Ramadan- its greatness, history and concept of fasting
Alhamdulillah, Allah All-Mighty has gifted us with another Ramadhan. It is a month of great sales and offers for those who believe in Allah and the hereafter.
Below is a humble effort to address some of the key points:
1. History of Ramadhan
Ramadan is a historic month that existed within the Arab calendar from pre-Islamic times. The most notable events in Ramadhan are the revelation of the Quran and fasting.
Allah, the All-Mighty said:
شَہۡرُ رَمَضَانَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ ٱلۡقُرۡءَانُ هُدً۬ى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَـٰتٍ۬ مِّنَ ٱلۡهُدَىٰ وَٱلۡفُرۡقَانِۚ فَمَن شَہِدَ مِنكُمُ ٱلشَّہۡرَ فَلۡيَصُمۡهُۖ وَمَن ڪَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوۡ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ۬ فَعِدَّةٌ۬ مِّنۡ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَۗ يُرِيدُ ٱللَّهُ بِڪُمُ ٱلۡيُسۡرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِڪُمُ ٱلۡعُسۡرَ وَلِتُڪۡمِلُواْ ٱلۡعِدَّةَ وَلِتُڪَبِّرُواْ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَٮٰكُمۡ وَلَعَلَّڪُمۡ تَشۡكُرُونَ
“In the month of Ramadan the Qur’an 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 who is ill or on a journey shall fast a similar number of days later on. Allah 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. Concept of Fasting – Why do Muslims fast?
Allah, the All-Mighty said:
يَاأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيۡڪُمُ ٱلصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبۡلِڪُمۡ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَتَّقُونَ
أَيَّامً۬ا مَّعۡدُودَٲتٍ۬ۚ فَمَن كَانَ مِنكُم مَّرِيضًا أَوۡ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ۬ فَعِدَّةٌ۬ مِّنۡ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَۚ وَعَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ ۥ فِدۡيَةٌ۬ طَعَامُ مِسۡكِينٍ۬ۖ فَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيۡرً۬ا فَهُوَ خَيۡرٌ۬ لَّهُ ۥۚ وَأَن تَصُومُواْ خَيۡرٌ۬ لَّڪُمۡۖ إِن كُنتُمۡ تَعۡلَمُونَ (١٨٤) شَہۡرُ رَمَضَانَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ ٱلۡقُرۡءَانُ هُدً۬ى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَـٰتٍ۬ مِّنَ ٱلۡهُدَىٰ وَٱلۡفُرۡقَانِۚ فَمَن شَہِدَ مِنكُمُ ٱلشَّہۡرَ فَلۡيَصُمۡهُۖ وَمَن ڪَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوۡ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ۬ فَعِدَّةٌ۬ مِّنۡ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَۗ يُرِيدُ ٱللَّهُ بِڪُمُ ٱلۡيُسۡرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِڪُمُ ٱلۡعُسۡرَ وَلِتُڪۡمِلُواْ ٱلۡعِدَّةَ وَلِتُڪَبِّرُواْ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَٮٰكُمۡ وَلَعَلَّڪُمۡ تَشۡكُرُونَ (١٨٥) وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِى عَنِّى فَإِنِّى قَرِيبٌۖ أُجِيبُ دَعۡوَةَ ٱلدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِۖ فَلۡيَسۡتَجِيبُواْ لِى وَلۡيُؤۡمِنُواْ بِى لَعَلَّهُمۡ يَرۡشُدُونَ (١٨٦)
“O you who believe, the fasts have been enjoined upon you as they were enjoined upon those before you, so that you
may be God-fearing, For days few in number. However, should any one of you be sick or on a journey, then (he
should fast) a number of other days (equal to the missed ones); and those who do not have the strength, (they do not
opt for fasting,) on them there is a fidyah (compensation), that is, the feeding of a poor person. Then whoever does
good voluntarily, that is better for him. However, fasting is better for you, if you only knew. (184)
The month of Ramadan is the one in which the Qur’an was revealed as guidance for mankind, and as clear signs that
show the right way and distinguish between right and wrong. So those of you who witness the month must fast in it. But
the one who is sick, or is on a journey (should fast) as much from other days (as he missed). Allah intends (to provide)
ease for you and does not intend (to create) hardship for you. All this is so that you may complete the number (of fasts as
prescribed) and proclaim the Takbir of Allah for having guided you, and (so) that you may be grateful. (185) When
My servants ask you about Me, then (tell them that) I am near. I respond to the call of one when he prays to Me; so
they should respond to Me, and have faith in Me, so that they may be on the right path.”
What is Taqwa?
Taqwa is when a person obeys Allah and abstains from disobeying him due to his constant awareness that Allah is All-Watching and All-Knowing. Once a person fasts with the correct intention then Allah grants him the gift of Taqwa.
Fasting also aids a person in self control and restraint. Since an individual wakes up unlike a normal day, he will now give up his fresh glass of water, then breakfast, lunch and snacks etc. He is controlling his appetite and the desire to eat and taste food. Thereafter once he is able to control his eating appetite, which is one of the most challenging desires, then it becomes easy to control other appetites, like sins etc.
He achieves sympathy for the poor and deprived. It is by fasting that a rich person feels how to live with an empty stomach and how the poor feel all the time.
3. Fadhaail- General virtues of Ramadhan & Fasting
Allah will personally reward a fasting person or He will be the reward. Both express the extreme nature of the reward.
Fasting is a shield from sin, this is why Prophet (May Allah’s peace be upon him) advised a person who cannot get
married due to some reason, to fast.
Fasting is also abstaining from quarrelling and other sins.
The smell due to hunger coming out of a fasting person’s mouth is more dearer to Allah than musk (prestigious perfume).
Benefits from two joys; one when having iftaar after a day-long fast and the other will be when meeting Allah.
A detailed Ahadeeth on the virtue and concept of fasting
عَنْ أَبِي صَالِحٍ الزَّيَّاتِ، أَنَّهُ سَمِعَ أَبَا هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ يَقُولُ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم “ قَالَ اللَّهُ كُلُّ عَمَلِ ابْنِ آدَمَ لَهُ إِلاَّ الصِّيَامَ، فَإِنَّهُ لِي، وَأَنَا أَجْزِي بِهِ. وَالصِّيَامُ جُنَّةٌ، وَإِذَا كَانَ يَوْمُ صَوْمِ أَحَدِكُمْ، فَلاَ يَرْفُثْ وَلاَ يَصْخَبْ، فَإِنْ سَابَّهُ أَحَدٌ، أَوْ قَاتَلَهُ فَلْيَقُلْ إِنِّي امْرُؤٌ صَائِمٌ. وَالَّذِي نَفْسُ مُحَمَّدٍ بِيَدِهِ لَخُلُوفُ فَمِ الصَّائِمِ أَطْيَبُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ مِنْ رِيحِ الْمِسْكِ، لِلصَّائِمِ فَرْحَتَانِ يَفْرَحُهُمَا إِذَا أَفْطَرَ فَرِحَ، وَإِذَا لَقِيَ رَبَّهُ فَرِحَ بِصَوْمِهِ “
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
Allah’s Messenger (May Allah’s peace be upon him) said,
“Allah said, ‘All the deeds of son of Adam (people) are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.’ Fasting is a shield from the fire and from committing sins. If one of you is fasting, he should avoid sexual relation with his wife and quarrelling, and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say, ‘I am fasting.’ By Him in Whose Hands my soul is’ The unpleasant smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord; then he will be pleased because of his fasting.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ “ الصِّيَامُ جُنَّةٌ، فَلاَ يَرْفُثْ وَلاَ يَجْهَلْ، وَإِنِ امْرُؤٌ قَاتَلَهُ أَوْ شَاتَمَهُ فَلْيَقُلْ إِنِّي صَائِمٌ. مَرَّتَيْنِ، وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ لَخُلُوفُ فَمِ الصَّائِمِ أَطْيَبُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ تَعَالَى مِنْ رِيحِ الْمِسْكِ، يَتْرُكُ طَعَامَهُ وَشَرَابَهُ وَشَهْوَتَهُ مِنْ أَجْلِي، الصِّيَامُ لِي، وَأَنَا أَجْزِي بِهِ، وَالْحَسَنَةُ بِعَشْرِ أَمْثَالِهَا “
Narrated by Abu Hurairah: Allah’s Messenger (May Allah’s peace be
upon him) said, “Fasting is a shield (or a screen or a shelter). So, the person observing fasting should avoid sexual relation with his wife and should not behave foolishly and impudently, and if somebody fights with him or abuses him, he should tell him twice, ‘I am fasting.” The Prophet (May Allah’s peace be upon him) added, “By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, the smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. (Allah says about the fasting person), ‘He has left his food, drink and desires for My
sake. The fast is for Me. So I will reward (the fasting person) for it and the reward of good deeds is multiplied ten
times.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
Allah will reward the fasting people personally, after mentioning such a great reward for every deed, He didn’t mention the reward for fasting but rather kept it vague and His personal responsibility to reward him. This shows the enormity of fasting.
The reasons for fasting being so great;
Fasting has an extreme level of patience, as Imam Tirmidhi narrated that ‘fasting is half of patience.’
Allah promised the patient people reward without any fixed figure.
3 Types of patience
1. Patience in Allah’s obedience: e.g. desire demands sleeping or eating but the order of Allah is given preference
2. Patience in refraining from Haram: e.g. Natural desires demand watching and creating unlawful relationships outside marriage, but one exercises patience by refraining from it.
3. Patience over calamities and trials from Allah: e.g. loss of family member or wealth and poverty, so a person remains patient by not complaining or resorting to Haram means like theft etc.
Fasting includes all 3 types of patience:
A. Naturally a person wants to eat and not fast but due to Allah’s command he remains patient and executes it.
B. During the day, a fasting person has many temptations from drinking, or relationship with his wife, but since Allah has
prohibited it he exercises patience by refraining from it.
C. A fasting person feels hungry and thirsty, especially in hot countries or if he is working but he endures that poor condition for the sake of Allah.
Fasting requires the most Taqwa and abstentions. The greatest Taqwa is when a person has access to the prohibited act but
refrains from it for the sake of Allah.
Fasting comparing to other acts of worship
Hajj: Although it is very tiring and testing, one can, however eat and drink, and it is also only for a few days unlike Ramadhan which prohibits eating and drinking from sunset to sunrise for the duration of a month.
Salah: Although there are great restrictions, it is only for a short while.
Highest level of Ikhlaas (Sincerity)
People only fast for Allah. It is very easy for a person to be unfaithful by eating or drinking secretly but sincere people who
fast, abstain from it, thus it becomes ‘pure’ for the sake of Allah.
Fasting is for Me, I will reward him
On the day of judgement when a person has compensated all his bad deeds through his good deeds and still has bad deeds left,Allah will wipe out the remaining bad deeds through fasting andadmit him in Jannah. (Bayhaqi)
Benefits of fasting
Fasting people become healthy spiritually and physically. The nafs (desires) and peoples’ appetite and diet come under control.
Ar-Ray’yan – Door in Jannah designated for the fasting people
عَنْ سَهْلٍ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ “ إِنَّ فِي الْجَنَّةِ بَابًا يُقَالُ لَهُ الرَّيَّانُ، يَدْخُلُ مِنْهُ الصَّائِمُونَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ، لاَ يَدْخُلُ مِنْهُ أَحَدٌ غَيْرُهُمْ يُقَالُ أَيْنَ الصَّائِمُونَ فَيَقُومُونَ، لاَ يَدْخُلُ مِنْهُ أَحَدٌ غَيْرُهُمْ، فَإِذَا دَخَلُوا أُغْلِقَ، فَلَمْ يَدْخُلْ مِنْهُ أَحَدٌ “
Narrated by Sahl:
The Prophet (May Allah’s peace be upon him) said, “There is a gate in Paradise called Ar-Ray’yan, and those who observe fasts will enter through it on the Day of Resurrection and none except them will enter through it. It will be said, ‘Where are those who used to observe fasts?’ They will get up, and none except them will enter through it. After their entry the gate will be closed and nobody will enter through it.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
Door of Jannah are open & Doors of Jahannam are closed,
Devils are chained
عَنِ ابْنِ شِهَابٍ، قَالَ أَخْبَرَنِي ابْنُ أَبِي أَنَسٍ، مَوْلَى التَّيْمِيِّينَ أَنَّ أَبَاهُ، حَدَّثَهُ أَنَّهُ، سَمِعَ أَبَا هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ يَقُولُ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم “ إِذَا دَخَلَ شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ فُتِّحَتْ أَبْوَابُ السَّمَاءِ، وَغُلِّقَتْ أَبْوَابُ جَهَنَّمَ، وَسُلْسِلَتِ الشَّيَاطِينُ “
Narrated by Abu Hurairah:
Allah’s Messenger (May Allah’s peace be upon him) said, “When the month of Ramadhan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم “ إِذَا كَانَ أَوَّلُ لَيْلَةٍ مِنْ شَهْرِ رَمَضَانَ صُفِّدَتِ الشَّيَاطِينُ وَمَرَدَةُ الْجِنِّ وَغُلِّقَتْ أَبْوَابُ النَّارِ فَلَمْ يُفْتَحْ مِنْهَا بَابٌ. وَفُتِّحَتْ أَبْوَابُ الْجَنَّةِ فَلَمْ يُغْلَقْ مِنْهَا بَابٌ وَيُنَادِي مُنَادٍ يَا بَاغِيَ الْخَيْرِ أَقْبِلْ وَيَا بَاغِيَ الشَّرِّ أَقْصِرْ وَلِلَّهِ عُتَقَاءُ مِنَ النَّارِ وَذَلِكَ كُلَّ لَيْلَةٍ “
Abu Hurairah narrated that: The Messenger of Allah (May Allah’s peace be upon him) said:
“On the first night of the month of Ramadhan, the Shayatin (devils)are shackled, the jinns are restrained, the gates of the Fires are shut such that no gate among them would be opened. The gates of Paradise are opened such that no gate among them would be closed, and a caller calls: ‘O seeker of the good; come near!’ and ‘O seeker of evil; stop! For there are those whom Allah frees from the Fire.’ And that is every night.” (Jami Tirmidhi)
Past sins are forgiven
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ “ مَنْ قَامَ لَيْلَةَ الْقَدْرِ إِيمَانًا وَاحْتِسَابًا غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِنْ ذَنْبِهِ، وَمَنْ صَامَ رَمَضَانَ إِيمَانًا وَاحْتِسَابًا غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِنْ ذَنْبِهِ “.
Narrated by Abu Hurairah:
The Prophet (May Allah’s peace be upon him) said, “Whoever established prayers on the night of Qadr out of sincere faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven; and whoever fasts in the month of Ramadhan out of sincere faith, and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
Warning to people who do not stop lying and gossip
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم “ مَنْ لَمْ يَدَعْ قَوْلَ الزُّورِ وَالْعَمَلَ بِهِ فَلَيْسَ لِلَّهِ حَاجَةٌ فِي أَنْ يَدَعَ طَعَامَهُ وَشَرَابَهُ “.
Narrated by Abu Hurairah: The Prophet (May Allah’s peace be upon him) said,
“Whoever does not give up forged speech (lies) and evil actions, Allah is not in need of him; leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
Barakah in Suhhor: pre-dawn meal
حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الْعَزِيزِ بْنُ صُهَيْبٍ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ أَنَسَ بْنَ مَالِكٍ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم “ تَسَحَّرُوا فَإِنَّ فِي السَّحُورِ بَرَكَةً ”
Narrated Anas bin Malik: The Prophet (May Allah’s peace be upon
him) said, “Take Suhur as there is a blessing in it.” (Jami Tirmidhi)
عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، عَنْ زَيْدِ بْنِ ثَابِتٍ، قَالَ تَسَحَّرْنَا مَعَ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم ثُمَّ قُمْنَا إِلَى الصَّلاَةِ . قَالَ قُلْتُ كَمْ كَانَ قَدْرُ ذَلِكَ قَالَ قَدْرُ خَمْسِينَ آيَةً .
Anas (bin Malik) narrated that: Zaid bin Thabit said:
“We ate Suhoor with the Messenger of Allah, then we stood for the Salat.” I (Anas) said: “How long was that?” He said: “About the lengthy of fifty Ayahs.” (Jami Tirmidhi)
One must try his best to eat at suhoor time since there are blessings in it. Those who have early morning work can follow a
timetable which is easy for them even if they have to eat earlier because Allah will reward them as long as they have the desire to eat at the sunnah time.
There is goodness in prompt Iftaar – breaking fast
عَنْ سَهْلِ بْنِ سَعْدٍ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ “ لاَ يَزَالُ النَّاسُ بِخَيْرٍ مَا عَجَّلُوا الْفِطْرَ
Narrated by Sahl bin Sa`d: Allah’s Messenger (May Allah’s peace be upon him) said,
“The people will remain on the right path as long as they hasten the breaking of the fast.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
It is sunnah to eat as soon as the sun sets for iftaar time. After waiting for few minutes to be on the safe side in case of any
mistakes in the clock one must not delay any further. Most Masajid will print the timetable with a cautious delay by a few
Sins between One Ramadhan to another is forgiven
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم كَانَ يَقُولُ “ الصَّلَوَاتُ الْخَمْسُ وَالْجُمُعَةُ إِلَى الْجُمُعَةِ وَرَمَضَانُ إِلَى رَمَضَانَ مُكَفِّرَاتٌ مَا بَيْنَهُنَّ إِذَا اجْتَنَبَ الْكَبَائِرَ “ .
Abu Hurairah reported:
Verily the Messenger of Allah (May Allah’s peace be upon him) said: Five (daily) prayers, from one Friday prayer to the (next) Friday prayer, from Ramadhan to the next Ramadhan are expiations for the (sins) committed in between (their intervals) provided one abstains from the major sins. (Saheeh Muslim)
One must sincerely ask Allah for forgiveness for major sins. Major sins are disobedience to parents, lying, backbiting and missing Salah.
4. Time management & maximizing the rewards
In a narration by Muslim, the Messenger of Allah (May Allah’s peace be upon him) said,
“The reward of every (good) deed of a person is multiplied from ten to seven hundred times…”
‘The night of Power is better than a thousand months’ (Surah Al-Qadr)
Ramadhan is a month of earning and creating a huge mountain of reward. To top it up, Allah has created the night of power in the last ten odd nights which will be better than a thousand months. It will be utterly foolish for any believer to live through Ramadhan and not gain anything and not maximise its benefits.
Below is a list of 10 very rewarding acts to be performed in
1. Purifying one’s intention- Allah rewards a person according to his/ her intention
2. Always partake pre-dawn meal (suhur) as late as safely possible, even with a glass of water
3. Making dua at the time of breaking the fast
4. Do Iftar ( breaking the fast ) on time
5. Feed others at Iftar even if it’s with a glass of water
6. Abstaining from all forbidden deeds
7. Abundant recitation of the Qur’an
8. Increase in charity
9. Performing taraweeh and tahaj’jud prayers
10. Do I’tikaaf (seclusion in the Masjid for the last 10 days, for women in one specific room in the house)