Fasting is one of the five pillars on which the structure of Islam rests. Fasting was made obligatory for Muslims in 2 A.H. It is prescribed for the Muslims in the form of a month long abstinence from food and drink from dawn to sunset accompanied by intense devotional activity.
The month of fasting is the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the lunar calendar, in which the first revelation of the Quran came to the Holy Prophet PBUH. In this connection Allah says:
“Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Quran as a guide to mankind. So everyone of you who is present ( at his home ) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period ( should be made up ) by days later.” (2: 185)
Ramadan is the month of purity in which virtue flourishes and evil is suppressed. The Prophet PBUH is is reported to have said:
“When the month of Ramadan comes, the doors of heaven are opened and the door of hell are closed and the devils are chained.” ( Agreed Upon)
“If a person does not abstain from telling lies or doing wrong when he is observing fast, let it be known to him that Allah does not want that he should stop taking his food.” ( Bukhari )
At another place, he said:
“Allah says, fasting is for me and I shall certainly compensate it. Fasting is a shield; So when the fasting of anyone of you come up, he shall not utter foul words. If then anyone rebukes him or fights with him, let him say, I am a man observing fast.” (Muslim)
Fasting, like prayer, is a universal religious institution and has been a part of the law brought by previous Prophets. According to the Holy Quran:
“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you so that you may (learn) self-restrain.”(2:180)
But the Muslim fast is different in all respects from the fasts observed by the followers of other religions. It is not meant as a punishment or self-torture. The verse quoted above informs us that by prescribing a month’s fasts, Allah wishes to teach us self-restraint and to make us righteous and God-fearing.
The instincts of hunger are strong in both animals and human beings. Temporary restrain from these directs attention to higher and spiritual things.
Islam developed a higher significance of fasting, ” that you may guard against evil “.
The keynote of fasting is self discipline and self control. Fasting is for the improvement of the moral and spiritual condition of man.
It makes a Muslim disciplined and steadfast in his habits. It also makes him removes barriers between the rich and the poor.
By Fasting, the rich undergo an experience which makes them aware of the condition of the poor and hungry and instills in them a desire to help the poor. It enables the rich to thank Allah for bounties bestowed on them.
Thus, on the material side, fasting involves total abstinence from food, drink and marital relations and on the spiritual side abstinence from falsehood, speaking ill of others, quarrelling or wrong behaviour.