“Believers! Fasting is enjoined upon you, as it was enjoined upon those before you, that you become God-fearing.”
(Al-Quran – 2:183)
This verse conveys three important facts about obligatory fasting in Ramadhan: (1) Allah enjoins upon believers fasting in the holy month of Ramadhan; (2) Fasting is not something new for them as it was enjoined upon the earlier peoples as well; and (3) the real intent of fasting is la’allakum tattaqoon (so that you become God-fearing).
Fasting in Ramadhan is compulsory, not optional. Each and every Muslim and Muslimah must fast during Ramadhan if he/she is adult, sane and physically well.
Like Salat (Prayers), fasting had been an essential duty for the followers of earlier Prophets. The Bible says that Jesus Christ fasted for forty 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 their Prophet did. Even the Vedas and Puranas prescribe fasting. Thus the peoples of earlier religions fasted with a difference in the number of days and the prescribed time of fasting, though.
Fasting is one of the main sources of inculcating and nurturing piety. It is a month-long training course.
During fast believers abstain from eating, drinking and intercourse from dawn to dusk. These things otherwise permissible become impermissible for a certain period of time by the Command of Allah the Exalted. This exercise enables them to abstain from whatever has been forbidden for them by the Shari’ah, worldly temptations notwithstanding. This is the crux of piety. If a person who fasts does so with the fear of God always 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. Fasting thus trains a man to gain such spiritual height.