Why Was Fasting Ordained?
Shaykh Aa'id 'Abdullah al-Qarni
To Allah the Almighty there are certain secrets in His laws, insights and His
rulings and objectives are things which minds perceive and others that
confound human understanding.
With regard to fasting, Allah declared in surah Baqarah, v. 183
''O you who have attained to faith! Fasting is ordained for you as it was
ordained for those before you, so that you might remain conscious of God.''
Accordingly, fasting is the way to piety and the fear of Allah (God). The
fasting person is thus among the closest people to Allah, The Exalted in
The stomach of the faster becomes hungry while his heart is purified. When he
breaks his fast and quenches his thirst, his eyes overflow with tears. The
Prophet (pbuh) said:
O' youth, whoever is able from among you to pay the dowry, then he should
marry for it is the best way of restraining the eyes and protecting one's
private parts. Whoever is unable to do so, he should fast because it will be
for him a shield.
Fasting narrows the food and blood arteries. They are known to be canals of
the devils, hence fasting reduces their insinuations.
It further weakens carnal desires, thoughts and temptations of disobedience.
It lightens the spirit. Fasting reminds the individual of his brothers who are
also fasting, some of whom are poor and needy. He empathizes with them and
extends the hand of help to them.
Fasting is a school for the training of the soul, purification of the heart,
lowering of the gaze and protection of the limbs. It is a secret between the
servant and his Lord. In an authentic hadith the Prophet (pbuh) said:
Every act of the son of man is for himself except fasting; it is for Me and I
shall reward it.
That is because only Allah knows the extent of one's fast. It is quite
different from other forms of worship such as prayers, Zakaat (alms tax), and
Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah), all of which can be witnessed by others.
The righteous predecessors acknowledged fasting as a means of drawing closer
to Allah. To many it was accepted as a sphere of competition and a season for
goodness. They cried for happiness when it arrived and wept out of sadness
when it departed. Our ancestors knew the essence of fasting; hence they loved
Ramadan and made unparalleled efforts and sacrifices in it. They stayed up
during its nights, bowing and prostrating themselves in tears and humility.
They passed its days in remembrance, recitation, learning, propagation and
Fasting was a delight and source of internal peace for the early Muslims. It
expanded their bosoms. Hence they trained their spirits towards its
objectives, purified their hearts with its teachings and disciplined their
souls with its wisdom. Numerous accounts confirm that they used to sit with
their Qur'ans in the mosques, reciting, crying and protecting their tongues
and eyes from unlawful things.
Fasting ensures the unity of Muslims. They fast and break their fast at the
same time. They feel the pangs of hunger and eat together in a spirit of
brotherhood, love and devotion. Fasting atones for errors and wrong-doing.
Hence the Prophet (pbuh) said:
From Jumu'ah to Jumu'ah, 'Umrah to 'Umrah, and Ramadan to Ramadan there is
atonement for what occurred between them as long as no major sin was
From a physical point of view, fasting enhances bodily health. It gets rid of
contaminated matter, eases the stomach, purifies the blood, eases the working
of the heart, brightens the spirit, refines the soul and disciplines the
character. When an individual fasts, his soul is humbled, his hear is subdued,
his ambitions are curbed, and his carnal desires are dispelled.
Thus, his prayers are answered because of his closeness to Allah.
There is a great secret in fasting: that is to worship Allah and seek His
pleasure by submitting to His orders and surrendering to His laws by forsaking
one's desires, food and drink.
Fasting therefore represents the triumph of a Muslim over his desires and the
predominance of a believer over his inner self. It is half of patience.
Whoever is unable to fast without any good reason, will never master his self
or conquer his desires.
On the whole, fasting is a great training for the soul, so that it would be
able to bear hardship and carry out its great duties such as jihad, sacrifice
and initiative. Thus when Saul wanted to fight his enemies, Allah tested his
people with a river:
''He who shall drink of it will not belong to me, whereas he, who shall
refrain from tasting it - he, indeed, will belong to me; but forgiven shall be
he who shall scoop up but a single handful.'' Qur'an [2:249]
Those who were patient and mastered their desires were successful. On the
other extreme, those who worshipped their base desires turned their backs on
The wisdom of fasting can thus be summarized in the following: that it
realizes God-consciousness, submission to His orders and subjugation of one's
It ensures a triumph over self and the preparation of a Muslim for situations
of sacrifice. It enables him to control his limbs and desires. It ensures good
physical health and atones for wrong-doing.
It brings about togetherness, brotherhood and sense of empathy for those who
are hungry and needy.
And Allah knows best.
Source: Thirty Lessons for Those Who Fast