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SAWM (Fasting in the month of Ramadan)


Fasting in the month of Ramadan is the third pillar of Islam. The Qur'an has enjoined it and given necessary instructions concerning it and also described the merits and blessings of Ramadan.

THE MERITS OF RAMADAN ACCORDING TO THE QUR'AN

The Qur'an offers three great merits and reasons for the excellence of the month of Ramadan:

1. The Qur'an itself was sent down in Ramadan.
2. There is a night called Lailat al Qadr (the Night of Glory), in Ramadan which is better than a thousand months in merit and excellence.
3. Fasting in the month of Ramadan has been made compulsory for the Muslims.

In regard to its merits, Rasulullah S has described Ramadan as the month of Allah characterizing it the best of all months.

l. Revelation of the Qur'an:

The Qur'an states:

"Ramadan is the month in which the Qur'an was sent down: this Book is a perfect Guidance for all mankind, and consists of clear teachings which show the Right way, and are a criterion of truth and falsehood".
(al-Baqarah 2:185)

It is indeed the greatest and unique merit of Ramadan that the Qur'an, the last and only Book of Divine Guidance in the world, as revealed down in this month. One can imagine without this source of true guidance, the world despite of all its charms and fascination, being dark, gloomy place and a veritable Hell. Without it man would still have been living the life of beasts, full of vice and sin.

2. Lailat al Qadr:

The Qur'an clearly states that the 1st revelation took place during the Night of Glory, which falls in Ramadan:

"We revealed it (the Qur'an) in the Night of Glory. And what do you understand the Night of Glory is? The Night of Glory is better than a thousand months. The angels come down in it by the Command of their Lord with every decree; it is full of peace (and lasts) until the break of dawn."
(al-Qadr 97:1 5)

The Hadith also confirms that the Night of Glory occurs during Ramadan which is better than a thousand months. According to `A'ishah R, Rasulullah S said:

"Seek Lailat al Qadr in odd nights during the last ten nights of Ramadan. (Sahih al-Bukhari)

3. Duty to Fast:

Ramadan was specified by Allah as the month of fasting, the 3rd pillar of Islam, incumbent on every Muslim. The Qur'an says:

"It is obligatory on whoever witnesses it (Ramadan) to fast the whole month"
(al-Baqarah 2:185)

THE MERITS OF RAMADAN ACCORDING TO THE AHADITH
Rasulullah S has described the merits and excellence of Ramadan in many different ways and on various occasions, including the following:

1. "When the first night of Ramadan approaches, the satans and the rebellious jinn are chained; the gates of Hell are closed and the gates of Heaven are thrown open, one and all; then a crier (appointed by Allah) cries: 'O seeker after righteousness ! Come forward; and O seeker after sin and evil! Restrain yourself!' Then many a sinner is released from Hell by Allah's Command and this happen during every night of Ramadan." (Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah)

2. During Ramadan the provisions of the believer are increased. (Mishkat)

3. Ramadan is the chief of all months. (`Ilm al Fiqh)

4. ''The first part of this month is (Allah's) mercy, the middle part His forgiveness, and the last part is salvation and release from the fire of Hell. (Mishkat)

5. "During Ramadan if a person performs an optional act of goodness willingly, only to attain nearness to Allah, he is entitled to a reward equal to that of an obligatory duty performed in the other months, and if a person performs an imperative duty in this month, he is entitled to a reward equal to that of seventy imperative acts performed in other months. (Mishkat)

THE HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF RAMADAN

History bears evidence that the first decisive battle between truth and falsehood (i.e, the Battle of Badr) was fought in Ramadan. This great day has been described as "Yaum al Furqan" in the Qur'an, which means the day on which the truth triumphed. The conquest of Makkah also took place in the month of Rama=?n. In summary,

(a) the final, true guidance for man was sent down by Allah during Ramadan,

(b) Islam achieved its 1st victory in Ramadan; and (c) Islam achieved its final and complete victory in Ramadan.

Every year, this month serves as a period of remembrance and testimony to these facts of history. The Shari'ah has enjoined fasting, Salat at-Tarawih and recitation of the Qur'an in order to keep the spirit of Jihad alive in Muslims and enable them to consciously revive their mission and duty by reciting and listening to the Qur'an at least once a year during Ramadan. The sole purpose of the revelation of the Qur'an, its recital over and over again and the tough training afforded by fasting, is to prepare the Muslims for the performance of their basic duty of establishing Islam as a system of life in the world.

THE SAWM AND ITS INJUNCTION
Literally, Sawm means 'to abstain from something and give it up.' As a term of Shari`ah, Sawm implies abstaining from eating, drinking, gratifying sexual desire, etc. from dawn until sunset.

Fasting during Ramadan was enjoined as an Islamic duty 12 years after the Hijrah by the following verse:

"O Believers, the fast has been made obligatory on you.
(al-Baqarah 2: 183)

Thus, fasting is an imperative duty for Muslims. Denial of this obligation is equivalent to out stepping the boundaries of Islam, and one who neglects the fast without a genuine reason becomes a grave sinner.

THE IMPORTANCE OF FASTING

According to the Qur'an, fasting has been an obligatory duty dictated by Divine Law throughout the ages, starting from the earlier prophets:

" . . . just as it as prescribed for the followers of the Prophets S before you.
(al-Baqarah 2: 183)

This shows that fasting carries special significance in the purification and discipline of the human soul; there is no other form of worship which can replace fast in this regard. That is why it had always been an imperative duty in the Divine Law brought and prescribed by all the prophets S before Muhammad (S). Rasulullah S elaborated this point as follows:

"One who abandons one fast of Ramadan without a genuine reason or illness, cannot recompense it even if he fasts throughout the rest of his life."
(Ahmad, Sahih at-Tirmidhi, Abu Daud)

THE PURPOSE OF FASTING
The Sawm gives every Muslim the opportunity to retreat from certain basic, worldly impulses and needs and thereby develop piety (Taqwa):

"So that it may produce piety in you."
(al-Baqarah 2: 183)

Piety is a moral quality that arises from the love and fear of God. When one devotes all his faith in Allah and is deeply conscious of His mercy, beneficence and compassion, he develops a natural love for His Maker and a desire to please Him. At the same time, recognizing his ultimate power over everything, the believer also fears His wrath, displeasure and chastisement in the wake of sin. These two emotions are the roots of piety (Taqwa), which is a state of total purification of the mind and heart. Indeed, Taqwa is indeed the basis of all good acts and a deterrent against all evil acts and inclinations.

A person fasting sincerely abstains from satisfying his basic needs and powerful urges of life for the given period of time. Even in hidden and secret places, he realizes he cannot cheat, because Allah is everywhere. He realizes his own mortality and utter powerlessness, standing humbled before Allah for the most ordinary necessities of life. Then, when he reflects upon Allah's blessings, from which he benefits day and night in countless ways, he is filled with a unique feeling of love for Allah and becomes naturally inclined to adore and worship Him with all his heart and mind. His abstinence from physical needs and desires of the flesh produces in him a deeper awareness of Allah's Presence, so that even the slightest suggestion of sin sends shudders through his body.

THE EFFECTIVE FAST AND ITS WORTH
The great benefits and advantages of the Sawm can accrue only if it is observed consciously and one faithfully abstains from all those undesirable things which render the Sawm ineffective. To attain the full rewards and benefits of Sawm the whole self, mind and body must be safeguarded from disobedience of Allah w every evil desire must be suppressed. Rasulullah S has said:

1. "When you observe the Fast, it is necessary that you restrain your eyes, your ears, your tongue, your hands and your other limbs from everything forbidden by Allah. (Kashf al Mahjub)

2: "Allah W has no need for the hunger and thirst of the person who does not restrain from telling lies and acting on lies even while observing the Fast. (Sahih al-Bukhari)

3. "There is many a fasting person who gains nothing from the Sawm except hunger and thirst. (Darimi)

4. Fasting does not stand for giving up eating and drinking. Rather, it signifies resisting evil. If someone abuses you while you are fasting or treats you badly, you should tell him: "I am fasting. (Hakim, Ibn Khudhaimah and Ibn Habban)

5. "Every good act of man is rewarded from ten to seven hundred times over, but Allah W says: `the reward of the Sawm is different: it is observed for Me alone therefore I shall Myself give its reward, for the fasting person restrains himself from food and other desires only for My sake'."

6. "There are two joys for the person observing the fast: the joy of breaking the Sawm with the overwhelming feeling of gratitude to Allah W for enabling him to observe a duty He has prescribed, and the joy of meeting His Lord as his faithful servant of His on the Day when He will grant him His favors and blessings.

7. "The breath of the fasting person is sweeter to Allah than the smell of musk." (Bukhari, Muslim)

8. "The Sawm is a shield against sin."

9. When one of you is fasting, he should abstain from indecent acts and unnecessary clamoring, and if another person uses obscene language or tries to pick a quarrel with him, he should simply tell him, 'I am fasting'.(Bukhari, Muslim)

10. "The person who observes Sawm with full consciousness of his faith and a sense of accountability will be forgiven all his previous sins. (Bukhari, Muslim)

Fasting with full consciousness of faith= requires firm belief in Allah, His promises with regard to the rewards of the Hereafter, and in His knowledge, wisdom and justice by which He will give rewards and mete out punishments. A sense of accountability implies that the Sawm should be observed only for Allah's approval and pleasure, so one should keep oneself away from all undesirable and forbidden things.