Allah (S.W.T) says in the Quran: “O who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) taqwa (self-restraint)” (Al-Quran: Surah Al-Baqarah 2:183)
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Fasting is a distinctive moral and spiritual feature of Islam. Fasting is defined as abstaining “totally” from foods, liquids, intimate relations, and smoking from the time the sun rises till sunset. However, if we limit the meaning of Islamic fasting to this literal sense, we will be sorely disappointed.
Human life is reliant on food and drink, and the human race’s survival is reliant on marital relationships. When fasting, one abstains from both, as though testifying to God that for His pleasure, man gives up the factors on which his entire existence depends (temporary). Fasting can teach you a lot of valuable lessons. We forego physical comfort in order to face hunger and thirst. Fasting fosters a sense of equality between rich and poor people.
Fasting makes the wealthy recall the needs of the poor and instils compassion in their hearts by establishing an empathic attitude toward hunger and thirst.
“Saum” (also known as fasting in English) signifies self-control, patience, and restraint. This also includes abstaining from food, drink, and sexual intercourse from dawn to sunset solely for the purpose of praising Allah (SWT). Fasting (Saum), like Shahada, Salat, Zakat, and Hajj, is one of Islam’s five pillars. Although fasting aids in the cleansing and purification of the heart, mind, and spirit, the true goal of fasting is to enhance Allah’s conscious awareness (Taqwa).
There are numerous ahadith that describe the benefits and importance of fasting, Allah’s Messenger declared in one hadith reported by Abu Huraira: Allah the Majestic and Exalted stated to the Prophet (peace be upon him), “Every deed of man will earn ten to 700 times reward, except Siyam (fasting), for it is for Me and I shall reward it” (as I like). There are two occasions of joy for one who fasts: one when he breaks the fast and the other when he will meet his Lord” (Muslim).
Different Kinds of fasting
Fasting is divided into six types: Fard (obligatory) fasting, Wajib (compulsory) fasting, sunnah fasting, Nafil (optional) fasting, Makrooh Tanzeehi (undesirable) fasting, and Makrooh Tahreemi (forbidden) fasting.
Fard Fasting: These are the days of fasting that are required and established, such as fasting for 29 or 30 days during Ramadan.
Wajib Fasting: These are non-prescribed and non-fixed days of fasting that become obligatory in certain circumstances, such as “qada” (missed) Ramadan fasting days and atonement fasting days, or when one promises to fast on specific days. Despite the fact that these fasting days become obligatory for the individual, their timing is not set.
Sunnah and Nafil Fasting: These are days of voluntary fasting. Some of them became Sunnah after being practised on specific days or after being advised by the Prophet. It is Mustahab to fast on these days (Desirable). Fasting on the 9th and 10th of Muharram, the 13th through 15th of every lunar month, and fasting in the field of Arafat on the 9th of Zulhaj are examples of these. Fasting on specific days reaps huge benefits. Six days following Eidul Fitr, fasting on alternating days, fasting on Mondays and Thursdays, and fasting on the 15th of Sha’ban are only a few instances.
Fasting on Makrooh Tanzeehi (undesirable) days: Fasting on certain days is frowned upon. Fasting on Saturdays, pleasant days of fire-worshippers, and fasting throughout the year, for example, are makruh (undesirable).
Fasting on the Makrooh Tahreemi (forbidden): days of Edul Fitr, Eidul Adha, and the 11th, to single out Fridays and 13th of Zulhaj is deemed so undesirable by some scholars that it is considered haraam (forbidden).
Conditions for Fasting:
A person who is fasting must be a Muslim, sane, pure, and clean. During the “Haiz-o-Nifaas” era, women should not fast (their menstrual periods). They will, however, have to make up the missed days (known as qadha) following Eid-ul Fitr. Children are not required to fast (minors). When a child reaches the age of eight, his or her parents should guide him or her in prayer and fasting, and when he or she reaches the age of ten, parents should make him fast if he or she is healthy.
Fasting According to the Sunnah:
1- Take Sahur (pre-dawn meal): Taking sahur is Sunnah, and it comes with a huge recompense and blessing. The last half hour before dawn, or the time for Fajr prayer, is the finest time for sahur.
2- Eat iftar (breakfast) as soon as the sun sets. Sunset is when the sun’s disc drops below the horizon and disappears entirely, according to Shariah.
3- Avoid all misleading words and behaviours during the fast: Do not quarrel, have disputes, indulge in arguments, use foul language, or do anything else that is prohibited. Aside from physical training and discipline, you should endeavour to discipline yourself morally and ethically. You should also avoid making a spectacle of your fasting by talking about it excessively, revealing dry lips and a hungry stomach, or displaying a poor mood. The individual who is fasting must be nice, cheerful, and in excellent spirits.
4- Perform acts of generosity and goodness for others during the fast: and increase your worship and Quran reading.
The reward of fasting:
Alhamdulillah, Fasting is beneficial to our bodies, minds, and spirits! It is a specific investment in the future life and helps us spiritually in this life:
1: It improves our Taqwa (Have faith): “O who believe! Fasting is required of you, as it was of those who came before you, in order for you to achieve Taqwa (piety).” [2:183 of the Noble Qur’an]
Taqwa has been interpreted as being aware of Allah, fearing Allah, or simply being pious. It bears the deep meaning of being cautious over our own life.
2: It protects us from the Fire: ‘A worshipper does not fast a day for the cause of Allah until that day (of fasting) separates the Fire from his face by seventy autumns,’ said Allah’s Messenger (saw). [Tirmidhi]
A single day of fasting, SubhanAllah, pulls us far away from Hellfire. Consider the prize for individuals who fast once a week or even once a month. How far from the Fire they must be, and how close they must be to Jannah!
3: It leads us into Paradise: the Prophet (P.B.U.H) said: “Indeed, there is a gate of Paradise called Ar-Rayyan, through which only those who fasted will enter on the Day of Resurrection, No one else will be able to join them “Where are those who fasted so that they may enter?” it will be asked. It will be closed when the last of them enters, and no one else will be able to pass through.’ [Bukhari] We can’t imagine what it’ll be like to be summoned to Ar-gate Rayyan’s on the Day of Judgement, SubhanAllah. We can’t picture what it’ll be like to enter Allah’s Jannah through this gate. And each day of fasting brings us closer to our goal. This hadith alone should be enough to motivate us to increase our voluntary fasts as we prepare for Ramadan, and hopefully to keep this habit for the rest of our lives!
4: It comes with unimaginable rewards: Fasting, like many other good deeds, will lead us to Jannah and keep us from Hellfire. But what exactly is the benefit of fasting? What is it that we can only obtain through fasting for Allah’s sake?
“Every action of the son of Adam is given multiple reward,” the Prophet (P.B.U.H) said, “each good conduct receiving ten times its like, up to seven hundred times except for fasting” Allah the Most High said, “Except for fasting, for it is for Me and I will give recompense for it, as he leaves off his desires and his food for Me.”
For the fasting person there are two times of joy; a time when he breaks his fast and a time of joy when he meets his Lord, and the smell coming from the mouth of the fasting person is better with Allah than the smell of misk’. [Bukhari]
According to scholars, the reward of fasting is from Allah Himself, because we are sacrificing our own fundamental needs for food and water for His sake, and He will repay us with Himself in the future life! There is no better ‘period of delight’ than this – it is the pinnacle of achievement.
Breaking the fast:
Iftar – an Arabic word which literally means ‘to break’ – is the time at sunset (maghrib) when we open (or break/end) that day’s fast. It’s a time when we can look forward to again consuming food and quenching the thirst that has built up during the day; hunger and thirst that has been held at bay but can now be legitimately sated.
Muslims break their fast when the call to prayer for evening prayer is made. This is their second meal of the day; the fast begins after the pre-dawn meal of suhur and continues during the daytime hours, finishing with the evening meal of iftar at sunset. It is a moment not just for resuming our basic requirements, but also for spiritual awareness and acknowledgment of why we have forsaken what are typically considered to be life’s necessities.
While some people nowadays overindulge at iftar with a variety of sumptuous foods and dishes, the Sunnah recommends breaking the fast with dates or water.
Anas Bin Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “The Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah Be Upon Him) used to break his fast with fresh dates before he prayed. If he did not find fresh dates, then he would use dried dates. If he did not find that also, he drank a few sips of water.” (Hadith Ahmad)
Iftar should be viewed as a chance to receive numerous blessings. It is for this reason that some people participate in communal iftars in mosques, when they bring food to share with other worshippers, a gesture of such love and generosity that Allah is supposed to open the doors of forgiveness for those who assist others in breaking their fast during iftar.
“Whoever feeds a person breaking his fast will obtain the same reward as him, without anything being deducted from the reward of the fasting person,” the Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah Be Upon Him) declared. (Hadith Tirmidhi)
When his Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) said, “Not all of us find that with which to feed a fasting person,” Allah’s Messenger (Peace and Blessings of Allah Be Upon Him) replied, “God gives this reward to whoever breaks the fast of another with a sip of milk, a date, or a drink of water.”
It is said that a person who delivers water to a fasting person will be rewarded with a sip from Allah’s spring and will never be thirsty again. Giving someone a sip of water, for example, is a simple act of kindness that reaps huge rewards in this life and the next.
Dua for breaking the fast (Iftaar) at sunset:
Iftar is served during Maghrib, when the fast should be broken with the first chords of the adhan. It’s tempting to feed oneself when we’re weak and defenceless from a lack of food or drink, but this is one of the most important moments to remember Allah and say dua before doing so.
The dua at iftar is an expression of our thankfulness to Allah, just as the dua at suhoor is our proclamation of desire to fast. The iftar dua is as follows:
Allahumma inni laka sumtu wa bika aamantu wa alayka tawakkaltu wa ala rizq-ika-aftartu and it means: (O Allah! I fasted for You and I believe in You and I put my trust in You and I break my fast with Your sustenance)
According to certain Hadith, at iftar, the Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah Be Upon Him) used to recite the following dua: Dhahaba al-zama’ wa abtalat al-‘urooq wa thabat al-ajr Insha’Allah and it means: (Thirst has gone, the veins are moist, and the reward is assured, if Allah wills).
The Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah Be Upon Him) recognised the importance of dua at iftar when he declared, “Whatever is prayed for at the time of breaking the fast is granted and never refused.” Iftar is thought to be a time when duas are answered since a person has accomplished the act of worship of fasting and is in a vulnerable and weakened state, a position of humility that brings them closer to Allah.
Iftar is also a moment of acknowledgment and empathy, allowing us to deepen our bonds not only with Allah, but also with our brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering from famine, poverty, and malnutrition.
Iftar can inspire people to give charity – another great act of devotion – so that others can enjoy the basic necessities of life that we take for granted all too often.
Fasting (Sawm) has numerous benefits, whether we fast voluntarily or during Ramadan. It helps us to be more appreciative and cognizant of Allah, shields us from the Fire, and leads us to Jannah. The joy of meeting Allah in the future life is its ultimate reward! As Ramadan approaches, let us commit to increase our voluntary fast on Sunnah days like the Three Bright Days, Mondays, and Thursdays, as well as during the month of Sha’ban. May Allah accept all of our efforts Ameen!