The Status Of Fasting In Islam
Sheikh Mahmoud Shaltut
The need of man to religion:
The divine wisdom decreed that man is motivated by a power makes him realize
the truth and open the way of goodness for him. By this meaning, man is close
to the Highest Assembly which its nature is pure and free of oppression. Allah
(Glory be to Him) says: "Surely, those who are with your Lord (angels) are
never too proud to perform acts of worship to Him, but they glorify His Praise
and prostrate before Him." [Surat Al A'raf: 206].
Man is also motivated by a power that blocks the ways of the truth and beauty
to make him delve into ignorance and possessed by desires, whims, and the love
of malice and revenge. By this sense, man is close to the lowest assembly
which its nature is wicked and full of evil, seduction, error, and corruption.
Allah (Glory be to Him) says: "[Iblis (Satan)] said: O my Lord! Because you
misled me, I shall indeed adorn the path of error for them (mankind) on the
earth, and I shall mislead them all. * Except Your chosen slaves amongst them
(i.e. faithful, obedient, true believers of Islâmic Monotheism)." [Surat Al
Hijr: 39 - 40].
Thus, man falls between these two powers which must exist in life: The life of
work and the life of destruction and building.
In order to reinforce the good side in man and to show the beauty and glory of
the truth, the divine wisdom decreed that man must be helped against the power
of evil. So, man is given guidance that comes down from the sky to the chosen
ones of Allah's Messengers to show guidance to the people and call them to it.
Allah (Glory be to Him) says: "He (Allâh) said: "Get you down (from Paradise
to the earth), both of you, together, some of you are an enemy to some others.
Then if there comes to you guidance from Me, then whoever follows My Guidance
he shall neither go astray, nor shall be distressed. *But whosoever turns away
from My Reminder (i.e. neither believes in this Qur'ân nor acts on its
teachings.) verily, for him is a life of hardship, and We shall raise him up
blind on the Day of Resurrection." [Surat Taha: 123 - 124].
That guidance is the religion of Allah which He sent down to His Servants in
all His Books, and all Messengers called to it. Allah (Glory be to Him) says:
"Say (O Muhammad peace be upon him): "We believe in Allâh and in what has been
sent down to us, and what was sent down to Ibrâhîm (Abraham), Ismâ'îl
(Ishmael), Ishâq (Isaac), Ya'qűb (Jacob) and Al-Asbât [the offspring of the
twelve sons of Ya'qűb (Jacob)] and what was given to Műsâ (Moses), 'Isâ
(Jesus) and the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between one
another among them and to Him (Allâh) we have submitted (in Islâm)."" [Surat
Al 'Imran: 84]. It is the religion of Islam which is the only accepted
religion to Allah. Allah (Glory be to Him) says: "And whoever seeks a religion
other than Islâm, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he
will be one of the losers." [Surat Al 'Imran: 85].
Components of religion:
This religion consists of elements or components to purify the heart through
knowing the truth and believing in it. It also promotes oneself and feelings,
purifies souls, and motivates emotions toward goodness and virtue. These
components and elements are known as the pillars of religion which are: Islam
has been built upon five matters: The testimony of faith and admitting the
prophethood of Muhammad, establishing Salah, paying Zakah, performing Hajj,
On the occasion of Ramadan in which Allah ordained fasting, we prefer to speak
about fasting in Islam.
Fasting is an old act of worship:
Fasting is known to man since the beginning of time. Religious men knew it as
a means of drawing nearer to Allah, whereas atheists knew it as a means of
cultivation and sport. It is not exclusive to a sect without the other or a
religion without the other, but it is a natural practice which every living
needs from time to time even if its images and times differ by the change of
times and nations.
The reality of fasting in Islam:
Fasting is abstention from food, drink, and sexual intercourse for the sake of
Allah from dawn to sunset. Allah (Glory be to Him) says: "So, now have sexual
relations with them and seek that which Allâh has ordained for you
(offspring), and eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears
to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night)." [Surat Al Baqarah:
187]. So, whoever eats, drinks, or practices sexual intercourse deliberately
is not fasting, and whoever abstains from these things forgetfully or for
sickness, or for other reason without having the intention of fasting for the
sake of Allah is not fasting.
This is the general reality of fasting according to Islam.
Moreover, it is a hidden form and has no outward features such
as Salah, Zakah, and Hajj, therefore fasting was a secret between a person and
his Lord who knows and rewards for it. There are many Hadiths exhort to
fasting, call people to it, and describe the great reward which Allah prepared
for fasting people.
Allah (Glory be to Him) says in the Divine Hadith: "Each good deed will be
rewarded ten times up to seven hundred times. With the exception of fasting,
for it is done for Me and I will give a reward for it."
"He has left his food, drink and desires for My Sake."
If this is the status of fasting in Islam and in the sight of Allah, it is not
proper for a person to use foul language, tale bearing, laying, backbiting, or
violation to the limits of Allah, usury to people's money, listening to lying,
flattering the foolish, supporting oppressors, or helping corrupting people.
"Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need
of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)"
It is shameful to see many foreign people comply to the general Muslim manners
by abstaining from food, drink, and smoking before the fasting Muslims caring
for their feelings, whereas we see many Muslims in the streets, in buses,
clubs, governmental offices, and in public places where they violate the
sanctity of Ramadan and harm Muslims' feelings under the pretext of freedom
and underestimation of general manners. Allah says : "They are the worst of
creatures." [Surat Al Bayyinah: 6].
The wisdom of fasting:
Allah (Glory be to Him) ordained the fasting of Ramadan every year to be an
example for good manner and patience. By observing patience, intentions become
sincere and wills are reinforced so as to stand firm in the face of obstacles.
Life contains desires, whims, and the motives for anger and revenge. It also
contains better and worse, poverty and richness, sickness and health, weakness
and power, leaving countries, families, and friends, and Jihad in the cause of
Allah. It contains many obstacles and hardships that come across, so man has
to be patient, fear Allah, and return to Him. For all these, Allah ordained
fasting to instill in souls the virtue of patience and the fear of Allah.
In order to maintain the outputs of fasting, a person must keep to patience
and fear of Allah during the night. So, he is not allowed to practice
extravagance during the night in food, drink, or amusement otherwise the light
of his heart shall wane away and the manners which he obtained during Ramadan
will cease, and he shall go back to his oppression and evil. Moreover, he
shall not gain a reward from his fasting but as the Prophet said: "Except
hunger and thirst" and as if he is destroying with his left hand what he has
built with his right.
If people fast while holding these meaning in their hearts, the wisdom of
Allah which He placed in fasting shall achieve its fruit and people shall gain
power against life temptations and lead an honorable life that is full of love
and intimacy. Thereby, a person draws nearer to the Highest Assembly and
receive the divine legislations and social duties powerfully, firmly,
sincerely, and faithfully.
O Muslims, this is the trust which Allah granted you with which he rears you,
so perform it as He commanded: "O you who believe! Betray not Allah and His
Messenger, nor betray knowingly your Amanat (things entrusted to you, and all
the duties which Allah has ordained for you)." [Surat Al Anfal: 27].
"O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fast) is prescribed for you as it
was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al Muttaqűn (the
pious)." [Surat Al Baqarah: 183].
And peace be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and his Companions.