Fasting in Islam and its significance

fasting in islam

One of the acts of worship that Allah Ta’ala has imposed on His servants is fasting. Surely fasting is one of the pillars of Islam. And the importance of fasting in Islam is immense. Verily, Allah’s pleasure can be gained easily through it. Allah Ta’ala has made it obligatory for His Muslim servants to fast for full a month. That month is The month of Ramaḍan. It is one month of Arabic twelve months. It is obligatory to fast on the believers only in this month. And fasting in other months is a Nafl (supererogatory) act. There are many rules and regulations regarding fasting in Islam, also there are many events and histories about it.

Of course, from the time of Adam (A) to the time of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), fasting was one ruling of Allah in the time of all the Prophets and the Messengers (A). And the rule of fasting will remain valid from the time of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) till the Day of Resurrection. Before discussing various aspects of fasting, let’s first know what the meaning of fasting in Islam is.

What is fasting in Islam?

Fasting literally means abstaining from any words or deeds. [Al-Ma’ani al-Ja’mie, 15th-word As-Saum (الصوم)]

The terminological meaning of fasting is:


In the terminology of Shari’ah: fasting is with intention the abstaining of specific things at a certain time of a particular person. [Sharh ‘Umdah al-Fiqh, volume 18, page 3]

The purpose of the particular person is to become a Muslim, an adult person, and a woman who is free from menstruating and free from Nifas (the blood after childbirth). The purpose by a certain time is from Fajr Sadiq (dawn time) until sunset. And the purpose of certain things is which make to break the fasting. (For example: eating, drinking, having sexual intercourse, etc.) [Sharh Muntaha al-Iradat, volume 1, page 469]

The intention is considered a condition for fasting. Therefore, if a person abstains from eating or drinking or from having sexual intercourse without the intention of fasting, then it will not be considered as fasting.

When was fasting obligatory for Muslims?

Before Islam, fasting was commanded in the age of all the Prophets and the Messengers (A). Then Allah Ta’ala has made fasting obligatory upon Muslim servants only for the full month of Ramadan. Verily, it is not obligatory to fast in any month other than the month of Ramadan. And in the second year of Hijri, Allah Ta’ala has made fasting obligatory for the believers. The event of the revelation of the ruling of fast is as follows:-

When the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) came to Madina, He commanded them (the people) to keep fast for three days (every month). Thereafter the Quranic verses concerning the fasts during Ramadan were revealed. (Those verses of the Quran are:)

“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become Muttaqeen (righteous). (Fasting for) a limited number of days. So whoever among you is ill or on a journey (during them) – then an equal number of other days (are to be kept up fasting). And upon those who are able (to fast, but with hardship) – a ransom (as a substitute) of feeding a poor person (each day). And whoever volunteers good (i.e., excess) – it is better for him. But to fast is best for you, if you only knew.” [Surah Al-Baqarah, verses 183 – 184]

But they were people who were not accustomed to keeping fast; hence keeping the fasts was hard for them; so those who could not keep fast used to feed one indigent (for each fasting).

Then this verse of the Quran is revealed:-

surah baqarah 185

“The month of Ramaḍan (is that) in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights (the moon of) the month (i.e., whoever is present during this month), let him fast it, and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and (Allah wants) for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that (to) which He has guided you, and perhaps you will be grateful.” [Surah Al-Baqarah, verses 185]

So then the concession was granted to the patient (ill person) and Musafir (the traveler); all were commanded to keep fast. [Sunan Abu Dawud, Hadith No. 506]

Narrated Al-Bara (RA); It was the custom among the companions of Muhammad (peace be upon him) that if any of them was fasting and the food was presented (for breaking his fast), but he slept before eating, he would not eat that night and the following day till sunset. (Similarly, if anyone slept before drinking the beverage, or before having sexual intercourse, then was not valid for them to drink or to have sexual intercourse that night and the following day till sunset.)

Qais bin Sirma-al-Ansari (RA)

was fasting and came to his wife at the time of Iftar (breaking one’s fast) and asked her whether she had anything to eat. She (RA) replied, “No, but I would go and bring some for you.” He (Qais bin Sirma-al-Ansari) used to do hard work during the day, So sleep predominated in his two eyes. (As a result, he fell asleep without eating.) When his wife came and saw him, she (RA) said, “Disappointment for you.” When it was midday on the following day, he (RA) fainted and the Prophet (peace be upon him) was informed about the whole matter.

Then the following verses of the Quran were revealed

“It has been made permissible for you the night preceding fasting to go to your wives (for sexual relations). They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them. Allah knows that you used to deceive yourselves, so He accepted your repentance and forgave you. So now, have relations with them and seek that which Allah has decreed for you (i.e., offspring). And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread (of the night). Then complete the fast until the night (i.e., sunset). And do not have relations with them as long as you are staying for worship in the mosques. These are the limits (set by) Allah, so do not approach them. Thus does Allah make clear His verses (i.e., ordinances) to the people so they may stay away (from the forbidden things of Allah).” [Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 187]

So, they (the companions of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ) were overjoyed very much by it. [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Hadith No. 1915]

What is the purpose of fasting in Islam?

The purpose of fasting is to gain the pleasure of Allah, to abstain from sinful deeds, and to increase Taqwa (fear of Allah) by training oneself to control one’s desires. In this regard, Allah Ta’ala said:

“Decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become Muttaqeen (i.e., who fear Allah’s punishment).” [Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 183]

Fasting creates a state of flexibility in a person so that the person who is fasting does not get angry unjustly at anyone’s provocation. Rather, he makes good behavior when faced with bad behavior from others. He behaves gently even when someone insults or anyone reviles him. Surely, fasting inspires the believer to believe in Allah’s promise and reward. In this regard, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

“Allah the Exalted and Majestic said: ‘Every act of the son of Adam is for him, except fasting. It is (exclusively) meant for Me and I (alone) will reward it.’ Fasting is a shield. When any one of you is fasting on a day, he should neither indulge in obscene language; nor raise his voice; Or if anyone reviles him or tries to quarrel with him he should say: I am a person fasting. By Him, in Whose Hand is the life of Muhammad, the breath of the observer of fast will sweeter to Allah on the Day of judgment than the fragrance of musk. The one who fasts has two (occasions) of joy, one when he breaks the fast he is glad with the breaking of (the fast), and one when he meets his Lord he is glad with his fast.” [Sahih Muslim, Hadith No. 1151 d]

There are also other purposes for fasting

Undoubtedly fasting helps enough to realize the suffering of the poor, miserable and indigent people. And it inspires people to extend a helping hand to them. Surely fasting teaches the believer patience, self-purification, self-control, courage, and sincere obedience. The main purpose of fasting is to keep people away from sin and bad deeds.

Therefore, if a person does not continue to try to abstain from sins while fasting, does not refrain from treating people unjustly, and does not take any steps to correct himself, then his fast will not avail him. And surely if anyone fasts to show off people, he will not get any reward. Rather, he will suffer loss in this world and in the Hereafter. Verily, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said:

“There are people who fast and get nothing from their fast except hunger, and there are those who perform Salah and get nothing from their Salah but a sleepless night.” [Sunan Ibn Majah, Hadith No. 1690]

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) also said: “Whoever does not give up false statements (i.e. telling lies), and evil deeds, and speaking bad words to others (while fasting), Allah does not need his (fasting) leaving his food and drink (i.e., Allah will not accept his fasting).” [Sahih Bukhari, Hadith No. 6057]

Our Dua to Allah Ta’ala

May Allah forgive all our sins and mistakes, give us Tawfiq to fast properly, and grant us the grace of abstaining from sin and evil deeds in all time. Ameen.


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