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Fasting in Islam

Dr. Arafat El-Ashi (Director)


Muslim World League Canada Office

Fasting is another unique moral and spiritual characteristic of Islam. Literally defined,
fasting means to abstain "completely" from foods, drinks, intimate intercourse and
smoking, before the break of the dawn till sunset, during the entire month of
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year. But if we restrict the meaning of the
Islamic Fasting to this literal sense, we would be sadly mistaken.

When Islam introduced this matchless institution, it planted an ever-growing tree of


infinite virtue and invaluable products. Here is an explanation of the spiritual meaning
of the Islamic Fasting:

1. It teaches man the principle of sincere Love: because when he observes Fasting
he does it out of deep love for God. And the man who loves God truly is a man
who really knows what love is.
2. It equips man with a creative sense of hope and an optimistic outlook on life;
because when he fasts he is hoping to please God and is seeking His Grace.
3. It imbues in man the genuine virtue of effective devotion, honest dedication
and closeness to God; because when he fasts he does so for God and for His
sake alone.
4. It cultivates in man a vigilant and sound conscience; because the fasting person
keeps his fast in secret as well as in public. In fasting, especially, there is no
mundane authority to check man's behavior or compel him to observe fasting.
He keeps it to please God and satisfy his own conscience by being faithful in
secret and in public. There is no better way to cultivate a sound conscience in
man.
5. It indoctrinates man in patience and selflessness, as through fasting, he feels the
pains of deprivation but he endures them patiently.
6. It is an effective lesson in applied moderation and willpower.
7. Fasting also provides man with a transparent soul, a clear mind and a light
body.
8. It shows man a new way of wise savings and sound budgeting.
9. It enables man to master the art of Mature Adaptability. We can easily
understand the point once we realize that fasting makes man change the entire
course of his daily life.
10. It grounds man in discipline and healthy survival.
11. It originates in man the real spirit of social belonging, unity and brotherhood, of
equality before God as well as before the law.
12. It is a Godly prescription for self-reassurance and self-control.

Now, someone may be tempted to raise the objection: If this is the case with the
Islamic institution of fasting, and if this is the picture of Islam in this aspect, why are
the Muslims not living in a utopia? To such an objection we can only say that
Muslims have lived in and enjoyed a utopia in a certain epoch of their history. The
realization of that utopia was a phenomenon of a unique achievement in the history of
man. We say unique, because no religion or social system other than Islam has ever
been able to realize its ideals in reality.

The reason why the Islamic utopia is not being established nowadays is manifold and
easily explicable. But to restrict our discussion to the institution of fasting we may say
that some Muslims, unfortunately for them, do not observe the fast or, at best, adopt
the attitude of indifference. On the other hand, some of those who observe it do not
realize its true meaning and, as a result, derive very little benefit out of it or, in fact,
no benefit at all. That is why some Muslims today, do not enjoy the real privileges of
fasting.

It has already been indicated that the period of obligatory fasting is the month of
Ramadan. The daily period of observance starts before the break of the dawn and ends
immediately after sunset. Normally there are accurate calendars to toll the exact time,
but in the absence of such facilities one should consult one's watch and the sun's
positions, together with the local newspapers, weather bureau, etc.

Fasting Ramadan is obligatory on every responsible and fit Muslim. But there are
other times when it is recommended to make voluntary fasting, after the Traditions of
Prophet Muhammad. Among these times are Mondays and Thursdays of every week,
a few days of each month in the two months heralding the coming of Ramadan, i.e.,
Rajab and Sha'ban, six days after Ramadan following the 'Eid-ul-Fitr Day. Besides, it
is always compensating to fast any day of any month of the year, except the 'Eid Days
and Fridays when no Muslim should fast.

However, we may repeat that the only obligatory fasting is that of Ramadan - which
may be 29 or 30 days, depending on the moon's positions. This is a pillar of Islam,
and any failure to observe it without reasonable excuses is a grave sin in the sight of
God.
Who Must Fast?

Fasting Ramadan is compulsory upon every Muslim, male or


female, who has these qualifications:
1. To be mentally and physically fit, which means to be sane
and able.
2. To be of full age, the age of puberty and discretion, which
is normally about fourteen. Children under this age should
be encouraged to start this good practice on easy levels, so
when they reach the age of puberty they will be mentally
and physically prepared to observe fasting.
3. To be present at one's permanent settlement, your home
town, one's farm, and one's business premises, etc. This
means not to be on a journey of about fifty miles or more.
4. To be fairly certain that fasting is unlikely to cause you any
harm, physical or mental, other than the normal reactions to
hunger, thirst, etc.

Exemption From Fasting:


These said qualifications exclude the following categories:
1. Children under the age of puberty and discretion.
2. Insane people who are unaccountable for their deeds.
People of these two categories are exempted from the duty
of fist, and no compensation or any other substitute is
enjoined on them.
3. Men and women who are too old and feeble to undertake
the obligation of fast and bear its hardships. Such people
are exempted from this duty, but they must offer, at least,
one needy poor Muslim an average full meal or its value
per person per day.
4. Sick people whose health is likely to be severely affected
by the observance of fast. They may postpone the fast, as
long as they are sick, to a later date and make up for it, a
day for a day.
5. Travelers may break the fast temporarily during their travel
only and make up for it in later days, a day for a day
6. Pregnant women and women breast-feeding their children
may also break the fast, if its observance is likely to
endanger their own health or that of their infants. But they
must make up for the fast at a delayed time, a day for a day.
7. Women in the -period of menstruation (of a maximum of
ten days or of confinement (of a maximum of forty days).;
They must postpone the fast till recovery and then make up
for it, a day for a day.
It should be understood that here, like in all other Islamic
undertakings, the intention must be made clear that this action is
undertaken in obedience to God, in response to His command
and out of love of Him.
The fast of any day of Ramadan becomes void by intentional
eating or drinking or smoking or indulgence in any intimate
intercourse, and by allowing anything to enter through the
mouth into the interior parts of the body. And if this is done
deliberately without any lawful reason, this is a major sin which
only renewed repentance can expiate.
If anyone, through forgetfulness, does something that would
ordinarily break the fast, 0a observance is not nullified, and his
fast stands valid, provided he stops doing that thing the moment
he realizes what he is doing.
On completion of the fast of Ramadan, the special charity
known as Sadagat-ul-Fitr (charity of ' Fast-breaking) must be
distributed before 'Eid-ul-Fitr (approximately), seven dollars per
head.

General Recommendations:

It is strongly recommended by Prophet Muhammad to observe


these practices especially during Ramadan:
1. To have a light meal before the break of the dawn, known
as Suhoor.
2. To eat a few dates or start breaking the fast by plain water
right after sunset, saying this prayer Allah humma laka
sumna, wa 'ala rizqika aftarna. (O God! for Your sake have
we fasted and now we break the fast with the food You
have given us).
3. To make your meals as light as possible because, as the
Prophet put it, the worst thing man can fill is his stomach.
4. To observe the supererogatory prayer known as Taraweeh.
5. To exchange social visits and intensify humanitarian
services.
6. To increase the study and recitation of the Qur'an.
7. To exert the utmost in patience and humbleness.
8. To be extraordinarily cautious in using one's senses, one's
mind and, especially, the tongue; to abstain from careless
gossip and avoid all suspicious motions.
9.Eid ul Fitr and the 6 Fasts of Shawwal
10. One of the meritorious aspect of Shawwal is that it has been chosen by Allah
Almighty for the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, one of the only two annual
festivals recognised by the Shariah. This happy day is designed by the Shari'ah
as a sign of gratefulness by the Muslims on the accomplishment of Ramadhan,
and as an immediate reward by Allah for those who spent the month of
Ramadhan in fasting and performing other forms of Ibaadah'.
11. Instead of commemorating an event from the past, the Shari'ah has prescribed
the first of Shawwal as an annual festival for the Muslims at an occasion when
they themselves accomplish a great Ibaadah'. This approach reminds the
Muslims that they should not rely only on the accomplishments of their
ancestors, rather, they should themselves perform meritorious acts to please
their Creator.
12. In prescribing the ways to celebrate the happy day, Islam has adopted another
unique approach. The festivals of other religions or nations normally comprise
of some acts of rejoicing and enjoyment. The whole happy day is normally
spent in dancing, drinking singing and playing.
13. Islam has, conversely, prescribed a very simple, prestigious and more humane
way to observe the happy day. First of all, it is mandatory on all the well-off
Muslims to start their day by paying Sadaqat -ul-fitr' to the poor of their
society, so that they too may enjoy the day along with others, and may not be
worried for earning their livelihood at least in that day of happiness.
14. After paying the Sadaqat-ul-fitr', the Muslims are required to proceed to an
open place where they can offer Eid prayer collectively. In this way, they are
supposed to present themselves before their Creator and offer two rak'ats of this
special type of Salaah, which makes them receive blessings from Allah and
start their celebration by these divine blessings.
15. After the Salaah also, they are supposed to rejoice the day in a responsible
manner, without violating the limits prescribed for them and never indulging in
the acts prohibited by Allah.
16. Keeping this point in view, we will now discuss specific rules prescribed for
observing the day of Eid-ul-Fitr.
17. The Night preceding Eid-ul-Fitr'
18. It had been the practice of the Holy Prophet that he did not sleep in the
night preceding the day of Eid ul fitr. This night has been named in a Hadith
as, THE NIGHT OF REWARD'. It means that Allah Almighty bestows his
rewards to those who have spent the month of Ramadhan abiding by the
dictates of Shari ah, and all their prayers in this night are accepted. Therefore,
it is desirable to perform nafl prayers in this night. The Holy Prophet is
reported to have said:
19. Whoever stands up (in worship) in the nights preceding the two Eids
expecting rewards from his lord, his heart will not die when the other hearts
will die.
20. To benefit from this opportunity, one should perform as much worship in this
night as he can, and should pray for all his needs and desires.
21. Before going to Eid Prayer
22. The following acts are prescribed as Sunnah at the beginning of the day of Eid-
ul-Fitr before proceeding to the Eid prayer:
23. 1. To wake up early in the morning.
24. 2. To clean one's teeth with a Miswaak or a brush.
25. 3. To have a bath.
26. 4. To put on one's best available clothes.
27. 5. To wear perfume.
28. 6. To eat a sweet food, preferably dates, before the Eid prayer.
29. 7. To recite the following Takbir in the low voice while going to the Eid
prayer:
30. Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, La ilaha ilal lahu wal allahu akbar, allahu akbar
wa lilla hil hamnd.
31. Sadaqat-ul-fitr
32. Sadaqat-ul-fitr is an obligation for every Muslim, male or female, who owns
613.35 grams of silver or its equivalent, either in the form of money,
ornaments, stock-in-trade or in the form of some goods or commodities beyond
one's normal needs. Every person who owns such an amount has to
pay Sadaqat-ul-fitr, not only on behalf of himself but also on behalf of his
minor children. The prescribed amount of Sadaqat-ul-fitr is 1.75 kilograms of
wheat or its value in money. This amount is prescribed for paying Sadaqat-ul-
fitr for one person only. If a person has some minor children, the same amount
has to be paid on behalf of each one of them separately. The following points
must be remembered with regard to the payment of Sadaqat-ul-fitr.
33. 1. Sadaqat-ul-fitr is obligated on each adult male or female separately, and the
relevant adult person himself is responsible to pay it. The husband is not
required to pay Sadaqat-ul-fitr on behalf of his wife nor is the wife supposed to
pay it on behalf of her husband. Similarly, a father is not bound to pay Sadaqat-
ul-fitr on behalf of his adult children or vice versa. However, if the head of the
family, by his own free will, wishes to pay Sadaqat -ul-fitr for each one of the
members of his family, he should seek their authorisation for that purpose. In
this case the Sadaqat-ul-fitr paid by him will be valid on their behalf. If he did
not pay Sadaqat-ul-fitr on behalf of his family, he will not be responsible for it.
Rather, it is the duty of every adult member of the family to discharge his own
obligation or request the head of the family to pay it on his or her behalf.
34. 2. It is a Sunnah that the Sadaqat-ul-fitr is paid before performing the Eid
prayer. It can also be paid before the Eid day, but it is not advisable to delay it
up to the performance of Eid prayer. However, if a person has failed to pay on
its proper time, he should pay it as soon as possible, whereupon the obligation
will stand discharged.
35. 3. The Sadaqat-ul-fitr is not necessary on behalf of a child who has been born
after the break of dawn in the Eid day, nor is it necessary to pay Sadaqat-ul-
fitr on behalf of person who dies before the dawn of the Eid day.
36. 4. Sadaqat-ul-fitr should only be paid to a person who is entitled to
receive Zakah.
37. The Eid prayer
38. The second obligation on Eid day is to perform the Eid prayer. Some rules in
this respect are mentioned hereunder:
39. 1. The Eid prayer is waajib (obligatory) on every male Muslim.
40. 2. The Eid prayer can be performed any time between the ishraq and zawal.
41. 3. It is preferable that the Eid prayer is performed at an open field and not in a
mosque. However, if, it is difficult to perform it in an open field, it can also be
performed in a big mosque.
42. 4. It is not advisable to hold the Eid prayer in every mosque, rather it is
preferable that the people of several mosques either perform it in an open field
or, in its absence, in a big mosque which can accommodate a large number of
people.
43. 5. No Nafl Salaah can be performed before the Eid prayer, neither in ones
home, nor at the place of Eid prayer. Similarly, Nafl prayer cannot be
performed after the Eid prayer at the same place. However, it can be
performed after one comes back to his home.
44. 6. The Eid prayer has neither Azaan nor iqamah.
45. 7. The Eid prayer has two rakaah to perform in the normal way with the only
addition of six Takbirs, three of them in the beginning of the first rakaah, and
three of them just before ruku in the second rakaah.
46. Khutbah: The address of Eid-ul-fitr
47. In this Salaah, Khutbah is a Sunnah and is delivered after the Salaah, unlike
the Salaah of Jumuah where it is farz and is delivered before the Salaah .
However, listening to the Khutbah of Eid Salaah is waajib or necessary and
must be heard in perfect peace and silence.
48. It is a Sunnah that the Imam begins the first Khutbah by reciting Takbirs
Allahu Akbar nine times and the second Khutbah with reciting it seven times.
49. Note: The way of Eid prayer described above is according to the Hanafi
school of Muslim jurists. Some other jurists, like Imam Shafi, have other ways
to perform it. They recite Takbir twelve times before beginning the recitations
from the Holy Qur'an in both the rakaahs. This way is also permissible. If
the Imam , being of the Shafi School , follows this way, you can also follow
him. Both ways are based on the practice of the Holy Prophet .
50. Six Fasts in the Month of Shawwal
51. It is commendable to keep six fasts in the month of Shawwal. The Holy
Prophet has said:
52. Whoever completes the fasts of Ramadhan then adds to them the fasts of six
days in the month of Shawwal, it will carry the thawab of fasting for the whole
year. (Sahih Muslim)
53. This Hadith had described the great thawab of six fasts of this month. The
scholars have interpreted this Hadith by saying that according to the recognised
rules of Shariah, every good deed is rewarded ten times more thawab of its
origin, therefore, the thawab of 30 days of Ramadhan amounts to
the thawab for 300 days. If the fasts of Ramadhan are followed by six more
fasts, they carry the thawab of 60 days more, raising the aggregate thawab to
360 which is the number of dais in one year according to the Islamic calendar.
Therefore, the Muslims should take this opportunity of acquiring such an
enormous reward from Allah. It is more preferable to start these fasts from the
2 nd of Shawwal and keep fasting up to the 7 th of Shawwal. However, if they
are kept in other days, it is hoped that the requirement of the above Hadith may
also be fulfilled.
Eid-al-Adha
Eid al-Adha is an Islamic festival to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim (also known as Abraham) to
follow Allah's (God's) command to sacrifice his son. Muslims around the world observe this event.

Qurbani Cattle market in Bangladesh.bigstockphoto.com/A K Choudhury

What Do People Do?


At Eid al-Adha, many Muslims make a special effort to pray and listen to a sermon at a mosque. They also
wear new clothes, visit family members and friends and may symbolically sacrifice an animal in an act known
as qurbani. This represents the animal that Ibrahim sacrificed in the place of his son.
In some traditionally Muslim countries, families or groups of families may purchase an animal known
as udhiya, usually a goat or sheep, to sacrifice, but this is not common or legal in many parts of Australia,
Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States or many other countries. In these countries,
groups of people may purchase a whole carcass from a butcher or slaughterhouse and divide it amongst
themselves or just buy generous portions of meat for a communal meal on Eid-al-Adha. People also give
money to enable poorer members of their local community and around the world to eat a meat-based meal.
In the period around Eid al-Adha, many Muslims travel to Mecca and the surrounding area in Saudi Arabia to
perform the Hajj pilgrimage. Package holidays are organized from many countries. Muslims may plan and
save for many years to enable them to take part in this event, which is one of the five pillars of Islam.

Public Life
Eid al-Adha is a public holiday in places such as the Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Turkey, and the United Arab
Emirates. It is not a nationwide public holiday in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United
Kingdom or the United States. However, some Islamic organizations may be closed or offer a reduced level of
service and there may be some local congestion around mosques in countries where Eid al-Adha is not a public
holiday.

Background
Ibrahim, known as Abraham in the Christian and Jewish traditions, was commanded by God to sacrifice his
adult son. He obeyed and took Ishmael (Ismail or Ismael) to Mount Moriah. Just as he was to sacrifice his son,
an angel stopped him and gave him a ram to sacrifice in place of his son. Some people dispute that the son of
sacrifice was Isaac (Isq). Regardless, these events are remembered and celebrated at Eid al-Adha.
The Islamic calendar is based on observations of the Moon and the length of a particular month can vary
between years. For this reason, predicted dates of Eid al-Adha may be corrected at the start of the month of
Dhul Hijja. This is around 10 days before the start of the festival.
Disclaimer: Please note that the opinions and views shared in this article do not necessarily reflect those
of Timeanddate.com regarding the son of sacrifice.