Third Pillar of Islam

The Spirit of Fasting

Kashmir Magazine

Dr Farooq Ahmad Peer

Fasting or Saum is the third pillar of the five basic principles of Islam. It literally means to abstain from something and give it up. As a term of the Shari’ah, Saum implies abstaining from eating, drinking, gratifying sexual desire, evil speech, evil hearing, evil thoughts and evil deeds, etc., from dawn till dusk.

Before the significance and blessings of the Fast of the month of Ramdhan are discussed, it is essential to allude to other types of Fast which have different injunctions for the believers to follow.

(A) Imperative or Farz fast consists of 29 or 30 fasts of the month of Ramdhan which are to be observed necessarily by the faithful or the Muslims. These fasts are confirmed by the Holy Quran and the Hadith of the Prophet (SAW). (b) Obligatory or Wajib Fast means when one vows to observe fasts for atonement of his sins, one is under obligation to observe these on the particular day or days. (c) Sunnah fast are those fasts which were observed by the Prophet (SAW) on 9th and 10th of Muhararam, on the day of Arafah, on 9th of Zil-Hajj, Ayyam Baid on the 13th, 14th, and 15th of every lunar month. (d) Voluntary or Intentional Fast can be observed in the month of Shawal for six days, on every Monday and Thursday, on 15th of Sha’ban, and eight fasts during the first ten days of Zil- Hajj.
The Farz or Imperative fasting begins from the Holy Month of Ramazan of the Islamic calendar. The month of Ramazan, in which fasting is observed, prevents evil tendencies and purifies the soul of a believer. The Holy Quran says that “The month of Ramzan is that in which the Quran was revealed, guidance to men and clear proofs of guidance and destinations, therefore, whoever of you witness the coming of this month, he shall fast therein.” (2: 185).

The fast of Ramdhan lasts for one whole month during which a Muslim restricts himself from drinking, eating, talking and listening to ill. The fast begins from the daybreak and continues till the Sunset. A Muslim observing fast must abstain from all vicious actions, such as abusing, back-biting, anger, jealousy, sexual intercourse. The fasting among the Muslims does not mean to remain hungry but to restrain oneself from all evils and also to restrain one’s eye’s, tongue, and ears and all other senses of the body from lust and passionate activities.

The fasting is obligatory upon every Muslim, male and female, who is healthy and mature. It is not important for the weak, the sick, the traveler, the student who is in the pursuit of knowledge, the soldier engaged in Jihad against the challengers of faith. It is a means of spiritual discipline and its ultimate goal is to seek penance and invoke Allah’s pleasure. According to the Holy Prophet Mohammad (SAW), fasting is a shield to protect oneself from all kinds of evils and though food and water are with him, he does not take them, because he believes that he has to obey the commandment of Allah and he also believes that Allah is with him and sees him. The spirit of fasting is to achieve salvation and spiritual solace and order one’s life according to the Commandments of Allah and the Prophet (SAW).The 29 or 30 days of the month of Ramzan are imperative for the Muslims, which are confirmed by the Holy Quran and by the Prophet (SAW). A Muslim cannot abandon the imperative fast of the Holy month of Ramzan without any genuine reason that too also prescribed under the rules of Sharia’h and in case the fasts are missed due to any reason, it is obligatory to observe those sooner in future.

The Holy month of Ramzan is a sacred month and it is important for every Muslim to take special care and interest in offering devotions during this month which have innumerable rewards from Allah. In addition to obligatory prayers, one should observe superegatory prayers also. One should recite the Holy Quran constantly in this month and seek Allah’s blessings. One should also offer gifts and help to the deserving and poor and also take special care of the orphans, widows and try to provide them food at Seheri and Iftar. One should also offer Taraweeh prayer with humility and devotion. One should also offer Sadqah in cash and in terms of things to the poor people. The month of Ramzan is really a month of blessings and benefits and it is the Chief of months. The first part of this month is Allah’s Mercy, the middle part is His Forgiveness, and the last part is Salvation and release from the fire of Hell. This month is a blessing in the sense also that if a person performs an optional act of goodness willingly only to attain Pleasure of Allah, he is entitled to a reward equal to that of an imperative duty performed in the other months, and if a person performs an imperative duty in this month, he is entitled to a reward equal to that of seventy imperative acts performed in other months. (Mishkat)

The Fast starts with Sehri meal which is to be taken before the fajar, the dawn. The Holy Prophet (SAW) has urged his Ummah to eat the Sehri meal regularly. “Do take Sehri meal, because the Sehri meal has many blessings in it.” While the Prophet (SAW) directs his Ummah to delay the Sehri meal, he (SAW) asks us to hasten in breaking the fast. Hadrat Ibn Aufa (RA) says: “We were accompanying the Holy Prophet (SAW) on a journey and he was fasting. When the Sun disappeared, he said to some one: Dismount and prepare the barely meal for us. The person said, “O Messenger of Allah, let us wait till it is dark.” The Holy Prophet (SAW) again said: “Dismount and prepare the barely meal for us.” The man again said, “O Messenger of Allah! It is yet daylight.” The Holy Prophet (SAW) again said: “Dismount and prepare the barely meal for us.” The man then got down and prepared the barely liquid meal for everybody. The Holy Prophet (SAW) took the liquid meal and said: “When you see that darkness of the night has started spreading (from the east), you must break your Fast.” (Bukhari). He (SAW) has also said: Allah says, The best person among My (righteous) people is he who hastens in breaking his Fast (after the Sun set).” (Tirmidhi)

Fasting is aimed at cleansing the soul and mind of a man. It increases the power of resistance and enables a person to submit himself before the Will of Allah. It invigorates the conscience of a man and fills it with noble spirit. It also washes away man’s arrogance and makes him humble and instills spirit of sympathy in his heart for the hungry. It is an effective treatment for many psychological and emotional disorders as believed by the medicos in this era of science and technology. It burnishes the outward physical appearance of a person by reducing his gluttony and undesirable overweight. It is helpful in minimizing the diseases like that of chronic stomach disorder, inflammation of colon, liver, indigestion and other problems in a human such as obesity, arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, asthma, diphtheria and other ills

The immense benefits and blessings of the fasting can be harvested only when it is observed consciously and faithfully with utmost restraint from all those things which obliterate the very essence of it. Fasting with full consciousness makes the Iman (Belief) of a believer firm and strong in Allah’s Blessings and Kindness, in His promises with regard to the rewards of the life Hereafter and in His knowledge, Wisdom and Justice. The moral fiber of fasting elucidates that it should be observed only for the sake of Allah.  

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