Fasting is one of the five fundamental pillars in Islam.Fasting helps in gaining perfection in all activities of our worldly life. The injunction about fasting was revealed in the second Hijra of Islam in Madinah Al-Munawara. It introduced therein the method, regularity, and meaning which made it perfect and ever-living. Like prayer, the institution of fasting is kept alive as it is observed every year in the Islamic world and forms the regulating principle of their lives. Fasting was previously resorted to as a sign of grief of mourning or for commemoration of a great event. The underlying idea was to propitiate an angry Allah (SWT). Islam abolished this pantheistic idea and introduced a highly developed significance. The Holy Qur’an says in this regard:
“The object is that you may guard against evil…” (2:183)
In other words, the main objective of fasting is to generate power in human body and mind which can control unruly passion just as a beast is brought under control by keeping it occasionally hungry and then by giving it food. The same principle has been expressed by the following Hadith of the Prophet (SAW):
“Who is not able (to marry) keep fast, and verily it is (as it were) castration for him” (Nasai)
There are many traditions related to the virtues and merits that a man can achieve from Allah (SWT) by fasting during the month of Ramadan. In this month, the doors of mercy, forgiveness and kindness are specially opened and the doors of punishments are closed. Therefore, whosoever wishes to have these blessings will at once take up to fasting at the advent of this month. It is stated in the Hadith-e-Qudsee that Allah (SWT) says:
“It is for Me and I shall certainly compensate it.” The Prophet (SAW) also stated, “The fragrance of the mouth of a fasting man is more pleasant to Allah (SWT) than the smell of musk”. (Mishkat).
Hazrat Abu Hurairah (RA) reported that the Prophet (SAW) said: “When Ramadan comes, the doors of heaven are opened. (in another narration: the doors of paradise are opened), (in another narration: the doors of mercy are opened) and the doors of hell are shut up and the devils are put under chains “.(Bukhari & Muslim)
Hazrat Abu Hurairah (RA) reported that the Prophet (SAW) said: “Whosoever fasts in Ramadan out of faith and hopeful of reward, all his past sins will be forgiven; and whosoever stands up (in prayer) in Ramadan out of faith and hopeful of reward, all his past sins will be forgiven and whosoever stands up (in prayer) at the Blessed Night out of faith and hopeful of reward, all his past sins will be forgiven. (Bukhari & Muslim)
It is related on the authority of Sahl bin Saa’d (RA) that the Prophet (SAW) said: “There is a special Gate of Paradise, which is known as Rayyan (and) only those who observe fasting will be allowed to enter through it on the Day of Resurrection. On that day, itwill be called, ‘Where are the bondsmen who used to fast for the sake of Allah (SWT) and endure the pangs
of hunger and thirst?’ Such of the bondsmen will respond to the call and save them, no one will be permitted to enter by this gate. When they have entered paradise through this gate, it will be shut, (and), after it, no one will be able to enter by it.” (Mishkat)
It is related on the authority of Abdullah bin Umar (RA) that the Prophet (SAW) said: “The fast and the Holy Qur’an will both plead on behalf of the bondsman (who will keep fast in the day and recite or listen attentively to the recital of the Holy Qur’an in the night, standing in the presence of the Lord). The fast will say: ‘My lord! I had held him back from food, drink and sexual satisfaction. Accept my intercession for him today (and treat him with mercy and forgiveness)’. And the Holy Qur’an will say: ‘I had held him back from taking rest and sleeping in the night. O Allah (SWT)! Accept my intercession for him today (and treat him with mercy and forgiveness)’. The intercession of both, the fast and the Holy Qur’an will be accepted for the bondsman and he will be treated with exceptional kindness.”(Baihaqi)
It is related by Hazrat Abu Hurairah (RA) that the Prophet (SAW) said: “The reward on every virtuous deed is increased from ten to seven hundred times (i.e., the general principle of Divine recompense on all the good deeds of the Muslims be ten times as compared to earlier communities, and, bondsmen will receive seven hundred times of reward on their virtuous acts), but the standing command of Allah (SWT) (about fasting) is that “… the fast is an exception. It is a special gift of the bondsman for Me and I shall reward him directly for it (as I please). The bondsman forgoes food and drink solely for My sake. (I shall, therefore, recompense him for the sacrifice according to My pleasure).”
“There are two moments of special joy for the man who fasts. One is when he breaks the fast, and this he experiences in his earthly existence, and the other will be in the Hereafter when he will be presented before the Lord; and I swear that the bad odour emanating from the mouth of a person who is fasting (which is generally due to an empty stomach) is more pleasant in the judgement of Allah (SWT) than the sweet smell of musk; and fast is a shield (for protection in this world against the assaults of the Devil, and, in the Hereafter, against the Fire of Hell; and when anyone of you keeps a fast, he must not utter a filthy or indecent word nor engage in a noisy scene, and were anyone to quarrel with him names he should simply say, ‘I am keeping fast’.” (Bukhari and Muslim).
Benefits of Fasting
In fact, benefits of fasting are endless. Few of them are listed below based on the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Fasting helps in gaining Taqwa (Fearness and love of Allah (SWT)). Allah (SWT)
legislated fasting for gaining Taqwa through the following verse of the Holy Qur’an.
o “O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed upon you as it has
been prescribed upon those before you, so that you may attain Taqwa.” (2:183)
o Taqwa in this case means to make a shield between oneself and Allah (SWT)’s anger and hellfire. So we should ask ourselves, when we break our fasts, ‘Has this fasting day made us fear and love Allah (SWT) more? Has it resulted that we want to protect ourselves from the hellfire or not?
Fasting helps in striving for Ihsaan (righteousness and sincerity) and staying away from riyaa’ (showing off). Ihsaan means to worship Allah (SWT) as if one sees Him, and even though one does not see Him, He sees all. Hasan al-Basree said, “By Allah (SWT), 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 (SWT) love this action? Is Allah (SWT) 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 (SWT) said in a Hadith-e-Qudsee, “Fasting is for Me and I reward it.” (Bukhari) Allah (SWT) 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 (SWT).
Fasting helps to be more charitable. Ibn Abaas (RA) said, “The Prophet (SAW) was the most charitable amongst the people, and he used to be more so in the Holy month of Ramadan (Bukhari). The Prophet (SAW) 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.” (Tirmidhi)
Fasting teaches sympathy for the hungry. Fasting is the only thing which gives a sense of pangs of a hungry man in the mind of the rich. Thus this sense creates a spirit of kindness to the poor and the distressed. It also gives rise to the thought of how the people will fare on the resurrection day when they will feel the greatest urge of hunger and thirst.
We should treat Ramadan as a spiritual not as a ritual. We should not fast just because everyone else is fasting around us. It is a time to make dua, to purify our hearts and souls from all evil deeds. It is the proper time to ask forgiveness to our Lord, not just stay away from food and drinks.we should not give much stress on food during the month of Ramadan. Some people spend the whole day for planning, cooking, shopping and thinking about only food, instead of concentrating on Salaah, studying Qur’an and Hadith, giving charity to the poor and needy and other acts of worship. We should not turn Ramadan from month of fasting to month of feasting.We should should not spend our entire day for cooking and preparing food. Some of our sisters spend a lot of time for cooking throughout the day and even at night, which makes them tired. As a result, they can’t even perform Isha and Taraweeh prayers on time, or even read Qur’an. So, we should try to turn off our stove and turn on our Imaan during this Holy month of Ramadan. we should not waste our valuable time. The time is very precious during the month of Ramadan, because this month comes only once a year. Therefore, we should spend as much time as possible on doing good deeds, performing prayers, reading Qur’an and Hadith, making dua and zikr, helping other Muslim non-Muslim brothers and sisters, etc.we must pray if we fast. If someone fasts but doesn’t pray, it is totally a contradiction. In such case how can we expect that person’s fasting will be accepted. Also, for women, it is strongly recommended to wear the Hijab if she is fasting, because there are rewards for it.
Last but not least, we should not waste the last part of Ramadan for Eid preparations and shopping. Last part of Ramadan is very important in terms of worship, more and more supplications for getting mercy and forgiveness from Allah SWT but many of us spend this valuable time on Eid preparations and shopping only. This practice should be stopped. Eid preparations and shopping can be done earlier. Furthermore, we should pay our Fitra to the poor and needy before going to Eid prayer.
Aaqib Rashid Shah
The author is the Research scholar Physics at NIT Srinagar