“In the month of Ramadan the Quran was revealed, a book of guidance with proofs of guidance distinguishing right from wrong. Therefore, whoever of you is present in that month let him fast. But he who is ill or on a journey shall fast a similar number of days later on.

“God desires your well-being, not your discomfort. He desires you to fast the whole month so that you may magnify Him and render thanks to Him for giving you His guidance” (2:185).

The above verse explains not only the importance of the month of Ramadan as being the month in which the Quran was revealed, but also the significance of fasting during the month in terms of giving thanks to God. Prophet Muhammad is recorded as having said that God rewards good deeds from ten-fold to 700-fold. His reward for fasting, which is undertaken especially for Him, will be infinite.

Food and drink are man’s most basic necessities. When he is consumed by hunger and thirst, he understands how weak he really
is; he realizes how much he is in need of God’s succor. In the evenings, after a whole day of fasting, people eat and drink their fill: that is when their hearts are flooded with a sense of gratitude to God for His having made complete provision for their needs. That is when they praise God and offer up thanks to Him. This feeling of dependence on God’s bounty also makes them adopt a properly cautious attitude to life. Verse 183, which states that “fasting is decreed for you as it was decreed for those before you,” goes on to say, “perchance you will guard yourselves against evil.”

But there is much more to fasting than the caution and gratitude induced by the purely outward, physical forms of abstention. Its greater significance lies in its symbolism of an inner, spiritual eagerness to make all kinds of sacrifices. Obviously, one who refrains from taking food and water on specific days, but who goes throughout his life without any qualm about telling lies, persecuting his fellow men, thwarting justice, and so on, has missed the whole point of the fast of Ramadan. He has concerned himself all along with outward forms and not with inner realities. Such a man cannot expect to find favour in the eyes of his fellow men and will certainly incur the wrath of God, his Maker.

One who fasts in all sincerity takes care to cast his entire life in one consistent mould. In all his affairs, he applies the constraints laid down by God. He checks himself from abusing others, stays his hand from persecution and halts in his steps towards injustice. As the Prophet said, “Such a man can be likened to a tied-up horse which can go only as far as its rope permits: in that way, he cannot transgress.”