What is fasting in Islam?

The Arabic word “sawm” used for “fasting” means “holding.” Sawm is an obligatory act of worship in Islam, which means keeping oneself from eating, drinking, sexual intercourse and other specific activities from dawn to sunset throughout the lunar month of Ramadan, wherein the Qur’an was first revealed to Muhammad. Doing so allows one to better control corrupting desires and ego, increasing his/her taqwah (Baqarah 2:183).

Fasting, thus, means holding oneself in check. Whatever befalls a human, it happens because he failed to hold himself in check. Sin and subsequent punishment rest on one’s inability to hold anger, ego, lusts, tongue and limbs and psychological conditions in check.

Islamic fasting is keeping the body away from food and other worldly pleasures to enrich spirit with fear and consciousness of Allah.

The purpose is highlighting the secondary-level priority of the material aspects of one’s life. The top-level priority, of course, is that aspect of life, which reasons, thinks, remembers, heeds, values and separates good from evil.

Why is the body enlivened by abstaining From food in the Qur’an’s “birth month?”

The process of comprehending the true meanings of revelation takes place in our reasoning hearts, not physical bodies. The right path toward the truly correct meanings of the Qur’an can only be walked with feet and legs of our mind and reason, not our physical limbs.

Therefore, Ramadan, wherein the Qur’an was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad, is a month of worship aiming at enriching one’s soul and spirit, not body. 

Why do Muslims spend the month of Ramadan fasting?

The following âyah on fasting is the best answer to this question: “It was the month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was [first] bestowed from on high as a guidance unto man and a self-evident proof of that guidance, and as the standard by which to discern the true from the false. Hence, whoever of you lives to see this month shall fast throughout it; but he that is ill, or on a journey, [shall fast instead for the same] number of other days. Allah wills that you shall have ease, and does not will you to suffer hardship; but [He desires] that you complete the number [of days required], and that you extol Allah for His having guided you aright, and that you render your thanks [unto Him]” (Baqarah 2:185)

This âyah clearly and unequivocally shows the reason why Ramadan is an exceptional and extraordinary month. The revelation of the Qur’an commenced in Ramadan, which is further supported in the first âyah of Surah Al-Qadr (Destiny).

The Qur’an “was born” in the month of Ramadan, and the night it “was born” in is the Night of Destiny (or Power). The Qur’an speaks about it in the âyah 185 of Surah Al-Baqarah (Cow) and elaborates in Surah Al-Qadr: “Behold, from on high have We bestowed this [divine writ] on Night of Destiny. And what could make thee conceive what it is, that Night of Destiny? The Night of Destiny is better than a thousand months: in hosts descend in it the angels, bearing divine inspiration by their Sustainer’s leave; from all [evil] that may happen does it make secure, until the rise of dawn.” (Qadr 97:1-5)

What are the times of starting and breaking one’s fast?

The following âyah establishes the fasting start and finish times: “Eat and drink until you can discern the white streak of dawn against the blackness of night, and then resume fasting until nightfall.” (Baqarah 2:187)

Did Prophet Muhammad institute fasting?

The following âyah contains the best answer to this question: “O you who have attained to faith! Fasting is ordained for you as it was ordained for those before you, so that you might remain conscious of Allah.” (Baqarah 2:183)

What do those unable to fast do?

In such a case, “Whoever of you is ill, or on a journey, [shall fast instead for the same] number of other days; and [in such cases] it is incumbent upon those who can afford it to make sacrifice by feeding a needy person. And whoever does more good than he is bound to do does good unto himself thereby; for to fast is to do good unto yourselves – if you but knew it.” (Baqarah 2:184)

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