: 892)
The Meaning of ‛Eed in Islam
‛Eed is a day of festivity and rejoicing. On this day, Muslims express their happiness and their gratitude to Allah for guiding them to the truth and for assisting them in completing the fast of Ramadaan. They share happiness with everyone by putting on their best clothes, giving charity to the poor and the needy and engaging in permissible celebrations and festivities which make everyone happy and remind them of Allah’s favours upon them.
There are only two annual festivals in Islam, and Muslims must not celebrate any other day apart from them. They are: (1) The Festival of Fast Breaking (‛Eed-ul-Fitr), which is celebrated on the first day of the lunar month of Shawwaal, and (2) the Festival of Sacrifice (‛Eed-ul-Adhaa), which is celebrated on the tenth day of the lunar month of Dhul-Hijjah.
The Festival of Fast Breaking (‛Eed-ul-Fitr)
‛Eed-ul-Fitr falls on the first day of the lunar month of Shawwaal, marking the end of the month-long Ramadaan fast. Just as fasting during the month of Ramadaan is an act of worship, celebrating ‛Eed-ul-Fitris also an act of worship whereby Muslims express their gratitude to Allah for enabling them to perform this act of worship and for completing His grace upon them. As the Qur’an states, “You should complete the number of days and proclaim Allah’s greatness for the guidance He has given you so that you will be thankful.” (Soorat Al-Baqarah, 2:185)
What Should Be Done On the ‛Eed Day?
- Offering the ‛Eed Prayer: Islam stresses that the ‛Eedprayer should be performed. In fact, it was one of those practices which the Prophet observed consistently and even encouraged not only men but also women and children to observe. Its time starts after the sun has risen to the length of a spear above the horizon (just over 1 metre) and lasts until it has crossed the meridian.
Description: The ‛Eed prayer consists of two units (rak‛aat; singular rak‛ah) in which the imaam recites the Qur’an loudly, after which he delivers a sermon (khutbah) in two parts. This prayer contains several takbeeraat (singular takbeerah, one’s saying Allaahu akbar) at the beginning of each unit more than the ordinary prayer: The imaam says Allaahu akbar and, before he starts reciting the Qur’an, repeats the same utterance six more times; also, after rising from the prostrate position to the standing position to perform the second unit, he repeats the same utterance five more times in addition to the takbeer he has recited while rising to the second unit. The worshippers follow the imaam in these movements, doing and saying exactly the same.
- Paying Zakaat-ul-Fitr: Allah has enjoined zakaat-ul-fitr (literally, the purifying obligatory charity of the breaking of the fast) on anyone who possesses a day’s and night’s worth of food. It consists of one saa‛ of the most common staple food of the country, be it rice, wheat or dates, and must be given to the Muslim poor and needy so that there would be no person in need of food on the ‛Eedday .It is permissible, however, to pay the value of zakaat-ul-fitr in money instead if it appears that this will be more beneficial to the poor.
Time of Its Payment: Zakaat-ul-fitr is to be paid from the time the sun sets on the last day of Ramadaan up to the time of the ‛Eed prayer. It may, however, be paid a day or two before the ‛Eed day as well.
The amount of zakaat-ul-fitris one saa‛ of the usual foods tuffs of the country, be it rice, wheat or dates. One saa‛ is equivalent to approximately 3 kg.
A Muslim must pay it for himself and all the persons he is legally bound to support, such as his wife and children. It is recommended to pay it on behalf of an unborn child.
The Prophet enjoined it as,“atonement for any obscene language used while observing the fast and for providing food for the needy. It would be accepted as zakaat from those who pay it before the ‛Eed prayer, but it would be considered as mere sadaqah (voluntary charity) for those who pay it after the ‛Eed prayer.” (Sunan Abu Daawood: 1609)
- Muslims on this occasion : spread joy and merriment to all family members, young and old, men and women, providing all possible types of lawful amusements. They wear their best and most beautiful clothes and eat and drink, as doing so is an act of worship. Fasting on this day is strictly forbidden.
- They recite the : takbeer on this special occasion on the night preceding the ‛Eed day and on the way to the ‛Eed prayer, and continue doing so until the imaam appears for the‛Eed prayers starts, expressing gratitude to Allah for enabling them to complete the fast of Ramadaan. The Qur’an states, “He wants you to complete the prescribed period and to glorify Him for having guided you, so that you may be thankful.” (Soorat Al-Baqarah, 2:185)
The manner of takbeer pronounced on this occasion is as follows: Allaahu akbar, Allaahu akbar, laa ilaaha ill allaah, Allaahu akbar, Allaahu akbar, walillaahil-hamd (Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest; there is no god worthy of worship except Allah; Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest; all praise belongs to Allah).
One may also recite the following: Allaah uakbaru kabeeran, wal-hamdu lillaahi katheeran, wa subhaan-Allaahi bukratan waaseelaa (Allah is the Greatest;His is the abundant praise, and glory be to Him day and night).
Men generally pronounce the takbeer aloud, but without disturbing other people; women, however, pronounce it quietly.