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Fasting is another unique moral and spiritual characteristicof Islam. Literally defined, fasting means to abstain"completely" from foods, drinks, intimateintercourse and smoking, before the break of thedawn till sunset, during the entire month of Ramadan,the ninth month of the Islamic year. But if we restrictthe meaning of the Islamic Fasting to this literalsense, we would be sadly mistaken.

WhenIslam introduced this matchless institution, itplanted an ever-growing tree of infinite virtueand invaluable products. Here is an explanationof the spiritual meaning of the Islamic Fasting:

Itteaches man the principle of sincere Love: becausewhen he observes Fasting he does it out of deeplove for God. And the man who loves God truly isa man who really knows what love is.

Itequips man with a creative sense of hope and anoptimistic outlook on life; because when he fastshe is hoping to please God and is seeking His Grace

Itequips man with a creative sense of hope and anoptimistic outlook on life; because when he fastshe is hoping to please God and is seeking His Grace

Itcultivates in man a vigilant and sound conscience;because the fasting person keeps his fast in secretas well as in public. In fasting, especially, thereis no mundane authority to check man's behavioror compel him to observe fasting. He keeps it toplease God and satisfy his own conscience by beingfaithful in secret and in public. There is no betterway to cultivate a sound conscience in man.

Itindoctrinates man in patience and selflessness,as through fasting, he feels the pains of deprivationbut he endures them patiently

Itis an effective lesson in applied moderation andwillpower.

Fastingalso provides man with a transparent soul, a clearmind and a light body.

Itshows man a new way of wise savings and sound budgeting

Itenables man to master the art of Mature Adaptability.We can easily understand the point once we realizethat fasting makes man change the entire courseof his daily life.

Itgrounds man in discipline and healthy survival

Itoriginates in man the real spirit of social belonging,unity and brotherhood, of equality before God aswell as before the law.

Itis a Godly prescription for self-reassurance andself-control.

Now,someone may be tempted to raise the objection: Ifthis is the case with the Islamic institution offasting, and if this is the picture of Islam inthis aspect, why are the Muslims not living in autopia? To such an objection we can only say thatMuslims have lived in and enjoyed a utopia in acertain epoch of their history. The realizationof that utopia was a phenomenon of a unique achievementin the history of man. We say unique, because noreligion or social system other than Islam has everbeen able to realize its ideals in reality.

Thereason why the Islamic utopia is not being establishednowadays is manifold and easily explicable. Butto restrict our discussion to the institution offasting we may say that some Muslims, unfortunatelyfor them, do not observe the fast or, at best, adoptthe attitude of indifference. On the other hand,some of those who observe it do not realize itstrue meaning and, as a result, derive very littlebenefit out of it or, in fact, no benefit at all.That is why some Muslims today, do not enjoy thereal privileges of fasting.

Ithas already been indicated that the period of obligatoryfasting is the month of Ramadan. The daily periodof observance starts before the break of the dawnant ends immediately after sunset. Normally thereare accurate calendars to toll the exact time, butin the absence of such facilities one should consultone's watch and the sun's positions, together withthe local newspapers, weather bureau, etc.

FastingRamadan is obligatory on every responsible and fitMuslim. But there are other times when it is recommendedto make voluntary fasting, after the Traditionsof Prophet Muhammad. Among these times are Mondaysand Thursdays of every week, a few days of eachmonth in the two months heralding the coming ofRamadan, i.e., Rajab and Sha'ban, six days afterRamadan following the 'Eid-ul-Fitr Day. Besides,it is always compensating to fast any day of anymonth of the year, except the 'Eid Days and Fridayswhen no Muslim should fast.

However,we may repeat that the only obligatory fasting isthat of Ramadan - which may be 29 or 30 days, dependingon the moon's positions. This is a pillar of Islam,and any failure to observe it without reasonableexcuses is a grave sin in the sight of God.

WhoMust Fast?

FastingRamadan is compulsory upon every Muslim, male orfemale, who has these qualifications:

Tobe mentally and physically fit, which means to besane and able.

Tobe of full age, the age of puberty and discretion,which is normally about fourteen. Children underthis age should be encouraged to start this goodpractice on easy levels, so when they reach theage of puberty they will be mentally and physicallyprepared to observe fasting.

Tobe present at one's permanent settlement, your hometown, one's farm, and one's business premises, etc.This means not to be on a journey of about fiftymiles or more

Tobe fairly certain that fasting is unlikely to causeyou any harm, physical or mental, other than thenormal reactions to hunger, thirst, etc.

ExemptionFrom Fasting

Thesesaid qualifications exclude the following categories:

Childrenunder the age of puberty and discretion.

Insanepeople who are unaccountable for their deeds. Peopleof these two categories are exempted from the dutyof fist, and no compensation or any other substituteis enjoined on them.

Menand women who are too old and feeble to undertakethe obligation of fast and bear its hardships. Suchpeople are exempted from this duty, but they mustoffer, at least, one needy poor Muslim an averagefull meal or its value per person per day.

Sickpeople whose health is likely to be severely affectedby the observance of fast. They may postpone thefast, as long as they are sick, to a later dateand make up for it, a day for a day.

Travelersmay break the fast temporarily during their travelonly and make up for it in later days, a day fora day

Pregnantwomen and women breast-feeding their children mayalso break the fast, if its observance is likelyto endanger their own health or that of their infants.But they must make up for the fast at a delayedtime, a day for a day.

Womenin the -period of menstruation (of a maximum often days or of confinement (of a maximum of fortydays).; They must postpone the fast till recoveryand then make up for it, a day for a day.

Itshould be understood that here, like in all otherIslamic undertakings, the intention must be madeclear that this action is undertaken in obedienceto God, in response to His command and out of loveof Him.

Thefast of any day of Ramadan becomes void by intentionaleating or drinking or smoking or indulgence in anyintimate intercourse, and by allowing anything toenter through the mouth into the interior partsof the body. And if this is done deliberately withoutany lawful reason, this is a major sin which onlyrenewed repentance can expiate.

Ifanyone, through forgetfulness, does something thatwould ordinarily break the fast, 0a observance isnot nullified, and his fast stands valid, providedhe stops doing that thing the moment he realizeswhat he is doing.

Oncompletion of the fast of Ramadan, the special charityknown as Sadagat-ul-Fitr (charity of ' Fast-breaking)must be distributed before 'Eid-ul-Fitr (approximately),seven dollars per head.


Itis strongly recommended by Prophet Muhammad to observethese practices especially during Ramadan:

Tohave a light meal before the break of the dawn,known as Suhoor.

Toeat a few dates or start breaking the fast by plainwater right after sunset, saying this prayer Allahhumma laka sumna, wa 'ala rizqika aftarna. (O God!for Your sake have we fasted and now we break thefast with the food You have given us).

Tomake your meals as light as possible because, asthe Prophet put it, the worst thing man can fillis his stomach.

Toobserve the supererogatory prayer known as Taraweeh.

Toexchange social visits and intensify humanitarianservices.

Toincrease the study ant recitation of the Qur'an.

Toexert the utmost in patience ant humbleness.

Tobe extraordinarily cautious in using one's senses,one's mind and, especially, the tongue; to abstainfrom careless gossip and avoid all suspicious motions.

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