Ramadan (Sawm) is one of the five pillars of Islam and the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. The meaning of Sawm is to ‘abstain’. In this month, Allah Subhana Wa Taala (SWT) has made it compulsory that the fasting be observed by day, and he has made the ‘Taraweeh’ (Ramadan nightly prayer) a ‘Sunnah’. Fasting is to abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and conjugal relations from dawn till sunset.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “There is a gate in Paradise called Ar-Raiyan, and those who observe fasting will enter through it on the Day of Resurrection and none except them will enter through it”. (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 120)
During the month of Ramadan, the Prophet (pbuh) used to apportion to Ramadan a degree of worship that was not set aside to any other month. The Prophet (pbuh) spent his day in remembrance, recitation, learning and providing advice and training. His nights were spent in supplication and humiliation unto Allah (SWT), seeking His help, support, victory and guidance.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “If someone draws near to Allah during Ramadan with some good act he will be like one who fulfils an obligatory duty in another month, and he who fulfils an obligatory duty in it will be like one who fulfils seventy obligatory duties in another month”. (Tirmidhi Hadith 1965)
Fasting earns great reward as clearly stated in the above Hadith. When Allah (SWT) rewards an action as purely His, then the reward is limitless.
The Prophet (pbuh) said that Allah (SWT), the Majestic and the Exalted, said “All actions a human being does are for himself except fasting. It is done for My sake, and I will give a reward for it and the reward of good deeds is multiplied 10 times”. (Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 31, Number 118, & Sahih Muslim, Book 006, Number 2564)
Ramadan is an annual training programme to refresh us for carrying out our duties towards Allah (SWT). Fasting develops self-control and helps us to overcome selfishness, greed, laziness and other faults. This month of patience gives us an opportunity to experience for ourselves what it is like to have an empty stomach. This develops our feeling for the poor and hungry people. Fasting teaches us to control the love of comfort.
If difficulty is experienced in fasting, one should bear it cheerfully and not complain. Should we feel fatigued at the time of Taraweeh (Ramadan nightly prayer), this too should be borne with fortitude.
It should also be borne in mind that fasting does not aim at inflicting punishment upon people or taking on unbearable burdens. The underlying idea behind it is to teach moderation and spiritual discipline so that human temptations may not become so wild and uncontrollable as to flout the commands of the Great Master. To be a true servant of Allah (SWT), it is essential that man should be able to conform his behaviour to the moral and spiritual discipline embodied in the Shari’ah of Islam. Fasting is indispensable for this moral and spiritual training.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of mercy are opened and the gates of Hell are locked and the devils are chained”. (Sahih Muslim, Book 006, Number 2361)
The hadith below gives some very important points regarding Ramadan:
The Prophet (pbuh) said “Fasting is a shield or protection from the fire and from committing sins. If one is fasting, he should avoid sexual relation with his wife and quarrelling, and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say, ‘I am fasting.’ There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and other at the time when he will meet Allah; then he will be pleased because of his fasting.” (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 128)
In this month, the rebellious ‘Shayateen’ (Satans) are chained, so as not to provoke those evils which they normally do during months other than Ramadan. A question may arise here that, when the ‘Shayateen’ are chained, how it is that we still do see evil committed? The reply is that evil may not necessarily be caused by the rebellious ‘Shayateen’. People have for eleven months lived in obedience to ‘Shayateen’ whims and wishes, and so performing evil deeds instigated by them becomes second nature. Consequently, evil is being done in and out of Ramadan.
Therefore the feelings and lessons we experience should stay with us throughout the year. In Al-Qur’an, Muslims are commanded to fast so that they may “become pious”. This piety and devotion is especially felt during Ramadan, but we all must strive to make the feelings and attitude stay with us during our “normal” lives. That is the true goal and test of Ramadan.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Every servant of Allah who observes fast for a day in the way of Allah, Allah would remove, because of this day, his face farther from the Fire of Hell to the extent of seventy years’ distance”. (Sahih Muslim, Book 006, Number 2570)
Fasting is the way to piety and the fear of God. Fasting narrows the food and blood arteries. They are known to be canals of the devils, hence fasting reduces their insinuation. It further weakens carnal desires, thoughts and temptations of disobedience.
Fasting enhances bodily health. It gets rid of contaminated matter, eases the stomach, purifies the blood, eases the working of the heart, brightens the spirit, refines the soul and disciplines the character. When an individual fasts, his soul is humbled and his carnal desires are dispelled. There is a great reward for fasting, as it shows a Muslim obeying Allah (SWT) and submitting to His command.