Believers! Fasting is enjoined upon you, as it was enjoined upon those before you that you become God-fearing!
(Al-Qur’an – 2:183)
This verse of the Holy Qur’an conveys three important facts about the obligatory fasting in the holy month of Ramadhan:
1. Allah the Exalted enjoins upon the believers fasting in the 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 to become God-fearing.
Fasting is compulsory, not optional. Each and every Muslim, male or female, must fast during this month if he/she is adult and physically fit. The believers refrain from eating, drinking and other physical urges from dawn to dusk. This enables them to inculcate and nurture piety.
Like most other injunctions of Islam, those relating to fasting were revealed gradually. In the beginning the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be with him) had instructed the Muslims to fast three days in every month though this was not obligatory. When the injunction in the present verse was later revealed in 2 A.H., a degree of relaxation was introduced. It was stipulated that those who did not fast despite their capacity to endure it were obliged to feed one poor person as expiation for each of obligatory fasting missed. Another injunction was revealed later and relaxation in respect of able-bodied person was revoked. However, for the sick, the traveller, the pregnant, the breast-feeding women and the aged who could not endure fasting, the relaxation was retained.
If a person who fasts does so with the fear of Allah always lurking in his mind, thought and action that he/she is to present himself/herself before the Almighty one day and account for all his/her acts of commission and omission, he/she becomes pious and God-fearing. Fasting facilitates a person to gain this spiritual training.