Assalamu Alaikum! As usual, I am starting this year’s Ramadan Talk by thanking Allah (SW) for sparing our lives to witness yet another holy month of Ramadan. We pray Allah makes us among those who would be freed from hellfire. We ask Him to endow us with the zeal of intensifying our ibadat (worship) throughout the holy month and beyond.
I wish to also extend my profound Islamic greetings to my Muslim brothers and sisters. We pray Allah showers His mercies on us and grants us the prestigious abode of Jannatul Firdaaus.
This annual column, Ramadan Talk, will insha Allah feature throughout this month. In my first column of every year, I always start by saying that Islamic injunctions do not change. Therefore, the essence of this column is to remind us some of the basic dos, don’ts, virtues and etiquettes of Ramadan.
From the foregoing, the formulations of our previous columns will be adopted with modifications. This week, we shall, insha Allah, discuss the benefits and etiquettes of fasting.
Ramadan Talk usually restricts itself to the submissions of the Holy Qur’an and the authentic traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (Upon Whom Be Peace). This will be adopted in accordance with the explanation provided by those who followed the prophet’s footsteps especially those from the generation the prophet (PBUH) described as the best of all generations. (Khairun Nasi Qarniy summal lazeena yaluunahum summal lazeena yaluunahum), the best of all generations is mine and then those that follow and those that follow.
The Islamic month of obligatory fasting is known as Ramadan. It is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Fasting during the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is obligatory for all adult Muslims in good mental and physical health who are not on a journey. The month has twenty-nine or thirty days.
Fasting in the month of Ramadan is adjudged obligatory on account of Allah’s directive in Chapter 2, Verse 183 of the Holy Qur’an that all those who believe in Him should fast as prescribed for the preceding generation. Allah, in that verse, says that fasting makes believers pious.
The Holy Prophet (pbuh) said in the Sunnah that Islam is built on five pillars. According to Bukhari, he mentioned fasting in the month of Ramadan as one of the pillars.
Benefits drive from fasting
Much of the wisdom and many benefits attaching to fasting as an act of worship have to do with piety (taqwa), as mentioned by Allah in chapter 2, verse 183 of the Holy Qur’an. This means that it would be easier for anyone to avoid sin and become pious who observes Islamic monotheism (halaal) out of the desire to earn Allah’s pleasure or fear of His punishment. Fasting induces piety in worshipers because:
• It trains individuals to avoid desires that lead to sin. Fasting helps a person to overcome his own nature and weans him from sinful habits. The problem of disorganisation and lack of punctuality, which afflict many people, could be solved by fasting since one would usually be punctual in starting and breaking the fast.
• It keeps man’s faculties from feeling hunger or lust. If the stomach is full the tongue, eyes, hands and libido could become excited and feel hungry. Fasting therefore defeats the devil (shaytan). It controls the desires and protects one’s faculties by giving them rest.
• Fasting demonstrates the unity of Muslims since the Ummah (community) fasts and breaks the fast at the same time. Muslims all over the world fast in the same month and manner.
• People flock to the mosque in the month of Ramadan. Those that do not visit the mosque regularly otherwise would be found to come with open hearts, the month of Ramadan therefore provides the opportunity to call everyone to Allah – to preach, teach appropriate lessons, and speak beneficial words while cooperating in righteousness and good deeds.
• Fasting equalizes the poor and the rich. When a wealthy person feels the pangs of hunger, he experiences what the poor frequently endure. He may therefore develop greater compassion for the poor and give them alms to ward of hunger. Benefits drive from fasting are enormous but the above are the most important.
Sunnah of fasting
The aspects that are obligatory in fasting are niyya, abstention from eating, drinking and sexual intercourse. Some aspects are Sunnah as follows:
• The prohet (pbuh), as reported by Bukhari, said: “Have sahur, for in sahur there is blessing.” Sahur is eating or drinking towards dawn. The person that fasts should wake up before the call (Adhan) for Fajr (morning) prayers and partake of sahur. It should however be delayed until 20 minutes or so before dawn.
• Break the fast immediately after sunset without delay. Bukhari reported that the prophet (pbuh) said: “The people will be fine so long as they do not delay iftar (breaking of the fast) and delay their sahur towards dawn.”
• Tirmidhi reported that the prophet (pbuh) used to break his fast with fresh dates before the magrib (sunset) prayer immediately after sunset. If fresh dates were not available, he would eat dried dates. If dried dates were not available, he would have a few sips of water because there is purity in water.
• The prophets (pbuh), as reported by Abu Dawud, made the following supplication after iftar: “Dhahabal-zama’u; wa’btallatil-urooq wa thabatal-ajiru inshaAllah.” This means: “Thirst is gone, the veins are flowing again, and the reward is certain, inshaAllah.”
• A fasting person must keep away from sin. The prophet (pbuh) is reported by Bukhari as saying: “When any of you fasts, let him not commit sin. Allah has no need for anyone to up his food and drink who does not stop speaking or acting in accordance with falsehood.”
• The person who fasts should avoid backbiting, obscenity and lies on pain of losing his reward. As bn Majaah reported, the prophet (pbuh) said: “It may be that such a person gets nothing from fasting except hunger.”
• A fasting person should avoid quiz shows, soap operas, movies, and sports shows, idle gathering, hanging about in the street with evil people and time wasters, driving around without purpose, crowding the streets and sidewalks. One should instead occupy oneself with dhikr (glorifying Allah) and worship. Prayers in congregation should strictly be adhered to. Those fasting should refrain from unnecessary sleeping to avoid hunger.
• The month of Ramadan should not be turned into a period to engage in begging, unless there is absolute need. The well-to-do should feed the poor, as there is great reward in that.
• A person that fasts should not quarrel or allow himself to be provoked. The prophet (pbuh), as reported by Bukhari, said: “If someone fights or insults you, say, ‘I am fasting, I am fasting.’ By this you display the virtues of Islam in general and fasting in particular.”
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