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 Fasting: A Means for Purifying the Soul

Fasting during the twenty-nine or thirty days of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The fast for a whole month is incumbent on every healthy adult, male and female. However, one is not required to fast if poor in health. Pregnant and nursing women are exempted from fasting.

Menstruating women are also exempted, but must make up for the fast afterwards. Travelers are exempted from fasting during journeys (though they may fast if they can). Fasts which remain unobserved for reasons of health or travel must be made up during the year. Those who cannot do so, because of poor health, old age, etc., should feed the poor and needy instead.

Fasting is a sort of annual crash course in self-discipline. Believers are trained intensively during this one month so that they may live the whole year round in the spirit of fasting. According to the Qur’an there are two purposes in fasting. One is to make us cautious in life, and the other is to make us thankful to God. During Ramadan, when believers keep the fast, they become extremely correct in their actions. They are is very particular about everything they do. They are very conscious of when to eat, and when not to eat; what to do and what not to do. They give more time to daily prayers. They also spend longer on recitations of the Qur’an than they usually do, they give more to the poor, and so on. This kind of awareness—this kind of disciplined life—is required of believers, not only during Ramadan, but throughout their entire lives. In this way fasting trains the individual to live a life of proper self-control.

When believers starve for the whole day, ending the fast only at sundown, the importance, the need and the value of food and drink become so alive to them at that time that words in praise of Almighty come rushing to their lips.

At the time of iftar, (the breaking of the fast) the Prophet Muhammad used to be lavish in his praise of and thanks to God. Here, two short invocations show how much the Prophet used to value the experience of iftar: "Praise be to Allah, Who helped me to keep my fast, and who nourished me so that I could break my fast. Praise be to Allah, the thirst is quenched, and the veins are moist. And by God’s will our reward is certain."

Iftar is represented in many sayings of the Prophet as being symbolic of the life Hereafter: "Those who fast are destined to have two joys: one at the time of iftar and the other when they meet their Lord."

Just as being prudent in life is required of us, so being thankful to God is required of us in our day-to-day life for His countless rewards and blessings.

Like other forms of worship, fasting too has a physical, outward form which we are very aware of. But we should never forget its inner spiritual essence. Those who refrain from taking food and water on specific days, but who go throughout life without a qualm about telling lies, persecuting their fellow men, obstructing justice and so on, have missed the whole point of the fast of Ramadan. They have concerned themselves all along with outward realities. The Prophet Muhammad warned that the only thing such a person would receive as a result of fasting would be hunger and thirst.

Those who fast in all sincerity takes care to cast their entire life in one consistent mould. They refrain from indulging in anything that is prohibited by Allah. As the Prophet said, "such a person can be likened to a tethered horse, which can go only as far as its rope permits."

Sawm(Fasting)

Dr. Farida Khanam

Sawm, or ritual fasting is the third pillar of Islam. This fast takes place each year during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar. The fast of Ramadan lasts for the whole month. From dawn to sunset we are required to refrain from all food and drink. If one is sick or on a journey, one is allowed not to fast. But the missed fast has to be made up by fasting the same number of days afterwards.

According to the Qur’an, the main purpose of fasting is to attain taqwah or God-consciousness. Thus fasting brings us closer to God.

Fasting, according to the Prophet, is a shield, which guards us from evil ways.In Ramadan extra salaah in performed. There are extra sunnah salaah on Ramadan nights called salat-ut-Tarawih. In the last ten days of Ramadan, some retreat to the mosque to perform. Itikaaf, to pray and to read the Qur’an as much as they can.

Ramadan is a blessed month. The Qur’an was revealed in this month. Ramadan is also called the month of the Qur’an.

Benefits of Fasting

There is a feeling of togetherness, as all Muslims, rich and poor, fulfil the same demands of the fast and then share their food together at night.
The rich gain a better understanding of what it must be like for the poor who can not always eat when they want to. This should make them more generous towa