“Believers! Fasting is enjoined upon you as it was enjoined upon those before you, that you become God-fearing.”
( Qur'an – 2:183)
This Quranic verse has three important facts about the obligation of fasting: one, that Allah enjoins upon the believers fasting in the holy month of Ramadhan; two, that fasting is not something new as it had been enjoined upon the earlier peoples as well; and three, that the real intent of fasting is la’allakum tattaqoon (so that you may become God-fearing).
Fasting in the month of Ramadhan is obligatory, not optional. Each and every Muslim man and woman must fast during this month if he/she is adult, sane and physically well.
Like Salat (prayers), fasting had been an essential obligation for the followers of earlier Prophets. The Bible says that Jesus Christ fasted for 40 days (Mathew 4:1-4, Mark 1:12-13 and Luke 4:1-4). In Peter 2:21 the followers of Christ are enjoined to fast as the Prophet did. Even the Vedas and the Puranas prescribe fasting. Thus the peoples of earlier religions fasted but with a difference in the number of days and the prescribed time of fasting.
Fasting is one of the main sources of inculcating and nurturing piety. It is a month-long training course.
The believers abstain from eating, drinking and sexual intercourse from dawn to dusk. These things otherwise permissible become impermissible for a certain period of time. This exercise enables the believers to abstain from what has been forbidden by the Shari’ah, the worldly temptations notwithstanding. This is the crux of piety. If a person who fasts does so with the fear of God lurking in his mind, thought and action that he is to present himself before the Almighty one day and account for all his acts of omission and commission, he becomes the most piteous man on earth.