Why Do Muslims Fast During the Month of Ramadan?

We explain the islamic tradition of fasting during the muslim holy month of Ramadan.

BY: Sa'dullah Khan

 

Continued from page 1

People undertaking a strenuous journey; women who are menstruating, experiencing post-natal discharges, or pregnant; people with a temporary illness; and those involved in extremely strenuous occupations (for example, a soldier in battle) may suspend their fasting. These people, however, have to make restitution (

qada'

) by fasting for the number of days equal to those missed, any time before the next Ramadan.



Q. What invalidates the fast, and what does not?



The following renders the fast void: intentional consumption of food or drink, sexual relations, deliberate vomiting, ejaculation of semen, or the beginning of menstruation or post-natal bleeding.

The following do not break the fast: eating or drinking out of forgetfulness (provided that one stops as soon as one becomes aware of the error); brushing the teeth; rinsing the mouth and nostrils with water; applying eye powder, face cream, hair oil, or perfume; swallowing unavoidable things such as saliva, dust, or smoke from the air; bathing; unintentional vomiting; having an injection or intravenous line that is solely medicinal, not nutritional; and embracing one's spouse.



Q. What are Fidyah and It'am?



If a person is too old, too frail, or physically unable to fast the month of Ramadan, the person (according to the Qur'an, Chapter 2, Verse 184) is to "redeem" or "pay ransom" (

fidyah

) for each day of fasting missed by either feeding (

it'am

) a needy person or giving charity in the amount needed to feed a person for a day. A person who would normally be able to fast but for some reason was not able to fast during that Ramadan--for example, a lactating mother who suspended fasting in order to adequately breastfeed her baby--has to restitute by fasting the number of days missed as well as feed (

it'am

) one person (or donate the monetary equivalent) for each day of fasting that she has missed.



Q. What is Kaffaarah?



Kaffaraah

means "atonement" or "expiation" and applies to one who deliberately breaks his fast during the fasting period. Such a transgression must be atoned for by fasting for 60 consecutive days or feeding 60 needy people or giving in charity the amount equal to the cost of feeding 60 needy people.



Q. Why is Laylat-ul-Qadr the most important night of the Islamic calendar?



Laylat-ul-Qadr

(meaning the Night of Power) is the commemoration of the initiation of the final divine revelation, the Qur'an. This event, which is annually celebrated by Muslim in the odd nights of the last ten nights of Ramadan, occurred in the 40th year of the Prophet Muhammad's life, or 610 C.E. While he was meditating in the cave of Hira near Mecca, Muhammed received, through the Archangel Gabriel, the first of a series of revelations that were to continue for 23 years. The mission of the last emissary of God was thus inaugurated on

Laylat-ul-Qadr

in the month of Ramadan, which ushered in a new and final phase in human history.

In Chapter 97 of the Qur'an, titled "

al-Qadr

," it is stated that

Laylat-ul-Qadr

is grander than a thousand months. The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said, "The month of Ramadan is a blessed month, a month in which Allah has made fasting obligatory. This month contains a night greater than a thousand months. Whosoever deprives himself of the blessings of that night truly denies himself tremendously." (An-Nisa'iee)

Many Muslims spend these nights in prayer, thanking Allah for His bounties and beseeching His forgiveness.



Q. What is the significance of Zakaat-ul-Fitr, on `Eid-ul-Fitr?



`Eid-ul-Fitr

is the first day of

Shawwal

, which is the month that follows Ramadan. It is one of the two great festivals having full religious sanction in Islam. It is marked by congregational prayer accompanied by the continuous glorification of Allah. On

`Eid-ul-Fitr

, each family that can afford it is under divine obligation to provide a basic meal or its monetary equivalent to at least one needy person for each member of the family. This obligatory social-welfare tax, called

zakaat-ul-fitr

or

sadaqat-ul-fitr

, must be furnished to the poor before one prays the

`Eid

prayer.

The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said that the acceptance of one's fast hovers between heaven and earth until one's charity has reached the poor. Thus it is that even on the day of celebration when all the delicious foods we refrained from eating during Ramadan are availed to us, our attention is drawn to serve the needy and the downtrodden. When we analyze Ramadan and the 'Eid that follows, we realize that the spirit of Ramadan is one of introspection, moral elevation, and self-purification, and the spirit of 'Eid-ul-Fitr is one of good will and humanitarianism.

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