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Month of Gifts
Muslims are required to fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
During the 29/30 days of Ramadan all adult Muslims must give up the following things during the hours of daylight:
Food or drink of any sort
Smoking, including passive smoking
Muslims who are physically or mentally unwell may be excused some of these, as may those who are under twelve years old, the very old, those who are pregnant, breast-feeding, menstruating, or travelling.
If an adult does not fast for the reasons above they should try to make up the fast at a later date, or make a donation to the poor instead.
Muslims do not only abstain from physical things during Ramadan. They are also expected to do their best to avoid evil thoughts and deeds as well.
There are many good reasons for this fast, including:
Becoming spiritually stronger
Appreciating God's gifts to us
Sharing the sufferings of the poor and developing sympathy for them
Realising the value of charity and generosity
Giving thanks for the Holy Qur'an, which was first revealed in the month of Ramadan
Sharing fellowship with other Muslims
Eating in Ramadan
During Ramadan many Muslims will try to eat a large meal called suhur just before dawn.
When daylight is over, most Muslims will break or open the fast with dates or water, following the example of the Prophet Muhammad, before having a proper meal later.
The evening meals during Ramadan are occasions for family and community get-togethers.
Ramadan and the Western calendar
Because Islam uses a lunar calendar, the month of Ramadan comes around 11 days earlier each successive year, so there is no Western season associated with Ramadan.
“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint.” 2:183
“(Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (with hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will, it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.” 2:184
Also, Allah Almighty said while referring to fasting,
"And when My slaves ask you (O Mohammad) concerning Me, then answer them, I am indeed near (to them by My Knowledge). I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls on Me (without any mediator or intercessor)." [2:186].
Types of Fasting
Fasting in Islam is a highly developed institution, and needs to be studied in depth. There are two types of injunctions with regards to fasting. One relates to obligatory fasting and the other to optional fasting.
1. Obligatory Fasting
There is one full month in every year in which fasting is prescribed for Muslims all over the world. As the month is a lunar month, so it keeps changing around the year in relation to the solar months. This creates a universal balance for the worshippers. Sometimes the fasting in winter months is easy as far as the days go, in comparison to the long winter nights, while during the summer months the days become long and exacting. As the lunar months keep rotating around the year, so Muslims in all parts of the world have some periods of easy fasting and some of arduous fasting.
2. Optional Fasting
The optional fasting is so well promoted that it becomes a part of the righteous Muslim's way of life. Although a majority of Muslims do not go beyond the month of obligatory fasting, some keep fasts now and then particularly when in trouble. As it is expected that the prayers offered in fasting are more productive, some people keep extra fasts to ward off their problems, but some do it only for the sake of winning Allah's special favors. There no limit to this, except that the founder of Islam strongly discouraged those who had vowed to fast
continuously for their whole life. When the Holy Prophet (SAW) came to learn of one such case, he disapproved of the practice and censured the man for attempting to achieve liberation as if by forcing his will upon. He told the person concerned that: 'Just by putting yourself to trouble or discomfort, not only will you be unable to please God, but you may even earn His displeasure.' He pointed out that over emphasis on austerity is likely to make one negligent towards one's wife and children, kith and kin, friends etc.
Fasting is one of the Five Pillars of the Islam religion, and one of the main types of Islamic worship. Restraint from everyday enjoyment and curbing wicked intentions and cravings are considered as an act of compliance and obedience to God, as well as amends for sins, faults, and mistakes. Ramadan is also called Ramazan. During Ramadan, Muslims request forgiveness for sins in the past, pray for direction and assistance in abstaining from everyday troubles, and endeavor to cleanse themselves through self-control and great acts of faith.
Benefits of Fasting
When Islam introduced this matchless institution, it planted an ever-growing tree of infinite virtue and invaluable products. Here is an explanation of what a Muslim gets by observing Islamic fasting. We may divide benefits of fasting into two types. First is spiritual benefits of fasting and second one is social benefits of fasting.
Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that Allah’s Apostle, Salla Allahu Alayhi Wasallam, said, what translated means,
“Allah said, ‘All the deeds of the son of Adam are for him: the good deeds will be multiplied ten times to seven hundred time, except fasting, which is for Me and I will reward for it accordingly. He abandons his (sexual) desire, food and drink for Me.’ Verily, there are two joyous and pleasurable moments for the fasting person: one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other is when he will meet his Lord (in the Hereafter). Verily, the unpleasant odor emanating from the mouth of the fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the scent of musk.”
[Al-Bukhari & Muslim].
This noble Hadith contains numerous virtues and benefits that can only be attained from fasting. It also indicates the importance of fasting in Islam and its obligation upon all Muslims.
1. Multiplying the rewards for fasting is different than the rest of the acts of worship and good deeds. As for fasting, there is no limit for such multiplication, while in the case of other deeds, each good credit is multiplied from ten to seven hundred times only.
2. Sincerity while fasting counts more than sincerity while performing other deeds, for Allah said in the Hadith, “He abandons his (sexual) desire, food and drink for Me.”
3. Allah has chosen fasting to be the acts of worship that He Himself will reward for it, for He said, “Fasting is for Me, and I will reward for it accordingly.”.
4. Fasting brings about two great occasions of joy and happiness for the fasting person: one in this life, and that is when he breaks his fast with what Allah has allowed for him of foods and drinks. As for the other, it is in the Hereafter, and that is when he receives the rewards for his fast. This is permissible happiness and joy, just as Allah said, what translated means,
"Say, “In the Bounty of Allah, and in His Mercy (i.e. Islam and the Quran); therein let them rejoice.”" [10:58].
Lo and behold, a miracle happened! This man went back to his doctor after Ramadan and the doctor examined him and he realized that, the tumor that he supposed to operate him and removed was nowhere to be found, and he told him about it, and the man then revealed to the Doctor that, perhaps he was cured because he fasted, and the doctor admitted to him the medical advantages of fasting, confirming what the Qur'an says.
Allah said: (...a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong).)
“…the Quran was sent down as a guidance for the people.” (Quran 2:185)
Here Allah praised the Qur'an, which He revealed as guidance for the hearts of those who believe in it and adhere to its commands. Allah said: (and clear proofs) meaning, as clear and unambiguous signs and unequivocal proof for those who understand them. These proofs testify to the truth of the Qur'an, its guidance, the opposite of misguidance, and how it guides to the straight path, the opposite of the wrong path, and the distinction between the truth and falsehood, and the permissible and the prohibited.
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