Arduous to maintain especially in summer heat, fasting is seen by many as a spiritual exercise in disciplining carnal desires of the ego. Furthermore, many people ascribe to the feeling of hunger a strong power in facilitating social responsibility towards the poor. The central and most important motivation for fasting, however, is the prospect of Paradise. Ramadan is a time when God rewards believers most generously and forgives their sins. For the duration of Ramadan, ‘the gates of Paradise are open and the gates of Hell are closed’, according to a prophetic hadith (authoritative tradition).
Fasting in Islam is intended to be much more than an exercise in self-mortification. God the Almighty has decreed to Muslims that fasting is more than mastering the carnal “difficulties,” or physical obstacles, presented by abstention. Fasting is, instead, a path to spiritual realization, to reconciliation, and to genuine enlightenment, opening up a vision of God and community bound together through humble charity and generosity. Sawm is associated with repentance. It is essential to the worship of God. Sawm is a key element in the pursuit of personal sanctification. Sawm cultivates godliness within the believer. It engenders compassion toward the indigent.
The term Zakat generally refers to money, food, and the like which are given to the poor. Literally, it means purification and growth. Zakat Al-Fitr is enjoined by Islam for the occasion of Fitr (end of fasting Ramadan). This term was first introduced into Arabic with the advent of Islam. It is also called Al-Fitr alms, fasting Zakat or Ramadan alms.
The night of Qadr is a blessed night. It is the greatest night in the ten last days of the holy month of Ramadan. God – Praise be to Him – has made it so distinguished by making worship in it better than worship in a thousand months altogether; the equivalent of eighty three years and four months. He –Glorified be He– says: “The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit (Gabriel) descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter” (Surat Al-Qadr, verses 3-4).
The Prophet Mohammad – God bless him and grant him peace – used to break his whole-day fast on Ruṭab or on dates or on water. Mohamed Faid, a Moroccan nutritionist, stresses that this is the best foodstuff to be dropped in an empty stomach so that it would effortlessly produce Pepsin... Ruṭab are an amazing food to break one’s fast. First, vitamin concentration in Ruṭab is more than in drier dates, especially vitamin C, which tends to disappear as dates dry off. Besides, the concentration of Vitamin B1 and B2 is higher in Ruṭab than in dates.
Giving is the proof of honesty and devotion. The latter, in turn, reflects piety. Then, honesty and piety culminate into Ihsan, the highest rank on the scale of worship. It is a stage by which the believer wins God’s grace, the utmost aim of every earnest believer. The Prophet Mohammad – God bless him and grant him peace – used to be the most giving and the most generous and more so in Ramadan. He used to give like someone who does not fear poverty, and so did his companions after his passing. His most trusting companion Abu Bakr As-Siddik – may God bless his soul – once donated all what he possessed for the sake of God and His Prophet. When asked by the Prophet – God bless him and grant him peace – what he left for his household, he replied with deep conviction “I am leaving God and his Messenger for them”. He apparently was sure that by so doing, he got engaged in the most “lucrative trade” with God to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and all what is between them.
Q: Are travellers permitted not to fast in Ramadan? A:The most renowned jurists have agreed that any Muslim on travel is permitted not to fast in Ramadan as a license from God to make travel easier for him/her. And the beneficiary from such a license is required to re-fast the missing days of the holy month after it is over. The Qur'anic evidence for this is what God (Glorified be He) says in Surat Al-Baqrah, verse 185 “ […] and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful”. Jurists, however, differed with regards to which would be better; to fast on a journey or not to fast.
Q: What type of travel allows us not to fast during a Ramadan day? A:In the name of God, praise be to Him, and peace be upon his messenger. Yes, the Muslim may choose not to fast (though s/he’d better fast) if s/he is on a journey only if the following conditions are met: - If the travel distance must be 83 kilometers or more. This distance is measured not from the doorstep of one’s lodging to one’s travel destination but from the exit point of one’s city, town or village, where there are no more buildings, to the travel destination. It is worth of note that the travel distance that allows eating on a Ramadan day is the same which permits reducing our four-bow prayers into two-bow ones.
The believer in Ramadan combines daytime and night-time worship so that s/he would earn the greatest amount of reward. It is narrated in the Musnad by Abdullah Ibn ‘Amr that the Messenger of God (God bless him and grant him peace) said: “Daytime fasting and night time Salat (ritual prayer) intercede for the servant on the Day of Judgment. The fast would say, O Lord! I prevented him from eating and drinking all through the day; while night prayer would say, O Lord! I prevented him from sleep at night. Permit me to intercede for him. Then, they are both permitted to
Q: Does oversleep during Ramadan day spoil our fast? A: In the name of God, praise be to Him, and peace be upon his Messenger. Ramadan is a month of worship by night and day. Night worship includes observing Tarawih prayer and reciting the Qur'an; whereas day worship comprises mainly fasting, in addition, of course, to the usual prayers. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with the very fasting of an individual even though s/he spends the whole day sleeping provided that s/he performs their set daytime prayers each in its due time.
A general oath of allegiance was taken from us by God’s Messenger -God bless him and grant him peace- that the greatest part of our love for fasting be because God Most High has said “Fasting is Mine,” and not for any other reason, such as the pursuit of reward or the expiation of sins and the like. For whosoever does an act for God Most High, God will suffice him in this world and the Next, and will give him what no eye has ever seen, what no ear has ever heard, and what no human heart has ever perceived—not to mention divine rewards and expiation of sins and other personal desires in this world and the Next.
In the month of Ramadan, Muslims are required to apply themselves more and increase their worship more than they do in ordinary days. In addition, Ramadan is also a more opportune season for contemplation and re-discovery of the self. Because of its deep transformative power, Ramadan will always be a sign of God which refers to His might and His mercy.