, by SUHAIB AHMAD KHAN
There are five important duties in Islam that are considered the pillars of Islam. After Salat (five-time prayers) the second most important religious duty of a believer is fasting (Saum) for consecutive one month every year as pointed out in Holy Qur’an:
"Oh yeh who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that ye may (learn) self-restraint."
This doesn’t mean that the Muslim fasting is like the other fasts previously observed, in the number of days, in the time or manner of the fast, or in other nuances; it only means that the principle of self-denial by fasting is not a new one.
Fasting is obligatory for Muslims in the holy month of Ramadhan. Failure to observe the fast on any day of this month without a valid reason is a grant sin. We have it on the authority of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that:
"Any one who doesn’t, without illness or any other valid excuse, keep fast on single day during Ramadhan will not succeed in making amends for it even if he were to keep fast daily throughout his life in atonement."
The Muslim fast is not meant for self-torture. Although it is stricter than other fasts, it provides alleviation for special circumstances. If it were merely a temporary abstention from food and drink, it would be salutary to many people, who habitually eat and drink to excess. The instincts for food, drink, and sex are strong in the animal nature, and temporary restraint from all these enables the attention to be directed to higher values of life. This is necessary through prayer, contemplation and act of charity done to those really in need. Certain standards are prescribed, but much higher standards are recommended.
So one must abstain during every day of the holy month of Ramadan from eating, drinking and smoking (including inoculation and injection) from pre-dawn to the sunset and deny himself from the pleasures of legitimate carnal satisfaction solely as a measure of worship and sacrifice his lawful biological needs and urge exclusively for the sake of Allah. Allah, too, therefore has placed the most unique reward for it.
During Ramadhan the gate of the Paradise are open and the gates of hell shutdown; moreover the devils are tethered in chains. Fasting is one of the main gates to worship. He who fasts has two delights, breaking his fast and meeting his Lord. In addition to the abstinence from food spiritual meaning is very much there in fasting. Those who observe it are of three grades: common people do not yield to their appetites, the believers of the another grade hold all their members back from sin, and only a few in the Muslim society avoid all mean desires and all worldly thoughts and all that is not for Allah.
Moreover, fasting promotes piety and righteousness in man. It produces in him the ability to control his physical desires. It teaches him how to subordinate his carnal appetite and longings of the heart to the will of Allah. It is thus most effective in the discipline and evolution of the soul. Fasting is a shield against the fire of hell and a strong fortress.
It is claimed that fasting is a useful discipline. In the heat of summer it demands great self-control but it doesn’t produce self-control at other times and for other purposes.
All the previous sins of a person, who undertakes the fast of the month of Ramadhan with full faith and with the object of earning reward from Allah, are forgiven. Allah has no need of a person who does go without food but fails in shunning evil and falsehood even during the fast. Many are there who fast and yet gain nothing from it except hunger and thirst.
May the Almighty Allah shower His Mercy upon humans and guide them to that wherein lies their salvation in this world and in the hereafter.