Definition Of Fasting:
Saum (Fasting) is the fourth pillar of Islam. The word “Saum” means “to be at rest”. It implies abstention which includes refraining from eating, drinking and sexual intercourse for a certain period of time, generally from dawn to dusk.
The Holy Quran says:
Fasting is prescribed for you,
As it was prescribed for those who preceded you,
That you may be reverent:
For a certain number of days.
Then for anyone of you who is sick,
Or on journey
There is then the same number of other days.
And for those who find it hard to bear,
There is redemption by feeding the poor,
……the month of Ramzan is one,
In which, was sent down the Holy Quran,
A guidance for mankind.
…..then let him amongst you,
Who is present in this month fast therein.”
Fasting is obligatory upon every Muslim adult (baligh) who is in possession of his sense (aaqil) and who is fit physically (Qadir).
The month of Ramzan has been fixed for fasting-this month being the month of revelation of the Holy Quran. The word ‘Ramzan’ has been derived from “Ramz” meaning “to burn” (to burn selfish desires). There are also many other fastings in addition to fasting during Ramzan, but the Ramzan fasting is obligatory and is of the highest importance.
Significance Of Fasting:
The significance of fasting lies in the fact that it trains the minds of men and elevates their moral aptitude. It restrains the passions but abstinence and thus the fast achieve control over his physique and mind. It (Fast) restrains man from mean and selfish desires as well as worldly thoughts.
Fasting is primarily a spiritual discipline aiming at Divine nearness. The Fasters are spiritual wayfarers.
Finally, fasting inculcates uniformity ,in this types of institution throughout the Muslim world. The poor and the rich become same in status in the Holy month of Ramzan, at least in the matter of meal.
Individual Benefits Of Fasting:
i) Spiritual Benefits:
Fasting has immense spiritual value, for it is basically a spiritual exercise and discipline. It brings man closer to God and removes all barriers between him and his Lord.
The very purpose of fasting, in this verse of Quran, is described as the attainment of taqwa. Believers are commanded to observe fasting in the month of Ramzan so that through it they may be able to attain nearness to God. A fasting is observed for God. Only He knows whether a person is fasting or not, it brings man very close to his Creator.
Fasting reminds one throughout the day that he is abstaining from food, drink and other pleasures of life in obedience to the command of God. There in none to see and check whether he is eating or drinking or enjoying other pleasures of life. He abstains from all these things with the full knowledge that God is always with him and always sees and hears him doing everything, and that nothing can be hidden from Him. Thus fasting develops a very strong sense of nearness and closeness to God and of His presence everywhere.
ii) Physical Benefits:
Fasting also has a physical usefulness. During the course of fasting one improves health. “The capacity of digestive organs improves. The better is the growth of man.” When the digestive organs get rest during fasting, their power and strength for more work increases. During fasting one bears the pangs of hunger and thirst and thus hardens life for any difficult time. The power of resistance increases and one can face hardships smilingly.
iii) Ethical/Moral Benefits.
The ethical importance of fasting lies in this fact that one refrains not only from foul actions but also from foul words. Hadith refers;
In the Holy month of Ramzan, the Muslims generally remain pure and try to pastime in pious actions, pious thoughts and in pious association. Hadith refers when the month of Ramzan arrives,
The doors of Heaven are opened for them because they rise above the physical desires and devote themselves to the service of Allah and of Humanity. The doors of Hell are closed for them because they shun all evils which may lead them to Hell. The devils are chained because they have conquered the lower passions which are an easy prey to the devils. The month of Ramadan is suited “for spiritual advancement, for attaining nearness to God.”
I) Social Benefits:
During the month of Ramadan, all Muslims rich and poor, gather in the mosques at the time of iftari and additional tarawih prayer at night. In fact, it is a time of great festivities in the mosques. They feel, experience and see brotherhood in practice in the mosques every day during this month.
Fasting has a great social impact when all Muslims, rich and poor, from every walk of life, fast together. They come together in large number for iftari and for tarawih prayers in the mosques and sit together. It helps to bring them closer to each other, thrilled and filled with sentiments of love and brotherhood.
At the end of Ramadan, there is the festival of Eid-al-Fitr, when the Muslims gather together to offer a two Rakat Eid Prayer as a token of gratitude and thanksgiving to their Lord for having successfully completed the month of fasting. Ramadan and the festival of Eid will not benefit Muslims unless they enable the poor members of the Muslims community to have enough money to celebrate the Eid. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) has laid great stress on the payment of Fitrana before the celebration of Eid. He even told his followers that the non-payment of this poor-due will render their fasting null and void.
In short, the month of Ramadan brings great economic benefits for the Muslim community especially for the poor. it brings the Blessings of God in the form of wealth and food in the homes of the poor people.
Among other benefits, fasting has enormous economic benefits for the Muslims community. During the month of Ramadan, the rich people spend very generously on the poor people to win the pleasure of God. Their generosity and charity enable the poor section of the Muslim community to receive sufficient funds during this month to meet their needs for at least a part of the year.
Then people who, owing to sickness or old age, cannot fast, are asked to feed the poor in compensation. Many rich people, who are sick or too old to fast, lavishly feed the poor people during this month.
The purpose of fasting is manifold. Allah mentioned in the Holy Quran, that the fasting is prescribed for the believers as it was prescribed for the people before them, so that they may acquire self-control and God-consciousness. Therefore, the purpose of the fasting is to develop God-consciousness, self-control, improvement of health by reducing or eliminating impurities from the body, and to become aware of the plight of the poor, hungry, and the sick. Ramadan is a month of spiritual consciousness and high sense of social responsibility. The fulfilment of one’s obligations during the month is rewarded by 70 times.