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the fasting month
a month of…
Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before
you, that you may (learn)
The able Muslim fasts from sunrise to sunset everyday during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year
The Prophet (S) directed us to abstain from food, drink, and sexual relations with one’s spouse during the time from Fajr (predawn prayer) to Maghrib (dusk prayer)
Ramadan is not just a time for giving up food. The siyam is for the tongue, the hands, the eyes, the whole being. A fasting Muslim refrains from all manners of vice and evil: arguing, backbiting, laziness, wastefulness, miserliness…
We turn our attention to Ibadat: worship—through extra prayer, reciting the Quran, being charitable, and practicing self-restraint. It is a month, above all, of spiritual and moral renewal. The days are spent in constant remembrance of Allah, in consciousness of the Hereafter rather than this temporary existence.
Narrated by Ibn Khuzaymah
Humility and Charity
Every day there are millions around the world who go hungry—men and women for whom poverty is an unforgiving reality, children who are sorely malnourished, elderly who die of hunger.
Fasting for a month gives us just a taste of what they must go through. What better way to humble ourselves because of the blessings we have been given and open our hearts to charity?
Many scholars and doctors, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, point out that fasting in the manner of Ramadan improves one’s health. The body is cleansed of its impurities much like the soul is cleansed of its own.
Every year, Muslims around the world begin Ramadan with anticipation of purifying their bodies and souls. This holy month is a time of self-renewal, of prioritizing the spiritual over the worldly.
For thirty days, many Muslims try to give up their bad habits. It is, in effect, a training period for the rest of the year.
It is related that during Ramadan, Allah SWT locks up the Shayateen (Satan) so that we are free of their temptations.
During this blessed month, a good deed is worth seventy times more than usual. On the other hand, such is God’s mercy that a bad deed is worth no more than usual.
Our aim is to free ourselves of our carnal desires and to establish taqwa—consciousness and love of God—in our hearts.
“The purpose of fasting is not to make us hungry and thirsty, or to deprive us some of our comfort and conveniences. The real purpose of fasting is that we learn taqwa. Taqwa is highly emphasized in the Qur’an and Sunnah…Taqwa is Islam itself. It is the sum total of all Islamic values and virtues. If one has taqwa one has achieved everything. Taqwa is the consciousness of Allah. It is to do one’s best efforts to live by His commands and to avoid His prohibitions. The Qur’an has used the word taqwa to mean consciousness of Allah, fear of Allah, worship of Allah, sincerity in faith, and avoidance of disobedience to Allah.”
Muzzamil H. Siddiqi
It is highly recommended to have suhoor, or a predawn meal. The Muslim may eat and drink until the time for Fajr prayer begins. This meal gives one strength and makes fasting through the day easier.
“Partake (of) suhoor for there is blessing in suhoor.”Bukhari, Muslim
The fast is broken at the time of the Maghrib prayer. Usually the family or local community gathers to share the fast-breaking together.
“And eat and drink, until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from its black thread; then complete your fast till the night appears…”
These prayers, following the Sunnah of the Prophet (S) are held only in Ramadan, daily after the Isha prayer. They consist of an even number of rakahs, usually 8 or 20, and can be done individually or in congregation.
"Whoever establishes prayers during the nights of Ramadan faithfully out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah's rewards (not for showing off), all his past sins will be forgiven."
The last one-third of Ramadan—that is, the last ten days, are the most blessed. During this period, the Prophet (S) would exert himself even more in devotion and prayer through day and night.
Laylat-ul-Qadr, or the “night of power”, then, is the most auspicious of these days. It is believed that this was the night that the whole Quran was sent down the lowest heaven, and that this is when destinies are decided.
The night of power is worth more than a thousand months of prayer, a night when the gates of heaven are opened; and the diligent servant who spends it in devotion is very blessed indeed.
Lo! We revealed it on the Night of Power. Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Night of Power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, with all decrees. (That night is) Peace until the rising of the dawn.
Surah Al-Qadr 97:1 – 5
Therein [that night] is decreed every matter of ordainments.
Surat Ad-Dukhan 44:4
Also during the last ten days, the Muslim can engage in I’tikaf, or spiritual retreat, where he withdraws himself to the mosque away from all other activities. He expends all his energy in total devotion: prayer, reading the Quran, and dhikr.
In the last days of Ramadan, the able adult Muslim gives his due charity to the less fortunate. This is the Zakat-ul-Fitr, which is especially for Ramadan.
The blessed month of fasting culminates in Eid-ul-Fitr, a joyful occasion where the Muslim community comes together to feast and celebrate the successes of another Ramadan. After the Salat-ul-Eid, or Eid prayer, one can visit family and friends and exchange gifts.
Observing Ramadan is obligatory upon all able adult Muslims, with the exception of a few situations:
The ill, mentally disabled, weak, or traveling people, and the pregnant or menstruating women are not obliged to observe the Ramadan fast. Once the situation passes, these individuals should make up the missed days of fast after Ramadan. If they are still unable to do so, they are directed to specific acts of charity, such as feeding a certain number of needy people.
…a time for unity with the worldwide Muslim community, for humble devotion and reverence, for moderation and sacrifice, for freedom from the world and awareness of the Hereafter.
“The Islamic fast which is the union of asceticism and joy – and even pleasure in certain cases – is the most natural and most radical educational measure that has ever been put into practice. It is equally present in the king’s palace and the peasant’s hut, in a philosopher’s home and a worker’s home. Its greatest advantage is that it is really practiced.”
Dr. Alija Izetbekovic
Islamic Circle of North America
Siyam (Fasting) by Jamal A. Badawi