What is fasting as prescribed by Islam?
Fasting is a form of training to refrain from all
wrong-doing by learning to control one's desires. It consists of giving up, for a fixed
period of time, the most basic urges which human beings have, i.e. the urge to satisfy
hunger, thirst and sexual desire, and devoting oneself to serving and helping others while
disregarding one's own needs.
How is fasting done in Islam?
During the month known as Ramadaan in the Islamic calendar,
every day from the start of daylight in the early morning till sunset, one must not eat or
drink (or have sexual relations). You take a meal while it is still dark just before dawn
breaks, and then do not eat or drink anything at all until sunset when the fast ends.
During the hours of fasting, extra effort must be made to be kind, generous and helping to
others, and to avoid doing anything bad or harmful to other people.
Does every Muslim have to fast in
Every healthy adult Muslim man or woman must fast during
Ramadaan. Those who happen to fall ill or be on a journey during any part of this month do
not have to fast on those days and should complete the missed fasts after Ramadaan. People
who are permanently unable to fast, or those whose reasons for not fasting are prolonged,
such as the very old, the longterm ill, and women who are pregnant or feeding babies,
etc., can give in charity instead of fasting. This charity consists, at the least, of
giving a day's food to one poor person for every fast missed.
How does fasting enable us to give up
the bad desires which lead to wrong-doing?
During the fast, a person feels the urge to have something
to eat or drink, but he withstands this strongest of all desires, in obedience to God.
This daily training, for a month, exercises and strengthens his ability to control bad
desires in everyday life which lead to wrong-doing. This is just as physical exercise
strengthens the body, and enables it to fight off illness more easily.
Are there any other moral benefits of
Yes. Firstly, man is drawn closer to God because when he
feels hungry or thirsty during the fast it is the thought of the nearness of God which
stops him from satisfying his desires. This makes him feel that God is always near at
hand. Secondly, fasting teaches one to be patient and resolute in difficulties, for that
is what one does during the fast. Thirdly, it makes us realize the great blessings of food
and drink which are so easily available, but which we normally take for granted. Fourthly,
it curbs the feelings of greed that develop in people when they have all that they need,
and even more.
And what does fasting teach us about how
to treat other people?
It makes us realize the suffering and the feelings of those
who are deprived and destitute. A very important purpose of fasting is to learn to care
about the needs of other people by being less concerned with oneself. This is why
charitable acts of all kinds are especially encouraged during the month of fasting. By
giving up your right to consume your own food and drink during the fast, you train
yourself to be able to give up something that is rightfully yours, voluntarily and
cheerfully, in order to help and serve others.