Questions related to Ramadan – Part I

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Compiled by Junaid Ahmad Waraich, Pakistan

What is the purpose of fasting?

Allah the Almighty states in the Holy Quran:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

 “Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.184)

Fasting is a way to mend one’s soul by leaving one’s own desires for Allah. It nourishes the believer in almost every area of their spiritual life. A person becomes aware and personally experiences what hunger, poverty, loneliness and discomforts mean to the less fortunate sections of society. As a result, a person abstains from performing bad deeds and strives to do good works during Ramadan.

The Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“Whoever wakes up in the middle of the night and offers prayer with the intention of reward and to fulfil the demand of belief, and fasts, his previous sins are forgiven.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab as-Saum)

Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IIra states:

“The purpose of fasting is not to starve. If one could enter Paradise by starvation, then in my view, disbelievers and hypocrites would be ready to do so, as it is not so difficult. In reality, the challenging thing is moral and spiritual transformation. People starve themselves for the most trivial of matters; prisoners go on hunger strikes; Brahmans famously stop eating when they are not listened to. Thus, it is nothing extraordinary to remain hungry, nor is it the purpose of Ramadan.

“Ramadan’s actual purpose is to abstain from everything for Allah during this month and fasting is a way of expressing that one can leave every right for Allah. Eating, drinking, conjugal relationships between a husband and wife, etc. are all rights of a person; whosoever leaves these rights, shows that they are ready to leave their rights for Allah.” (Al Fazl, 17 December 1966)

As fasting is a source of spiritual elevation, there are physical benefits to it as well which include good health, patience and strength to bear hardships.

How should one keep fasts?

Allah the Almighty states in the Holy Quran:

وَكُلُوْا وَاشْرَبُوْا حَتّٰى يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ الْخَيْطُ الْأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الْخَيْطِ الْأَسْوَدِ مِنَ الْفَجْرِ

“And eat and drink until the white thread becomes distinct to you from the black thread of the dawn.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.188)

In order to fast, one should eat and drink before the time of Fajr, which is called sehri (or sahoor).

The Holy Prophetsa said:

“Eat sehri because there are blessings in eating sehri.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab as-Saum)

However, if someone has the intention to fast but happens to wake up late without deliberation and the time for sehri is over, it is permissible to keep fast without eating sehri.

Intention is also mandatory for keeping fasts. A person who wishes to observe the fast must have the intention to fast.

The Holy Prophetsa said:

“Whoever does not have the intention of fasting before morning, he has no fast.” (Jami‘ at-Tirmidhi, Kitab as-Saum)

Although words are not necessary to show the intention of fast, but traditionally the following words are expressed after eating sehri:

وَبِصَوْمِ غَدٍ نَّوَيْتُ مِنْ شَهْرِ رَمَضَانَ

 “I hereby express my intention to keep the fast of tomorrow during the month of Ramadan.”

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra states:

“For fasting, intention is necessary. Without it, there is no reward. Intention is from the heart. One is allowed to eat and drink until they see light from the eastern horizon. If one takes precautions and is later told that daybreak has already happened, his fast will still remain. The time span between eating and Fajr prayer for the Holy Prophetsa was equal to the time spent on reciting 50 verses.” (Al Fazl, 28 July 1914)

However, if someone intends to fast throughout the month of Ramadan but forgets to make a proper intention for a fast or two, this won’t affect their fast. Also, if there is a valid excuse – for instance, they are mistakenly informed about the appearance of the moon of Ramadan after Fajr time and they have not eaten anything – they may still make the intention of the fast and it will count.

How should one break their fast?

Allah the Almighty states in the Holy Quran:

ثُمَّ أَتِمُّوا الصِّيَامَ إِلَى اللَّيْلِ

“Then complete the fast till nightfall.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.188)

It was the practice of the Holy Prophetsa to open a fast with a date, milk or simple water. The Holy Prophetsa said:

“When one wants to open a fast, they should open it with a date because there are blessings in it. If this is not available, then open it with water because it is a very pure thing.” (Jami‘ at-Tirmidhi, Kitab as-Saum)

The prayer for opening the fast is:

اَللّٰهُمَّ اِنِّی لَکَ صُمْتُ وَبِکَ اٰمَنْتُ وَعَلَيْکَ تَوَکَلَّتُ وَعَلٰی رِزْقِکَ اَفْطَرْتُ

“O Allah, I observed the fast for Your sake. I believe in You and I put my trust in You and I end the fast with what You have provided me.”

According to the sayings of the Holy Prophetsa, it is essential that one should break their fast immediately after sunset. Prolonging it beyond this point is not acceptable. The Holy Prophetsa said:

“My people will adhere to good as long as they hasten to break their fast [at the fixed time].” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab as-Saum)

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