Why Do Muslims Fast?

Why Do Muslims Fast?

In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;

All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of the al-ā’lamīn. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, sallallāhu alaihi wa sallam, is His Messenger.

1. Fasting.

Fasting is called sawm (siyam) in the Qur’an. It means to abstain from all those things that are forbidden during fasting from the break of dawn to the sunset, and to do this with the intention of fasting.

In Surah Maryam, Allah tells us about Mary the mother of Jesus (‘alaihissalam)that she said, “I have vowed a fast (sawm) for the sake of the Merciful, so today I shall not speak to anyone.” [Maryam 19: 26] which sawm means “I have vowed to abstain from speaking to anyone today”.

Fasting during the month of Ramadhan is one of the five pillars of Islam which is of paramount significant. The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  said:“Islam is built upon five pillars: testifying that there is no god except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, performing Prayer, paying the Zakah, making the pilgrimage to the Sacred House (Hajj), and fasting the month of Ramadhan.” [Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

It was commanded in the month of Ramadhan in the second year of Hijrah.

Fasting in Ramadhan is obligatory upon every Muslim who is capable (mukallaf).

2 – Reasons The Muslims Fast.

1.Fulfill The Command of Allah SWT.

 One of the Allah attributes Al-Hakeem (the Most Wise). The word Hakeem is derived from the same root as hukum (ruling) and hikmah (wisdom). As Allah’s rulings are most wise and perfect it also embrace great wisdom too, which we may appreciates, or otherwise. We may know some of it but a great deal but  is hidden.

Fasting is one of the ways to fulfill the commands of Allah. Allah states that the fasting in Ramadhan was prescribed upon Muslims so as to become Al-Muttaqun:

“ O you who believe! Observing As-Sawm (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (pious)” [Al-Baqarah, 2:183]

The true believers would diligently seek obey the command of Allah and His Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  in obedience:

“The only saying of the faithful believers, when they are called to Allah (His Words, the Qur’an) and His Messenger, to judge between them, is that they say: ‘We hear and we obey.’ And such are the successful (who will live forever in Paradise)” [An-Nur, 24:51]

“It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed into a plain error” [Al-Ahzab, 33:36]

 2- Testing the Obedience of Ummah.

 Allah has prescribed a variety of acts of worship that would serve as a test for the ummah how they obey all these commands. Would they only choose to do those which suits them, or will they do that which pleases Allah? If we look at the five acts of worship: testimony of faith, prayer, zakah, fasting and pilgrimage, some of which are purely physical, some are purely financial, some are both, so that the miser will become distinct from the generous. Some people it would be easy for them to pray one thousand raka’ahs but not to give a single dirham or dollar; for others it may be easy to give a thousand dirhams but not to pray a single raka’ahs. These variety of acts of worship are for Muslims to follow in obedience according to the command of Allah.

Solah is a purely physical action, but its prerequisites require some expenditure, such as the water for wudu’, and clothes to cover the ‘awrat. These are not part of the prayer but they are its prerequisites. Zakah is purely financial, but physical actions are required to fulfill this duty such as calculating one’s wealth and transferring the zakah to the poor and needy. These are not part of zakah but they are its prerequisites.

Hajj involves spending wealth and physical action, except for the people of Makkah who may not need money, but they are very few compared with those who live in Makkah.

Jihad for the sake of Allah may require both money and physical effort. A person may spend money for the sake of Allah and not fight, or he may go and fight but not spend money.

[Shaikh Ibn ‘Uthaimin, Al-Sharh Al-Mumti’, 6/190]

3 – Taqwa (Piety) and Submission To Allah.

 Fasting is a means of attaining taqwa (piety, being conscious of Allah), and taqwa means observing the command which Allah has enjoined and avoiding those are forbidden. Shaikh Ibn ‘Uthaimeen said the basis of fasting is in the words of Allah:

“ O you who believe! Observing As-Sawm (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (pious)” [Al-Baqarah, 2:183]

It implants upon the believers taqwa (piety) and submission to Allah, refraining from those are haram, and in the general terms includes both doing what is commanded and abstaining from what is forbidden.

Taqwa, entails two kinds of commands which to refrain from those are forbidden that man is inclined towards it and commands to observe it which righteous

The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  said: “Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it and offensive speech and behaviour, Allah has no need of his giving up his food and drink.”[Narrated by Al-Bukhari, 6057]

The hadith indicates an important note that one who is fasting observing a religious duty must be devoid of doing haram deeds. One should not backbite about others, tell lies, or spread malicious gossip, or engage in haram transactions, and should avoid all those are haram. If a person enables to do it for a whole month, the rest of the year will go well. Unfortunately in the case of many of those who fast, there is no difference between a day when they fast and a day when they do not; they behave as they usually do, neglecting obligatory duties and doing forbidden things. There is no dignity that is to be expected of the fasting person. These actions contradict the value and wisdom of fasting.

[Fatawa Arkan Al-Islam, p. 451.]

 The scholars have cited some other reasons of fasting, all of which are characteristics of taqwa. Among them are:

 i)     Obedience to Allah’s Command. Refraining from those are haram, and in the general terms includes both doing what is commanded and abstaining from what is forbidden. If a person could refrain that are halal in order to please Allah and for fear of His painful torment, then he will be more likely to refrain that are haram. So fasting is a means of avoiding the things that Allah has forbidden.

ii)   Fasting is a means to make us appreciate Allah’s blessings. Fasting is a means of refraining from eating, drinking and others, which are among the greatest pleasures bestow upon men. By refraining them for a short occasion, we begin to appreciate their value. The blessings of Allah are not recognized and appreciated, but when you abstain from them, you begin to recognize them, so this motivates you to be grateful for them.

 iii)  Fasting would enable us to control the desire. When a person is full his desires grow, but if he is hungry then his desire weaken. Hence the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “O young men! Whoever among you can afford to get married, let him do so, for it is more effective in lowering the gaze and protecting one’s chastity? Whoever cannot do that, let him fast, for it will be a shield for him.” [Al-Bukhari, 5066; Muslim, 1400].

iv)  Compassionate and mercy. Fasting makes us feel compassionate, mercy and empathy towards the poor, because when one fast he would tastes the pain of hunger for a while, he appreciates those who are in this situation, so he will hasten to do acts of kindness to them and show compassion towards them

 v)    Fasting humiliates and weakens the syaitan. It weakens the effects of his whispers (waswaas) on a person and reduces his sins. That is because the syaitan “flows through the son of Adam like blood” as the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  said, but fasting narrows the passages through which the Satan flows, so his influence grows less. [Shaikh Al-Islam in Majmu’ Al-Fatawa, 25/246]

vi)  Fasting is a process of training. The fasting person is training to remember that Allah is always watching, so he gives up the things that he desires even though he is able to take them, because he knows that Allah can see him.

vii) Asceticism to only worldly matters. Fasting means developing an attitude of simplicity towards this world and its desires, but seeking that is with Allah.

viii)       Adapting to observe more acts of worship. It makes the Muslim get used to doing a great deal of acts of worship, because the one who fast usually does more acts of worship and gets acclimatize to it.

And Allah Almighty knows best.

About Md Radzi Ahmad
A retired Malaysian civil servant. Served the Malaysian government for thirty-one years. Posted to London, Rangoon, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Bangkok. Born in Kampong Hutan Kandeh, Alor Star, Kedah. Educated at Sultan Abdul Hamid College, Alor Star and University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. Currently resides in Subang Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan,Malaysia.Blessed with three children, a son, two daughters, daughter in law and two grandaughters.

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