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Reaping the Benefits of Ramadan

In the month of Ramadan it is very important that we spent a few moments to understand some of the wisdom and lessons that we can learn from this month of fasting.

Unfortunately, many Muslims come in to this month and they are as a companion of the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: "Let it not be that the day that you fast and the day that you break fast be equal." Meaning, one’s behavior, attitude and outlook are the same whether one fasts or not, i.e. fasting has no effect upon that person. This is why we need to reflect on some of these lessons.

LESSON 1: Gaining Taqwaa

Allah legislated fasting for gaining Taqwaa, "O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed upon you as it has been prescribed upon those before you, so that you may attain taqwaa." (meaning of Soraatul Baqarah (2):183) Taqwaa in this case means to make a shield between oneself and Allaah’s anger and Hellfire. So we should ask ourselves, when we break our fasts, ‘Has this fasting day made us fear Allah more? Has it resulted that we want to protect ourselves from the hellfire or not?

LESSON 2: Drawing closer to Allah

This is achieved by reciting and reflecting on Al-Qur’aan during night and day, attending the taraaweeh prayers, remembering Allah, sitting in circles of knowledge and, for those who can, making `umrah. Also for those who can, making I`tikaaf (seclusion) in the last ten nights of Ramadan, so as to leave all worldly pursuits and seclude oneself in a masjid just thinking of Allah, so as to bring oneself closer to Allah (SWT). When one sins, one feels distant from Allah. That is why one might find it heard to read the Qur’aan and come to the masjid. However, the obedient worshipper feels closer to Allah and wants to worship Allah more, because he is not shy from his sins.

LESSON 3: Acquiring patience and strong will

Allah has mentioned patience more than seventy times in the Qur’aan and has commanded patience in more than sixteen ways in His Book. So when one fasts, and gives up one’s food and drink, and one’s marital sexual relations for those hours, one learns restraint and patience. This Ummah needs man and women that are strong willed, who can stand upon the Sunnah and the Book of Allah and not waver in front of the enemies of Allah. We do not need emotional people, who just raise slogans and shout, but when the time comes to stand upon something firm, they cannot do so, they waver.

LESSON 4: Striving for Ihsaan (righteousness and sincerity) and staying away from riyaa’ (showing off)

Ihsaan means to worship Allah as if one seeks Him, and even though one does not see Him, He sees all. Hasan al-Basree said, "By Allah, in the last twenty years, I have not said a word or taken something with my hand or refrained to take something with my hand or stepped forth or stepped back, except that I have thought before I have done any action, ‘Does Allah love this action? Is Allah pleased with this action?’ So when one is fasting, one should gain this quality of watching oneself and also staying away from riyaa’ (showing off). That is why Allah said in a hadeeth qudsee, "Fasting is for Me and I reward it." (al-Bukhaaree) Allah singles out fasting from all other types of worship saying, "Fasting is for Me", because no one knows whether you are fasting or not, except Allah. For example, when one is praying or giving charity or making tawaaaf, one can be seen by the people, so one might do the action seeking the praise of the people. Sufyaan ath-Thawree used to spend the nights and the days crying and the people used to ask him, "Why do you cry, is it due to the fear of Allah? He said, ‘No.’ They said, "Is it due to the fear of the Hellfire?" He said, ‘No. It is not the fear of Hellfire that makes me cry, what makes me cry is that I have been worshipping Allah all these years and doing scholarly teaching, and I am not certain that my intentions are purely for Allah.’"

LESSON 5: Refinement of manners, especially those related to truthfulness and discharging trusts.

The Prophet (may Allah send His blessing and peace upon him) said, "Whoever does not abandon falsehood in word and action, then Allah (SWT) has no need that he should heave his food and drink." (al-Bukhaaree) What we learn from this, is that we must pay attention to the purification of our manners. The Prophet (may Allah send His blessing and peace upon him) said, "was sent to perfect good manners." (Maalik) So we must check ourselves, are we following the behavior of the Prophet (may Allah send His blessing and peace upon him)? For example: Do we give salaam to those we don’t know and those we do know? Do we follow the manners of Islam, by telling the truth and only telling the truth? Are we sincere? Are we merciful to the creation?

LESSON 6: Recognizing that one can change for the better

The Prophet (may Allah send His blessing and peace upon him) said, "Every son of Adam sins and the best of the sinners are those who repent." (Ibn Maajah) Allah provides many opportunities to repent to Him and seek His forgiveness. If one was disobedient they can become obedient.

LESSON 7: Being more charitable

Ibn `Abbas said, "The Prophet (may Allah send His blessing and peace upon him) was the most charitable amongst the people, and he used to be more so in the month of Ramadan when Jibreel used to meet him on every night of Ramadan till the end of the month…" (al-Bukhaaree) The Prophet (may Allah send His blessing and peace upon him) said, "He who gives food for a fasting person to break his fast, he will receive the same reward as him, without nothing being reduced from the fasting person’s reward." (at-Tirmidhee)

LESSON 8: Sensing the unity of the Muslims

The Prophet (may Allah send His blessing and peace upon him) said, "…Those of you who will live after me will see many differences. Then you must cling to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly guided Khalifas. Hold fast to it and stick to it." (Abu Dawood) In this month we sense that there is a possibility for unity, because we all fast together, we break fast together, we all worship Allah together, and we pray Salaatul-`Eid together. Therefore we sense that the unity of Muslims is possible. It is possible for Muslims to be a single body, but this will only be achieved when obedience is only to Allah and His Messenger.

LESSON 9: Learning discipline

The Prophet (ma Allah send His blessing and peace upon him) made us adhere to discipline and strictness, strictness that does not lead to fanaticism or going outside the bounds that Allah has laid down. One cannot knowingly break the fast before the sunset, as this will not be accepted by Allah. Muslims should learn to be very strict in their lives, because they are people of an important message, which they mold their lives around.

LESSON 10: Teaching the young to worship Allah

It was the practice of the people of Madina, that during the fast of `Ashura (which is now a recommended fast of one day) to get their children to fast with them. When the children would cry of hunger and thirst, their parents would distract their attention by giving them some sort of toy to play with. The children would break their fast with their parents. (as mentioned in al-Bukhaaree).

So the young should be brought to the masjid and they should pray with their parents, so that they are able to get into the habit of becoming worshippers of Allah. If one does not encourage children to fast when they are young, they will find it very difficult to fast for thirty days at the age of puberty. This is why the Prophet (may Allah send His blessing and peace upon him) said, "Command your children to pray at the age of seven and beat them at the age of ten (if they do not pray." (Haakim)

LESSON 11: Caring
for one’s health

Fasting has many medical benefits and it teaches Muslims to take care of their health and too build strong bodies. The Prophet (may Allah send His blessing and peace upon him) said, "A strong believer is better and is more beloved to Allah than a weak believer, and there is good in everyone." (Muslim)

Source:
http://members.home.net/muslims/ramadan/benefits.htm

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Posted by on September 11, 2008 in Uncategorized

 

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Islamic legal rules of fasting


 

When the disciples of Jesus asked him how to cast the evil spirits away, he is reported to have said, “But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting.”

By: Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi
IslamiCity* –

What is Sawm (Fasting)?

Purpose of Fasting

Fasting Is Obligatory

Rules of Fasting

  1.  Who must fast?
  2.  Fasting According to the Sunnah
  3.  Things That Invalidate the Fast 
  4. Things That Do Not Invalidate Fasting 
  5. Requirements for Fasting to Be Valid

What is Sawm (Fasting)? 

The Arabic word for fasting is called “sawm” in the Quran. The word sawm literally means “to abstain”. Chapter Maryam of the Quran says that Mary the mother of Jesus said “I have vowed a “sawm” (fast) for the sake of the Merciful, so today I shall not speak to anyone.” [Quran 19:26].  According to Shariyah, the word sawm means to abstain from all those things that are forbidden during fasting from the break of dawn to the sunset, and to do this with the intention of fasting.

Purpose of Fasting

In chapter 2 verse 183 the Quran says, “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those who were before you, in order that you may learn taqwa (piety)”.

Taqwa is a very important spiritual and ethical term of the Quran. It is the sum total of all Islamic spirituality and ethics. It is a quality in a believer’s life that keeps him or her aware of God all the time. A person who has taqwa loves to do good and avoid evil for the sake of God. Taqwa is piety, righteousness and consciousness of God. Taqwa requires patience and perseverance. Fasting teaches patience, and with patience one can rise to the high position of taqwa.

The Prophet said that fasting is a shield. It protects a person from sin and lustful desires. When the disciples of Jesus asked him how to cast the evil spirits away, he is reported to have said, “But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21).

According to Imam Al Ghazali, fasting produces a semblance of divine quality of samadiyyah (freedom from want) in a human being. Imam Ibn Al Qayyim, viewed fasting as a means of releasing the human spirit from the clutches of desire, thus allowing moderation to prevail in the carnal self. Imam Shah Waliullah Dahlawi (d. 1762 C.E.) viewed fasting as a means of weakening the bestial and reinforcing the angelic elements in human beings. Maulana Mawdudi (d. 1979 C.E.) emphasized that fasting for a full month every year trains a person individually, and the Muslim community as a whole, in piety and self restraint.

Fasting Is Obligatory

In the second year of Hijrah, Muslims were commanded to fast in the month of Ramadan every year as mentioned in the verse above [Al-Baqarah 2:183]. The Quran further says “The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Quran, wherein is guidance for humankind and the clear signs of guidance and distinction. Thus whosoever among you witness the month must fast…” [Al-Baqarah 2:184].

Prophet Muhammad explained this further in a number of his statements reported in the books of Hadith. It is reported by Imam Al-Bukhari and Imam Muslim on the authority of Ibn Umar that the Messenger of God said, “Islam is built upon five pillars: testifying that there is no god except God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God, performing Prayer, paying the zakah, making the pilgrimage to the Sacred House (Hajj), and fasting during the month of Ramadan.” 

The entire Muslim world is unanimous in the principal of fasting in the month of Ramadan and considers it obligatory upon every person who is physicaly capable (mukallaf).

Rules of Fasting

A) Who must fast?

Muslims all over the world wait eagerly for Ramadan, as it is a time of increased inner peace and well-being.

Fasting in the month of Ramadan is obligatory upon every adult Muslim, male or female, who has reached puberty, is sane and who is not sick or traveling.

Sickness could be a temporary sickness from which a person expects to be cured soon. Such a person should not fast during the days of his or her sickness, but he or she must fast later after Ramadan to complete the missed days. Those who are sick with incurable illness and expect no better health are also allowed not to fast but they must pay the fidyah, which is giving a day’s meals for each fast missed to a needy person. Instead of food for one day one can also give equivalent amount of money to a needy person. Women in their menses and post-natal bleeding are not allowed to fast, but they must make up the fast later after Ramadan. If pregnant women and mothers who are nursing babies can also postpone their fasting to a later time when they are able to do so.

A travel according to the Shariah is any journey that takes you away from your city of residence, a minimum of 48 miles or 80 kilometers. The journey must be for a good cause. One must avoid frivolous travel during Ramadan which causes a person to miss fasting. If possible one should try to change their travel plans during Ramadan to be able to fast and should not travel unless it is necessary. The traveler who misses the fasts of Ramadan must make up those missed days later as soon as possible after Ramadan.

B) Fasting According to the Sunnah

1 – Take sahur (pre-dawn meal). It is Sunnah and there is a great reward and blessing in taking sahur. The best time for sahur is the last half hour before dawn or the time for Fajr prayer.

2 – Take iftar (break-fast) immediately after sunset. Shariah considers sunset when the disk of the sun goes below the horizon and disappears completely.

3 – During the fast, abstain from all false talks and deeds. Do not quarrel, have disputes, indulge in arguments, use bad words, or do anything that is forbidden. You should try to discipline yourself morally and ethically, besides gaining physical training and discipline. You should also not make a show of your fasting by talking too much about it, or by showing dry lips and a hungry stomach, or by showing a bad temper. The fasting person must be a pleasant person with good spirits and good cheer.

4 – During the fast, do acts of charity and goodness to others and increase your worship and reading of the Quran. Every one should try to read the whole Quran at least once during the month of Ramadan.

C) Things That Invalidate the Fast 

You must avoid doing anything that may render your fast invalid. Things that invalidate the fast and require qadaa’ (making up for these days) are the following:

1 – Eating, drinking or smoking deliberately, including taking any non-nourishing items by mouth or nose.

2 – Deliberately causing yourself to vomit.

3 – The beginning of menstrual or post-childbirth bleeding even in the last moment before sunset.

4 – Sexual intercourse or other sexual contact (or masturbation) that results in ejaculation (in men) or vaginal secretions (orgasm) in women. 

5 – Eating, drinking, smoking or having sexual intercourse after Fajr (dawn) on the mistaken assumption that it is not Fajr time yet. Similarly, engaging in these acts before Maghrib (sunset) on the mistaken assumption that it is already Maghrib time.

Sexual intercourse during fasting is forbidden. Those who engage in it must make both qadaa’ (make up the fasts) and kaffarah (expiation by fasting for 60 days after Ramadan or by feeding 60 poor people for each day of fast broken in this way). According to Imam Abu Hanifah, eating and/or drinking deliberately during fast also entail the same qadaa’ and kaffarah.

D) Things That Do Not Invalidate Fasting 

Using a miswak to clean your teeth does not invalidate fasting

During fast, the following things are permissible:

1 – Taking a bath or shower. If water is swallowed involuntarily it will not invalidate the fast. According to most of the jurists, swimming is also allowed in fasting, but one should avoid diving, because that will cause the water to go from the mouth or nose into the stomach. 

2 – Using perfumes, wearing contact lenses or using eye drops.

3 – Taking injections or having a blood test.

4 – Using miswak (tooth-stick) or toothbrush (even with tooth paste) and rinsing the mouth or nostrils with water, provided it is not overdone (so as to avoid swallowing water).

5 – Eating, drinking or smoking unintentionally, i.e., forgetting that one was fasting. But one must stop as soon as one remembers and should continue one’s fast.

6 – Sleeping during the daytime and having a wet-dream does not break one’s fast. Also, if one has intercourse during the night and was not able to make ghusl (bathe) before dawn, he or she can begin fast and make ghusl later. Women whose menstruation stops during the night may begin fasting even if they have not made ghusl yet. In all these cases, bathing (ghusl) is necessary but fast is valid even without bathing.

7 – Kissing between husband and wife is allowed in fasting, but one should try to avoid it so that one may not do anything further that is forbidden during the fast.

E) Requirements for Fasting to Be Valid

There are basically two main components of fasting:

1 – The intention (niyyah) for fasting. One should make a sincere intention to fast for the sake of God every day before dawn. The intention need not be in words, but must be with the sincerity of the heart and mind. Some jurists are of the opinion that the intention can be made once only for the whole month and does not have to be repeated every day. It is, however, better to make intention every day to take full benefit of fasting.

2 – Abstaining from dawn to dusk from everything that invalidates fasting as mentioned above.

Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi is the imam and director of the Islamic Society of Orange County, California, USA and former president of the Islamic Society of North America.

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2007 in Articles

 

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The Fasting of Ramadan: A Time for Thought, Action, and Change!


 

The institution of fasting is both unique and a shared experience in human history. From the very beginning of time, humans have struggled to master their physical and psychological selves: their bodies and their emotions.

By: Taha Ghayyur & Taha Ghaznavi
The Medium, University of Toronto, Mississauga* –

“Fasting in Ramadan develops in a person the real spirit of social belonging, of unity and brotherhood, and of equality before God. This spirit is the natural product of the fact that when people fast they feel that they are joining the whole Muslim society (which makes up more than one fifth of world’s population) in observing the same duty, in the same manner, at the same time, for the same motives, and for the same end. No sociologist or historian can say that there has been at any period of history anything comparable to this powerful institution of Islam: Fasting in the month of Ramadan. People have been crying throughout the ages for acceptable ‘belonging’, for unity, for brotherhood, for equality, but how echoless their voices have been, and how very little success they have met…” says Hammudah Abdalati, in Islam in Focus.

“What is fasting?” “How does the fasting of Muslims in Ramadan differ from the fasting of other faiths?” “Why should one ‘torture’ one’s body in the first place?” “What do you really gain from fasting in the end?”…These are a few questions that a number of non-Muslim friends and colleagues often ask us, usually out of fascination with this spiritually-uplifting practice of Islamic faith, and at times out of pity and sympathy for us, thinking, why should anyone suffer from hunger and thirst like Muslims? I wouldn’t be surprised if many of us shared the same negative perception of Fasting.

It is important to note that Fasting in Arabic is called, “Sawm”, which literally means ‘to be at rest’. Fasting in the month of Ramadan (the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar) is one of the Five Pillars upon which the “house” of Islam is built. During this month, every able-bodied Muslim, is required to fast, everyday from dawn until dusk

12 Reasons To Fast!
1. Fasting is an institution for the improvement of moral and spiritual character of human being. The purpose of the fast is to help develop self-restraint, self-purification, God-consciousness, compassion, the spirit of caring and sharing, the love of humanity and the love of God. Fasting is a universal custom and is advocated by all the religions of the world, with more restrictions in some than in others. The Islamic Fast, as opposed to mere starvation or self-denial, is an act of worship and obedience to God, thanksgiving, forgiveness, spiritual training, and self-examination. 

2. Ramadan gives us a break and provides us with a rare opportunity to think about our own selves, our future, and our families. It is a time to give our selves a mental break and to temporarily forget about the hundreds of worries and stresses we are constantly bombarded with. In hectic times, such as ours, and in places like the West, this valuable time to think about our lives, on individual basis, is a luxury and is desperately needed! It is a unique month of self-analysis, and of taking stock of one’s moral and spiritual ‘assets and liabilities’.

3. Fasting indoctrinates us in patience, unselfishness, and gratitude. When we fast we feel the pains of deprivation and hunger, and learn how to endure it patiently. The meaning of this powerful experience in a social and humanitarian context is that we are much quicker than anybody else in sympathizing with the oppressed and needy around the world, and responding to their needs. “It is the month to visit the poor, the sick, and the needy to share their sorrows. It is the month where the food, sustenance and the earnings of a believing Muslim increases and they are blessed,” says the Final Prophet of God, Muhammad (peace be upon him), a man who was known for his noble humanitarian causes, for social justice, and for being the first to respond to other’s needs, despite the fact that he himself lived a very simple and humble life. It is only during such a trying time as Ramadan that we can reflect on the condition of those in this world who may not be as fortunate as us.

4. Fasting in Ramadan enables us to master the art of mature adaptability and Time-Management. We can easily understand this point when we realize that fasting makes people change the entire course of their daily life. When they make the change, they naturally adapt themselves to a new system and schedule, and move along to satisfy the rules. This, in the long run, develops in them a wise sense of adaptability and self-created power to overcome the unpredictable hardships of life! A person who values constructive adaptability, time-management, and courage will appreciate the effects of Fasting in this respect as well.

5. It cultivates in us the principle of sincere Love, because when we observe Fasting, we do it out of deep love for God. And a person, who loves God, truly is a person who knows what love is and why everyone on this Earth should be loved and treated justly, for the sake of God.

6. Fasting elevates the human spirit and increases our awareness of God. It strengthens our will-power as we learn to rise above our lower desires. The institution of fasting is both unique and a shared experience in human history. From the very beginning of time, humans have struggled to master their physical and psychological selves: their bodies and their emotions. Hunger is one the most powerful urges that we experience. Many, through over- or under-eating or consumption of unhealthy foods, abuse this urge. Thus, when a person purposefully denies something to their own self that it craves, they are elevating their mind above their body, and their reason and will above their carnal passions. “A fasting person empties his stomach of all the material things: to fill his soul with peace and blessings, to fill his heart with love and sympathy, to fill his spirit with piety and Faith, to fill his mind with wisdom and resolution,” says H. Abdalati in Islam in Focus. The person who can rule their desires and make them work, as they like, has attained true moral excellence.

7. With the clarity of mind and absence of distractions, also comes a greater focus. As students, the period of fasting, especially early during the day, serves as a tool to focus our minds on our academics. In the month of Ramadan, many Muslims try to avoid watching TV, listening to music, and some other leisure activities, which spares them more time and energy to be spent on more productive activities such as academics, intense study of Islam, voluntary prayers, social and humanitarian causes, and a quality time with the family, to name a few. It is a reminder of our duty to God, our purpose and higher values in life, as God Himself describes the purpose of fasting as follows, “O you who Believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may develop consciousness of God” (Quran 2:183).

8. Fasting has numerous, scientifically proven, benefits for our physical health and mental well-being. The time, length and nature of the Islamic Fast all contribute to its overall positive effect. One of the medical benefits is a much-needed rest to the digestive system. The reduced food intake during the day allows the body to concentrate on getting rid of harmful dietary toxins accumulated as natural by-products of food digestion throughout the year. The length of the Islamic Fast itself (around 12-14 hours) is in sync with the ‘transit time’ of food from the mouth to the colon of the large intestine, ensuring that no stimulus reaches the stomach or digestive system while it remains in homeostasis. Therefore, for the vast majority of healthy individuals fasting poses no medical risks but in fact provides many health benefits, such as: an increase in serum Magnesium, essential for cardio-vascular health and prevention of heart complications; improvement in the quality and depth of sleep; improvement in memory and slower skin aging over time; increased production of growth hormone, etc. Also, as a general note, it has been observed that underfed animals live longer than their heavily fed counterparts and suffer fewer illnesses during their lives. 

9. The month of Ramadan provides us with a sort of “Boot camp.” It is a month of intense moral training. Since we know that Fasting is a special duty prescribed by God, we learn that any sins may spoil our record of fasting with God, so we go through great lengths making sure we are on our best behavior. Many people who experience fasting in this month, feel the impact that this intense training has on their habits, and realize the power of this transformative tool designed to make us better human beings- the ultimate goal of any spiritual exercise. The entire Ramadan atmosphere provides the driving force for this positive change.

10. It makes us realize the reality of life and death. Fasting makes us realize how dependant our lives are on things that we often take for granted, such as food and water. It makes us think about our dependence on God and God’s mercy and justice. Moreover, it reminds us of the life after death, which itself has a great impact on our character and our world-view.

11. Ramadan is a blessed month for a special reason: It is actually the month in which God first revealed His final message and guidance for mankind to our beloved Prophet Muhammad. This message has been perfectly preserved both orally and textually in the form of a Book, called the Qur’an (The Reading/Recital). Therefore, Muslims try to do an intense study of the Quran in this month especially, and evaluate their lives according to the standards and guidance contained in it.

12. After the month of Ramadan is over, Muslims celebrate one of the two most important holidays in the Islamic year: EID-UL-FITR, or the Festival of the Fast Breaking. It is a day to thank God for the blessing and training that He provides us with throughout the month of Ramadan. EID-UL-FITR is marked by praying in a huge congregation at an Islamic center or mosque, and by giving a small donation to the poor in the community. The adults give the donation on behalf of their children as well. Dinner parties, family outings, fairs, carnivals, and great joyous celebrations follow the prayer and charity. 

In a nutshell, even though the real purpose of the dynamic institution of Fasting is to discipline our soul and moral behavior, and to develop sympathy for the less fortunate, it is a multi-functional and a comprehensive tool of change in various spheres of our lives, including: social and economic, intellectual and humanitarian, spiritual and physical, private and public, personal and common, inner and outer —all in one!

May Allah grant us all the tawfeek of fasting in the holy month of Ramadan and at other times through the year. Ameen.

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2007 in Articles

 

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The Fasting of Ramadan: A Time for Thought, Action, and Change!


 

The institution of fasting is both unique and a shared experience in human history. From the very beginning of time, humans have struggled to master their physical and psychological selves: their bodies and their emotions.

By: Taha Ghayyur & Taha Ghaznavi
The Medium, University of Toronto, Mississauga* –

“Fasting in Ramadan develops in a person the real spirit of social belonging, of unity and brotherhood, and of equality before God. This spirit is the natural product of the fact that when people fast they feel that they are joining the whole Muslim society (which makes up more than one fifth of world’s population) in observing the same duty, in the same manner, at the same time, for the same motives, and for the same end. No sociologist or historian can say that there has been at any period of history anything comparable to this powerful institution of Islam: Fasting in the month of Ramadan. People have been crying throughout the ages for acceptable ‘belonging’, for unity, for brotherhood, for equality, but how echoless their voices have been, and how very little success they have met…” says Hammudah Abdalati, in Islam in Focus.

“What is fasting?” “How does the fasting of Muslims in Ramadan differ from the fasting of other faiths?” “Why should one ‘torture’ one’s body in the first place?” “What do you really gain from fasting in the end?”…These are a few questions that a number of non-Muslim friends and colleagues often ask us, usually out of fascination with this spiritually-uplifting practice of Islamic faith, and at times out of pity and sympathy for us, thinking, why should anyone suffer from hunger and thirst like Muslims? I wouldn’t be surprised if many of us shared the same negative perception of Fasting.

It is important to note that Fasting in Arabic is called, “Sawm”, which literally means ‘to be at rest’. Fasting in the month of Ramadan (the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar) is one of the Five Pillars upon which the “house” of Islam is built. During this month, every able-bodied Muslim, is required to fast, everyday from dawn until dusk

12 Reasons To Fast!
1. Fasting is an institution for the improvement of moral and spiritual character of human being. The purpose of the fast is to help develop self-restraint, self-purification, God-consciousness, compassion, the spirit of caring and sharing, the love of humanity and the love of God. Fasting is a universal custom and is advocated by all the religions of the world, with more restrictions in some than in others. The Islamic Fast, as opposed to mere starvation or self-denial, is an act of worship and obedience to God, thanksgiving, forgiveness, spiritual training, and self-examination. 

2. Ramadan gives us a break and provides us with a rare opportunity to think about our own selves, our future, and our families. It is a time to give our selves a mental break and to temporarily forget about the hundreds of worries and stresses we are constantly bombarded with. In hectic times, such as ours, and in places like the West, this valuable time to think about our lives, on individual basis, is a luxury and is desperately needed! It is a unique month of self-analysis, and of taking stock of one’s moral and spiritual ‘assets and liabilities’.

3. Fasting indoctrinates us in patience, unselfishness, and gratitude. When we fast we feel the pains of deprivation and hunger, and learn how to endure it patiently. The meaning of this powerful experience in a social and humanitarian context is that we are much quicker than anybody else in sympathizing with the oppressed and needy around the world, and responding to their needs. “It is the month to visit the poor, the sick, and the needy to share their sorrows. It is the month where the food, sustenance and the earnings of a believing Muslim increases and they are blessed,” says the Final Prophet of God, Muhammad (peace be upon him), a man who was known for his noble humanitarian causes, for social justice, and for being the first to respond to other’s needs, despite the fact that he himself lived a very simple and humble life. It is only during such a trying time as Ramadan that we can reflect on the condition of those in this world who may not be as fortunate as us.

4. Fasting in Ramadan enables us to master the art of mature adaptability and Time-Management. We can easily understand this point when we realize that fasting makes people change the entire course of their daily life. When they make the change, they naturally adapt themselves to a new system and schedule, and move along to satisfy the rules. This, in the long run, develops in them a wise sense of adaptability and self-created power to overcome the unpredictable hardships of life! A person who values constructive adaptability, time-management, and courage will appreciate the effects of Fasting in this respect as well.

5. It cultivates in us the principle of sincere Love, because when we observe Fasting, we do it out of deep love for God. And a person, who loves God, truly is a person who knows what love is and why everyone on this Earth should be loved and treated justly, for the sake of God.

6. Fasting elevates the human spirit and increases our awareness of God. It strengthens our will-power as we learn to rise above our lower desires. The institution of fasting is both unique and a shared experience in human history. From the very beginning of time, humans have struggled to master their physical and psychological selves: their bodies and their emotions. Hunger is one the most powerful urges that we experience. Many, through over- or under-eating or consumption of unhealthy foods, abuse this urge. Thus, when a person purposefully denies something to their own self that it craves, they are elevating their mind above their body, and their reason and will above their carnal passions. “A fasting person empties his stomach of all the material things: to fill his soul with peace and blessings, to fill his heart with love and sympathy, to fill his spirit with piety and Faith, to fill his mind with wisdom and resolution,” says H. Abdalati in Islam in Focus. The person who can rule their desires and make them work, as they like, has attained true moral excellence.

7. With the clarity of mind and absence of distractions, also comes a greater focus. As students, the period of fasting, especially early during the day, serves as a tool to focus our minds on our academics. In the month of Ramadan, many Muslims try to avoid watching TV, listening to music, and some other leisure activities, which spares them more time and energy to be spent on more productive activities such as academics, intense study of Islam, voluntary prayers, social and humanitarian causes, and a quality time with the family, to name a few. It is a reminder of our duty to God, our purpose and higher values in life, as God Himself describes the purpose of fasting as follows, “O you who Believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may develop consciousness of God” (Quran 2:183).

8. Fasting has numerous, scientifically proven, benefits for our physical health and mental well-being. The time, length and nature of the Islamic Fast all contribute to its overall positive effect. One of the medical benefits is a much-needed rest to the digestive system. The reduced food intake during the day allows the body to concentrate on getting rid of harmful dietary toxins accumulated as natural by-products of food digestion throughout the year. The length of the Islamic Fast itself (around 12-14 hours) is in sync with the ‘transit time’ of food from the mouth to the colon of the large intestine, ensuring that no stimulus reaches the stomach or digestive system while it remains in homeostasis. Therefore, for the vast majority of healthy individuals fasting poses no medical risks but in fact provides many health benefits, such as: an increase in serum Magnesium, essential for cardio-vascular health and prevention of heart complications; improvement in the quality and depth of sleep; improvement in memory and slower skin aging over time; increased production of growth hormone, etc. Also, as a general note, it has been observed that underfed animals live longer than their heavily fed counterparts and suffer fewer illnesses during their lives. 

9. The month of Ramadan provides us with a sort of “Boot camp.” It is a month of intense moral training. Since we know that Fasting is a special duty prescribed by God, we learn that any sins may spoil our record of fasting with God, so we go through great lengths making sure we are on our best behavior. Many people who experience fasting in this month, feel the impact that this intense training has on their habits, and realize the power of this transformative tool designed to make us better human beings- the ultimate goal of any spiritual exercise. The entire Ramadan atmosphere provides the driving force for this positive change.

10. It makes us realize the reality of life and death. Fasting makes us realize how dependant our lives are on things that we often take for granted, such as food and water. It makes us think about our dependence on God and God’s mercy and justice. Moreover, it reminds us of the life after death, which itself has a great impact on our character and our world-view.

11. Ramadan is a blessed month for a special reason: It is actually the month in which God first revealed His final message and guidance for mankind to our beloved Prophet Muhammad. This message has been perfectly preserved both orally and textually in the form of a Book, called the Qur’an (The Reading/Recital). Therefore, Muslims try to do an intense study of the Quran in this month especially, and evaluate their lives according to the standards and guidance contained in it.

12. After the month of Ramadan is over, Muslims celebrate one of the two most important holidays in the Islamic year: EID-UL-FITR, or the Festival of the Fast Breaking. It is a day to thank God for the blessing and training that He provides us with throughout the month of Ramadan. EID-UL-FITR is marked by praying in a huge congregation at an Islamic center or mosque, and by giving a small donation to the poor in the community. The adults give the donation on behalf of their children as well. Dinner parties, family outings, fairs, carnivals, and great joyous celebrations follow the prayer and charity. 

In a nutshell, even though the real purpose of the dynamic institution of Fasting is to discipline our soul and moral behavior, and to develop sympathy for the less fortunate, it is a multi-functional and a comprehensive tool of change in various spheres of our lives, including: social and economic, intellectual and humanitarian, spiritual and physical, private and public, personal and common, inner and outer —all in one!

May Allah grant us all the tawfeek of fasting in the holy month of Ramadan and at other times through the year. Ameen.

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2007 in Articles

 

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Fasting according to the Quran

 


 

Fasting in Ramadan has not only been declared an act of worship and devotion and a means to nourish piety but has also been characterized as an act of gratefulness to God ..

By: Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi
IslamiCity* –

Believers! Fasting is enjoined upon you, as it was enjoined upon those before you, that you become God fearing. 1 Quran 2:183 –  Fasting is for a fixed number of days, and if one of you be sick, or if one of you be on a journey, you will fast the same number of other days later on. For those who are capable of fasting (but still do not fast) there is a redemption: feeding a needy man for each day missed. Whoever, voluntarily, does more good than is required, will find it is better for him; 2 and that you should fast is better for you, if you only know. 3 2:184 – During the month of Ramadan the Qur’an was sent down as a guidance to the people with clear signs of the true guidance, and as the Criterion (between right and wrong). So those of you who live to see that month should fast it, and whoever is sick or on a journey should fast the same number of other days instead. Allah wants ease and not hardship for you so that you may complete the number of days required, 4 magnify Allah for what He has guided you to, and give thanks to Him. 5 2:185 

  1. Like most other injunctions of Islam those relating to fasting were revealed gradually. In the beginning the Prophet had instructed the Muslims to fast three days in every month, though this was not obligatory. When the injunction in the present verse was later revealed in 2 A.H., a degree of relaxation was introduced: it was stipulated that those who did not fast despite their capacity to endure it were obliged to feed one poor person as an expiation for each day of obligatory fasting missed (see verse 184). Another injunction was revealed later (see verse 185) and here the relaxation in respect of able-bodied persons was revoked. However, for the sick, the traveler, the pregnant, the breast-feeding women and the aged who could not endure fasting, the relaxation was retained.

    (See Bukhari, `Tafsir al-Qur’an’, 25; Tirmidhi, ‘Sawm’, 21; Nasa’i, `Siyam’, 51, 62, 64; Ibn Majah, `Siyam’, 12; Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 3, p. 104; vol. 4, pp. 347 and 418; vol. 5, p. 29 – Ed.)

  2. This act of extra merit could either be feeding more than the one person required or both fasting and feeding the poor.

  3. Here ends the early injunction with regard to fasting which was revealed in 2 A.H. prior to the Battle of Badr. The verses that follow were revealed about one year later and are linked with the preceding verses since they deal with the same subject.

  4. Whether a person should or should not fast while on a journey is left to individual discretion. We find that among the Companions who accompanied the Prophet on journeys some fasted whereas others did not; none objected to the conduct of another. The Prophet himself did not always fast when traveling. On one journey a person was so overwhelmed by hunger that he collapsed; the Prophet disapproved when he learned that the man had been fasting. During wars the Prophet used to prevent people from fasting so that they would not lack energy for the fight. It has been reported by ‘Umar that two military expeditions took place in the month of Ramadan. The first was the Battle of Badr and the second the conquest of Makka. On both occasions the Companions abstained from fasting, and, according to Ibn ‘Umar, on the occasion of the conquest of Makka the Prophet proclaimed that people should not fast since it was a day of fighting. In other Traditions the Prophet is reported to have said that people should not fast when they had drawn close. to the enemy, since abstention from fasting would lead to greater strength.

    (See Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 3, p. 329, and vol. 5, pp. 205 and 209; Darimi, `Sawm’, 41; Muslim, `Siyam’, 92; Nasa’i, `Siyam’, 47; Bukhari, `Maghazi’, 71; Muslim, `Siyam’, 102; Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 3, pp. 21, 35, .46; Tirmidhi, ‘Sawm’, 18; Nasa’i, `Siyam’, 52; Bukhari, `Jihad’, 29; Muslim, `Siyam’, 98; Abu Da’ud, ‘Sawm’, 42; Muslim, `Siyam’, 102, 103, 105; Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 2, 99; Tirmidhi, ‘Sawm’, 19 – Ed.)

    The duration of a journey for which it becomes permissible for a person to abstain from fasting is not absolutely clear from any statement of the Prophet.

    (cf. relevant Traditions Abu Da’ud, ‘Sawm’, 46, 47; Nasa’i, `Siyam’, 54, 55; Malik, Muwatta’, `Siyam’, 21, 27 – Ed.)

    In addition the practice of the Companions was not uniform. It would seem that any journey which is commonly regarded as such, and which is attended by the circumstances generally associated with traveling, should be deemed sufficient justification for not fasting.

    Jurists agree that one does not have to fast on the day of commencing a journey; one may eat either at the point of departure or after the actual journey has commenced. Either course is sanctioned by the practice of the Companions. Jurists, however, are not agreed as to whether or not the residents of a city under attack may abstain from fasting even though they are not actually traveling. Ibn Taymiyah favors the permissibility of abstention from fasting and supports his view with very forceful arguments.

  5. This indicates that fasting need not be confined, exclusively, to Ramadan. For those who fail to fast during that month owing to some legitimate reason God has kept the door of compensation open during other months of the year so that they need not be deprived of the opportunity to express their gratitude to Him for His great bounty in revealing the Qur’an.

    It should be noted here that fasting in Ramadan has not only been declared an act of worship and devotion and a means to nourish piety but has also been characterized as an act of gratefulness to God for His great bounty of true guidance in the form of the Qur’an. In fact, the best way of expressing gratitude for someone’s bounty or benevolence is to prepare oneself, to the best of one’s ability, to achieve the purpose for which that bounty has been bestowed. The Qur’an has been revealed so that we may know the way that leads to God’s good pleasure, follow that way ourselves and direct the world along it. Fasting is an excellent means by which to prepare ourselves for shouldering this task. Hence fasting during the month of the revelation of the Qur’an is more than an act of worship and more than an excellent course of moral training; it is also an appropriate form for the expression of our thankfulness to God for the bounty of the Qur’an.

Excerpted from “Towards Understanding the Qur’an”. Translated and edited by Zafar Ishaq Ansari. English version of Tafhim al-Qur’an by Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi.

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2007 in Articles

 

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