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Fasting in Ramadan according to the Quran and the Authentic Sunnah

  • Book Title:
 Fasting In Ramadan According To The Quran
  • Book Author:
Abdul Karim Awas
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4. Characteristics of Fasting

Fasting is another unique moral and spiritual characteristic of Islam. The Arabic word ‘sawm’ is used for fasting. The term ‘to fast’ literary means ‘to refrain’ i.e. absolute abstention and self-restraint. Al-Qur’an uses the word generally when Mary, the mother of Jesus (Peace be upon them), has been instructed by Allah the Most High to say:

‘Verily, I have vowed a fast unto the Most Beneficent (Allah) so I shall not speak to any human being this day’. (Maryarn,Verse: 26)

According to Shariah (Islamic legislation) fasting means abstention from drinking, eating and restraint of the sexual intercourse and the like, as a form of worship to Allah, being from dawn to sunset. Allah the Most High said:

‘Eat and drink until the white thread becomes distinct to you from the black thread of the dawn.Then strictly observe the fast until nighifall’. (Al-Baqarah,Verse: 187]

Even though from dawn to sunset, Muslims abstain from food, drink and all sensual pleasures, that doesn’t mean food or sexual relations are entirely out of the picture.Two main meals are taken each day during Ramadan. The Suhoor (pre-dawn meal taken each day) and the Iftar (i.e. main meal taken after sunset).A man can also practise sexual intercourse with his wife during the nights of Ramadan.

Although the definition indicates restraining the stomach and private parts from whatever nullifies the fast, other body parts such as tongue, eyes, ears, etc are equally obligated to be restrained. The most significant aspect of fasting is the development of Allah-consciousness (Taqwa) in the heart and the soul of a fasting person. One must abstain from immoral behaviour and attitude as well. Refraining from food and such is essential during fast but it is not sufficient. This is indicated in the Hadeeth narrated by Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him), Allah’s Messenger (Peace and Blessing of Allah be upon him) said:

“He who does not desist from obscene language and acting obscenely (during the period of fasting), Allah has no need that he did not eat or drink.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

So if the faster wants to gain the total rewards of fasting, he/she must for instance, avoid backbiting, slander, and lies; the eyes should avoid looking into things that are considered as unlawful; the ears must stop from listening to conversations, words, songs; that injures the fast and the heart or mind must be restrained from indulging themselves in things that spoil the spirit of fasting.


In sub-Arctic regions of Scandinavia, Northern Canada and Siberia, the winter months bring complete darkness and vice versa during the summer months. We have therefore been informed that in such regions we should calculate the mean (average) annual daylight time and fast accordingly. This dispensation cakes effect above a latitude of X 0 N/S. If one is to be observing the fast in Trornso (Northern tip of Norway), it is daylight in June and July even at 12 midnight, hence the name land of midnight sun. In this respect, a mean or average of the ‘ Day’ and the ‘Night’ has to be made and fasting is observed.

5. The Obligation of Fasting

Fasting in Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is considered as the Muslim’s third practical duty to Allah. It was made obligatory in the second year of Hijrah (Migration of the Prophet ‘ Peace and Blessing of Allah be upon him’ to Madinah). It is a universal institution in as much as all the religions of the world and all the great religious personalities adopted fasting as the principal method of controlling and killing passions. Fasting is a commandment and a clear order from Allah upon us and we have no other choice but to obey our Lord ‘Allah’ and please Him out of Love and Fear at the same time. It is a means by which the true extent of the servant’s love for his Lord is revealed and by which the servant can truly exalt him. Fasting is a compulsory act of worship for all Muslims, though there are exceptional circumstances, which exempt people from fasting. The evidence of observing fast as a part of Faith is indicated in Allah’s words:

‘O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may becomeAI­ Muttaqoon (the pious)’. (Al- Baqarah,Verse: 183)

He also said:

‘The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’ an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong). So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the.first night of) the month (of Ramadan i.e. is present at his home), he must observe Saum (fasts)’ . (SuratAl-Baqarah:Verse 185)

Fasting in Ramadan has also been ordained by the Sunnah of the Prophet (Peace and Blessing of Allah be upon him) and the whole Ummah (Muslim nations). According to the Sunnah; Allah’s Messenger (Peace and Blessing of Allah be upon him) said:

“Islam is built upon five pillars:To witness that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His prophet; to pe,form Prayers; to pay Zakah; to fast Ramadan and to perform Pilgrimage to Makkah “. (Bukhari and Muslim)

The whole Ummah has agreed that it is obligatory to fast in Ramadan, as it is one of the pillars of Islam and that whoever denies it is a kafir (i.e. a disbeliever), having turned away from Islam.

Upon whom is Fasting Obligatory?

Fasting is obligatory upon every person who has fulfilled these prerequisites. He or she must be:

A Muslim

The person who observes fast should be a Muslim who witnesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah Alone and witnesses that Muhammad is His Slave and Messenger.

Baligh (Puberty or Adulthood)

According to Islam puberty or adulthood is defined when a child reaches the stage of al-bulugh (adulthood), or Tamyeez (discretion), which can be designated by three signs:

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