Pillars of Islam

EID AL-FITR—DAY OF DIVINE REWARD

Eid is an important annual festival for people of the Islamic faith. The Muslims celebrate it on the first date of Shawwal, that is, the tenth month of the Hijra calendar. On this festival, Muslims exchange gifts and meet their neighbours as a mark of solidarity and brotherhood.

THE MONTH OF FASTING AND PRAYER

Ramzan, the month of fasting, is a blessed spiritual period for believers, for it is during this month that they do their utmost to awaken and enhance their spirituality. The aim of fasting during Ramzan is to diminish a person's dependence on material things, so that he may elevate himself to a higher plane of devout living. Abiding by the guidelines of fasting raises believers to a state of humility, truth and honesty.

THE INNER REALITY OF FASTING

“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 ESSENCE OF FASTING

Fasting is prescribed once a year, in the month of Ramadhan. One fasts every day of the month, from the first light of dawn until sundown. During that time one abstains completely from food and drink. According to the Qur’an, there are two purposes of fasting (Quran, 2:183,185):

            1. To make one cautious in life.

            2. To make one thankful to God.  

THE COMMAND OF FASTING

The command to fast has been given in detail in the Quran. We quote here the relevant verses:

Fast for a specified number of days, but if any one of you is ill, or on a journey, let him fast the same number of days later. For those who can fast only with extreme difficulty, there is a way to compensate — the feeding of a poor man. But he who does good of his own accord shall be well rewarded; but to fast is better for you, if you only knew.

Ramadan: A Month of Sympathy and Compassion

According to a tradition, Prophet Muhammad observed: “The month of fasting is the month of compassion.” (Mishkat al-Masabih, 1/613). That is, it is a month in which people are helped and shown compassion. This is the human aspect of fasting. That is why the Prophet and his followers used to be generous in giving alms to the poor and needy during this period. No one who asked for anything was ever turned away without his needs being met. One Hadith to this effect is that, whoever feeds the hungry in the month of Ramadan will be forgiven by God on the Last Day.

INNUMERABLE BOUNTIES OF FASTING

Fasting (sawm) is the third pillar of Islam. Right from dawn till dusk, a man who is strictly on a fast will neither eat as much as one morsel of food nor drink a single drop of water. By submitting to this discipline, that is, by depriving himself of the prime necessities of life, man learns the valuable lesson of fortitude. With no food and drink, he naturally feels hungry and thirsty, and his strength begins to ebb.

FASTING: A CULTURE OF THANKSGIVING AND SELF-CONTROL

According to Islamic teachings, the month of Ramadan is the month of fasting. Fasting means abstaining from food and water from dawn till sunset. Fasting begins from the new moon of Ramadan and ends at the new moon of Shawwal.

Apparently fasting is observing hunger, but this is the form of fasting. There is another aspect of fasting, that is, the spirit of fasting. According to the Quran, the spirit of fasting is shukr. (2:185).

FASTING IS RELATED TO THE WHOLE LIFE

Fasting in the month of Ramadan is not some kind of annual custom. It is a living  creative process. Fasting is related to the entire human life. The aim of fasting is to make man’s entire life a roza-oriented life.