Fasting – A Great Act Of Worship

The Virtues of Ramadaan
Allah says: “O you who believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become Muttaqoon (the pious).” [Soorah al-Baqarah (2): 183] Fasting is a great act of worship, if it was not then Allah, the All Wise would not have made it obligatory on all nations.

Abu Hurayrah (radhi allahu anhu) narrates: “The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “When the month of Ramadaan starts, the gates of Jannah (Paradise) are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and Satans are chained.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee vol: 3, no: 123 and Saheeh Muslim no: 2361 and 2362]

The gates of Jannah are opened as an encouragement for those who seek rewards from Allah and perform righteous deeds. Likewise, the gates of Hell are closed, since less sins are committed in this sacred month and the Shaytaan is chained in order to prevent him from misleading the people and attracting them to sinful acts.

Amongst the virtues of fasting is that it is an atonement of sins. Narrated Abu Hurayrah (radhi allahu anhu) that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “He who observed the fasts of the month of Ramadaan out of sincerity and hoping for the reward from Allah, he will have his past sins forgiven.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee vol: 3, no: 125]

Abu Hurayrah (radhi allahu anhu) reported a Qudsi Hadeeth: “Allah says: “All the deeds of Adam's children belong to them, except fasting, which belongs to Me, and I will reward it. Fasting is a shield (against the Hell and sins). If one of you happens to be fasting then he should avoid sexual relations with his wife, and should avoid quarreling. If someone quarrels with him, let him say: 'I am fasting.' By Him in Whose Hand is my soul, the smell of the mouth of a fasting person is better in the Sight of Allah than the musk.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee (vol: 3, no: 118) and Saheeh Muslim (no: 2567)]

In this Hadeeth, Allah distinguished the sincere fast from all good deeds and He favored the fast to be greatly rewarded. Fasting is called a shield against Hell Fire because it protects the fasting person from shameful and unjust deeds, which in turn defend him from the Hell-Fire.

Fasting is a praiseworthy act, which carries two occasions of joy for the believer; one while he breaks his fast and enjoys the bounties of Allah, i.e. he was favored with the Mercy of Allah and granted the ability to fast and worship him, while others were deprived from this blessing. The second is when he will meet his Lord and enjoy the abundant rewards of fasting. Another virtue of fasting is its intercession on the Day of Judgement.

The Wisdom behind Fasting:
Fasting is a great act of worship, which a Muslim performs by avoiding all his desires, solely to please His Lord, while hoping for His Mercy and Rewards. Fasting proves the slave’s great love for Allah and devotion to Him, because man by nature is desirous and he only prevents his desires and cherished acts to acquire something better and more esteemed.

Fasting is a means of attaining Taqwa (piety) and righteousness. The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “He who does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah does not need his refraining from eating and drinking.” [Saheeh Muslim (no: 2486)] Thus, one who fasts refrains from all evil deeds and he is more inclined and receptive to the Words of Allah and His Commandments, which make it easy for him to become pious and devout to Allah.

A rich man’s fast is more appreciated because even though all the means and food present with him, he abstain from them following the Command of Allah and suffers the hardships faced by the poor and the needy. This helps him maintain humbleness and motivates him to help those in need; thus fasting prevents pride and egoism.

Apart from these spiritual benefits, fasting also includes various health benefits; it reduces the intake of food and relaxes the digesting system. Indeed, Great is the wisdom of Allah, and great are His Graces!

Who should fast and who should not?
Fasting is obligatory on every sane, mature and healthy Muslim. Young children are encouraged to fast. [Saheeh al-Bukharee vol: 3, no: 181] Exempted are those who suffer terminal illnesses, or are too old to fast. Allah does not overburden His slaves.

Permission to abstain from fasting is granted to those travelers, who do not travel for the purpose of breaking fasts. Although it is permissible to break one’s fast during travel, it is praiseworthy to maintain the fast if no hardships are imposed. The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) was asked about fasting on a journey, he replied: “Fast if you wish and break it if you wish.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee (vol: 3, no: 164) and Saheeh Muslim (no: 2487)]

Ibn Abbas (radhi allahu anhu) said: “Do not condemn one who observes fast, or one who does not observe it (in a journey), for the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) observed fast in a journey or he did not observe it (too).” [Saheeh Muslim (no: 2471)]

In any case, travelers should make up the missed days, once Ramadaan is over and they are back home.

Sickness: As for those whose sickness does not allow them to fast, they fall into three categories:

a) If fasting does not impose hardships and does not harm, then it is better to fast.
b) If fasting is hard but not harmful, then he is permitted to break his fast.
c) If fasting is harmful for him, then he is ordered to abstain from fasting, because Allah says: “Do not kill yourselves.” [Soorah an-Nisa (4): 29] “Do not throw yourselves into destruction.” [Soorah al-Baqarah (2): 195]

The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “There is (to be) no harm or reciprocating harm.” [(saheeh) Musnad Ahmad, Ibn Majah (Saheeh al-Jami as-Sagheer no: 7517)]

Missed days must be made up as soon as Ramadaan is over and one is healthy again:

Women: During menstrual period or the post-natal bleeding, women should abstain from fasting. [Saheeh al-Bukharee (vol: 3, no: 172)]. They must make up their missed days as soon as the fasting month is over. The pregnant or breast feeding women, whose health or the health of the suckling baby might be effected due to fasting, should break her fast and make up the missed days later.

Mujahid: It is also recommended for those who engage in combat in the Way of Allah to break their fasts. The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) once commanded his companions: “You are going to meet your enemy in the morning, abstaining from fasting is better for your strength, so break your fast.” [Saheeh Muslim (no: 2486)]

Praiseworthy Etiquettes of Fasting

(A) Suhoor: The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “Take (the meal of) Suhoor because there is blessing in it.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee (vol: 3, no: 146) and Saheeh Muslim (2412)]. Even drinking a cup of water instead of a meal for Suhoor has blessings, since taking Suhoor implies obeying the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) and following his Sunnah. Besides, Suhoor also adds to the physical health with the essential nutrition and strength required to fast. [see Fatawah as-Siyaam, p.40]

(B) Iftaar: Breaking the fast as soon as the sun sets. The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “The people will not cease to be upon good as long as they hasten in breaking their fast.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee 4/173 & Saheeh Muslim 1093]


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Aug 6, 2010