The Message of Fasting

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | Pillars of Islam |  Spirit of Ramadan

The sighting of the moon on the last evening of the month of Shaban (the eighth month of the lunar calendar) marks the commencement of the month of fasting—Ramadan (the ninth month of the lunar calendar).

Fasting is a special training where one is being prepared to lead a principled life—not merely during the month of fasting, but, in fact, for the whole year round.

Sighting the moon is meant to psychologically prepare believers to be ready for the month of fasting. Seeing the moon evokes the feeling that the time has come to revolutionize their lives.

The month of fasting, starting from the evening of the 29th of Shaban (the last day of Shaban) is a period of “total activity”—a time of special religious observances. In other months, they could eat and drink anytime, hunger and thirst being their guide, but now ‘principle’ becomes their guide.

Fasting is a special training to help distinguish between what is allowed and forbidden, a preparation to lead a principled life not merely during the month of fasting but for the whole year round.

Before commencing the fast, the intention (niyyah) to keep the fast must be expressed. The Prophet observed: “A fast should be kept by one who has expressed his intention to do so before dawn.” (Sunan an-Nasa’i, Hadith No. 2343)

Fasting is a conscious act, not a mere ritual. It is performed with full consciousness of its implications—the mark of a truly religious person. Sehri is the meal eaten before commencing the fast. The Prophet asked his companions to eat Sehri, calling this a blessing. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith No. 1923) The Prophet invited a companion to partake of Sehri saying “Have the blessed Sehri.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Hadith No. 2344) Another companion says, “Once I went to the Prophet before dawn and he was eating Sehri. The Prophet observed: ‘Sehri is a blessing bestowed on you by God, so you should partake of it.’” (Musnad Ahmad, Hadith No. 23142)

Fasting gives a strong powerful lesson that you have to abstain from all the things God has forbidden you, however much it may go against your wishes.

Eating Sehri before dawn is a reminder that when God gives us a difficult command, He also grants some concessions along with it. Together with the command of fasting, God gives the concession of Sehri. Any commandment of God, however difficult, requires absolute trust in Him.

Routine daily activities go on but in a state of fasting; the difference being that the same activities are now conducted with a new frame of mind. The one who fasts now performs    prayers, studies the Quran, remembers God, and deals with people during the course of the day. These routine activities are performed with a spiritual state of mind, giving them the status of spiritual acts.

Sunset is the time for breaking the fast. As he does so, he thanks God with the following words of prayer used by the Prophet: “May the Lord be thanked and praised with Whose help I was able to fast, and now I am breaking the fast with the food and drink that He has provided. May God accept it. He is the All Hearing, the All Knowing.” (Kanzul Ummal, Hadith No. 18057 and 18058)

This prayer expresses the feelings that surge within a believer while breaking his fast.