Fasting
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FASTING (Sawm)

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Fasting the lunar month of Ramadan is such an important Pillar of Islam that Muslims believe that if one dies without having made up the missed fasts, the guardian (or heir) must make them up, for they are a debt owed to Allah.

 

Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Whoever observes fasts during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven.”

Muslims believe that the influence of the devils on the believers who obey Allah is diminished during Ramadan. Muhammad said, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.”

 

According to Muslims, fasting; means abstaining not only from food and drink, but also from sexual intercourse, lying, arguing, and back-biting. While fasting, Muslims must be careful to restrain their tongues, temper, and even their gaze. Ramadan is the time for Muslims to learn to control themselves and to develop their spiritual side.

 

Basically, Muslims try to have a pre-dawn meal, known as sahur, before they begin fasting. The fast lasts from dawn to sunset. As soon as the sun has set, Muslims break their fast without delay. Generally, Muslims may break their fast with a small amount of food—the Prophet used to do so with an odd number of dates—and then perform the Sunset Prayer before eating a full meal.

 

Muslims believe that the first verses of the Quran (96:1-5) were revealed in the month of Ramadan while Muhammad was in spiritual retreat in the cave of Hira’ outside of Makkah. Years later when the fast of Ramadan was made compulsory,  Angel Gabriel used to sit with Prophet Muhammad every day during Ramadan so that the latter could recite all that had been revealed so far of the Quran. In his final year, the Prophet recited the entire Qur’an twice in Ramadan.

 

In addition to the fast proper, one is encouraged to read the entire Qur'an. In addition, special prayers, called Tarawih, are held in the mosque every night of the month, during which a whole section of the Qur'an (Juz') is recited, so that by the end of the month the entire Qur'an has been completed. These are done in remembrance of the fact that the revelation of the Qur'an to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was begun during Ramadan.

 

During the last ten days - though the exact day is never known and may not even be the same every year - occurs the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr). To spend that night in worship is equivalent to a thousand months of worship, i.e. Allah's reward for it is very great.

 

On the first day of the following month, after another new moon has been sighted, a special celebration is made, called 'Id al-Fitr. A quantity of staple food is donated to the poor (Zakat al-Fitr), everyone has bathed and put on their best, preferably new, clothes, and communal prayers are held in the early morning, followed by feasting and visiting relatives and friends.

 

There are other fast days throughout the year. Muslims are encouraged to fast six days in Shawwal, the month following Ramadan, Mondays and Thursdays, and the ninth and tenth, or tenth and eleventh of Muharram, the first month of the year. The tenth day, called Ashurah, is also a fast day for the Jews (Yom Kippur), and Allah commanded the Muslims to fast two days to distinguish themselves from the People of the Book.

 

While fasting per se is encouraged, constant fasting, as well as monasticism, celibacy, and otherwise retreating from the real world, are condemned in Islam. Fasting on the two festival days, 'Id al-Fitr and 'Id al-Adha, the feast of the Hajj, is strictly forbidden.

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