By Sirajuddin Aziz
May 9, 2019
THE literal meaning of Saum (fasting) means to be at rest and it implies abstinence. The word Ramadan is derived from the word “Ramz” which means “to burn” and here it applies to the burning of selfish desires. The sacred month of Ramadan is in fact an annual invitation to the delinquents, to shed evil away and put on garb of humility.
The Holy Quran states,
“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you, that ye may ward off evil” (2:183).
The regulations about Ramadan in Chapter II of the Holy Quran are coupled repeatedly with an emphasis upon two aspects:
(a) facilities and concessions given in respect of Fasting
(b) spiritual significance of fasting, without which fasting would be like an empty shell without a kernel.
Thus, fasting has been enjoined and made incumbent upon every Muslim adult but with the condition that he must be fit physically for it. A sick person, one who is travelling, an old person and one who finds the severity of fast hard to bear on account of age or other infirmity are exempt. But for the sick and the traveller this is a temporary exemption, they have to complete the period on other days.
“And whosoever of you is sick or on a journey let him fast the same number of other days”. (2:185).
Yousuf Ali, in his commentary on the Holy Quran, writes,
“Illness and journey must not be interpreted in an elastic sense; they must be such as to cause pain and sufferings”.
On the other hand, Allah does not wish to burden the man who has permanent infirmity, for such a person the Holy Quran states:
“And for those who cannot afford it there is ransom, the feeding of a man in need”. (2.184).
According to Hadith
“when Ramadan commences, the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of hell are closed and the Satans are chained”.
The verse i.e. II: 187, that follows the ordinance about Ramadan, is of particular significance to the concept of self-denial and offers limitless assurances, to those who fast, “when My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them). I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on me….” In the Holy Quran, the subject of fasting is mentioned and explained only in one place, that is in the 23rd section of the second chapter; though there is mention on other occasions of fasting by way of expiation or ‘fidya’ in certain cases.
Even before the advent of Islam, it was customary for Arabs to devote a certain period of the year to exclusive worship and prayer. Muhammad Hussein Heykal in his biography of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) has referred to this tradition as, “the Arabs annual retreat” and states that much before revelations began to the Prophet; he would each year spend the whole of Ramadan in the cave of Mt. Hira, devoting himself uninterruptedly to his spiritual pursuits in peace, solitude and tranquillity.
The Holy Quran states,
“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you that ye may ward off evil” (2:183).
The verse i.e. II: 187, that follows the ordinance about Ramadan, is of particular significance to the concept of self-denial and offers limitless assurances, to those who fast,
“when My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them). I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me….”
According to a tradition, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, ‘verily, a month of blessing has come to you… Allah has made obligatory the fast of it on you. The doors of paradise are opened during it, while the doors of hell are closed. Satan is put in fetters. There is a night in it which is better than one thousand months. Whoever is deprived of the goodness of it is really a deprived person.
The institution of fasting was enjoined upon the faithful in the second year of Hijra Syed Ameer Ali writes: “The institution of fasting in Islam has legitimate object of restraining the passions by abstinence for a limited and definite period, from all gratifications of senses and directing the overflow of animal spirits into a healthy channel”. The regulations about Ramadan in Chapter II of the Holy Quran are coupled repeatedly with an emphasis upon two aspects:
(a) Facilities and concessions given in respect of fasting
(b) Spiritual significance of fasting. Ramadan is a month of patience. The object of fast is to attain righteousness, patience in adversity, steadfastness in deprivation and to increase one’s power of resistance.
It has been very rightly said by a noted Lebanese writer that, “If you plant your pain in the field of patience, it will bear the fruits of happiness.” The object of fast is to attain righteousness, patience in adversity, steadfastness in deprivation and to increase one’s power of resistance. Fasting places everybody the rich and the poor; the high and the low on the same pedestal. Both the well-to-do and the less favoured experience in common the pangs of hunger and privation to an equal degree.
Fasting infuses in man a great degree of determination and trust in Allah, imparts loftiness to his character and personality. There is a tradition related by Abu Hazim, that the Apostle of Allah once said, “In Paradise there is a gate named Ar-Rayyan through which on the Day of Reckoning those who fast will enter, and through which none but they will enter”. It is said that the Prophet (Pbuh) during Ramadan was more generous than the rain bringing wind. Fasting accustoms us to face hardships of life – by renouncing everyday comforts; we give strength to our resolve and increase one’s power of resistance. “Muslim Fast is not meant for self – torture. Although it is stricter than other fasts, it also provides alleviations for special circumstances.
It is not merely a temporary abstention from food and drink but this abstention enables the attention to be directed to higher things” writes Yusuf Ali. It must not be forgotten that the whole purpose of fasting during Ramadan is to promote righteousness, which is a progressive cultivation of spiritual values. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) was very particular and emphatic in drawing attention to this aspect of fasting. He said “He who abstains from food and drink during the period of fasting but does not strive to abstain and safeguard himself against moral lapses, starves to no purpose.”
Sirajuddin Aziz is Chief Executive Officer of a financial institution.