What is the fasting in islam? What are the benefits of fasting? What are the fasting rules in islam? What are the rules of ramadan fasting?
A) Definition and History of Fasting
The term oruç is the Turkish equivalent of the Persian word “rūza”. As an Arabic infinitive, “ṣawm and ṣiyām” literally means “to stay away from something, to hold oneself against something, to prevent it, to fast”. In Islamic legal terminology, it refers to the intention of those who are qualified to fast to keep themselves away from things that invalidate the fast from the second dawn (true dawn) until sunset. In short, fasting is consciously abstaining from eating, drinking, and sexual intercourse for a certain period of time.
The time of fasting is the period from the second dawn (true dawn) until sunset. The starting time of fasting is called “imsāk (lit. holding)”. With the commencement of this time with the true dawn, the time for the night prayer ends and the time for the dawn prayer starts. The time when the prohibitions of fasting ends is called ifṭār time. This is the time when the sun sets on the horizon, and with it, the time for the evening prayer begins.
In the verse, the start and end times of fasting are stated metaphorically as follows, “…and eat and drink, until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from its black thread; then complete your fast till the night appears …” The word “hayṭ” (thread) in this verse is used metaphorically. This word signifies the border between the whiteness of the day and the blackness of the night. During the lifetime of the Prophet, two adhāns were recited to show the time of the saḥūr meal and the beginning of the fast. The following is stated in the hadith, “Do not let Bilal’s call for prayer deceive you, because he calls it at night. Therefore, you eat and drink until the Abdullah Ibn Ummi Maktūm’s adhān.” Bilal (ra) used to call the adhān at the beginning of the saḥūr to wake up those who slept and remind those who were awake. On the other hand, because Abdullah ibn Ummu Maktūm (ra) was blind, someone else would inform him that it was imsāk time, so he would recite the call for the dawn prayer and the fasting would commence.
When the Prophet emigrated to Medina, he ordered fasting for three days every month in addition to one day of Ashura fasting. Fasting in Ramadan was made obligatory on the tenth of the month of Shaʿbān, one and a half years after the Migration. After Ramadan fasting was made obligatory, the obligation of the previous types of fasting was made optional, in other words, believers were encouraged to fast in times of the year other than the month of Ramadan, for example, the fasting carried out in the months of Rajab and Shaʿbān. However, these remained mandūb fasts.
It is stated in the Qur’an that fasting had been made obligatory upon the previous nations as well. However, first, the Jews abandoned it and reduced it to one day a year. Christians, in a very hot year, changed the season of this fast to the spring with the consensus of the clergy. They added ten days to expiate this change and ten more days for the recovery of their rulers who fell ill or for the prevention of epidemics, increasing the number of the days to fifty, calling it “abstinence”.
In regions where day and night do not occur normally, the fasting time is determined on the basis of the regions closest to these regions and where night and day are normally formed.
B) The Virtues and Benefits of Fasting
The purpose of fasting is to accustom the believer to obey Allah’s commands and avoid His prohibitions. It is among the most rewarding acts of worship since there is very little opportunity of mixing fasting with hypocrisy.
There is a close relationship of virtue between fasting and the month of Ramadan. That is, in a hadith narrated by Abu Hurayra, the Messenger of Allah said, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.” It would be more appropriate to understand this hadith that in the month of Ramadan, the gates of mercy that will deliver the believer to paradise are opened. He also stays away from the actions that may lead him to hell, so the power of the devil to affect the people weakens. As a matter of fact, in another narration from Abu Hurayra, the expression “gates of mercy” is used instead of “gates of Paradise”.
The importance of the month of Ramadan is based on the fact that the Qur’an was first revealed in this world on the night of power in this month and the first verses of the chapter al-Alaq were revealed to the Messenger of Allah in the Cave of Hira on that night. Fasting in Ramadan means a kind of celebration of the revelation of the Qur’an, welcoming the coming of revelation in a way similar to angelic life. This is because angels do not eat or drink.
The following is stated in a sacred hadith, “Every (good) deed of the son of Adam would be multiplied, a good deed receiving a tenfold to seven hundredfold reward. Allah, the Exalted and Majestic, has said: With the exception of fasting, for it is done for Me and I will give a reward for it.”
In other hadiths, the following is stated, “whoever fasts in the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.”, and “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.”
Fasting trains a person to be patient. A person who is patient in the face of daily incidents will also gain a lot for the world and the hereafter. The following is stated in the Qur’anic verses, “O you who believe! Seek help with patient perseverance and prayer; for Allah is with those who patiently persevere.”, and “…those who patiently persevere will truly receive a reward without measure!” In a hadith, it is stated that “Fasting is half of patience” and in another one “Fasting is a shield.” By fasting, the right to enter Paradise is obtained through the special gate called “rayyān” which is reserved only for fasting people. Fasting is an atonement for minor sins committed in the previous year. Fasting leads to ṭaqwā, which consists of following Almighty Allah’s orders and avoiding His prohibitions. Allah Almighty says: “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint.”
Fasting has many religious, spiritual, health, social, economic, and pedagogical benefits. First of all, fasting is done for the purpose of obedience and worship to Allah. The material and spiritual benefits that it will provide follow this process.
Fasting is like resting and taking care of the human body, which has become tired after a year. Especially the stomach and digestive organs find the opportunity to rest due to fasting. Therefore, the Messenger of Allah said, “Fast and find health”.
Fasting is a shield in training the lower self and breaking the lust and desires of the lower self. The Messenger of Allah (saw) recommended fasting, especially to young people who could not find the opportunity to marry, and said: “O community of young people! He who can afford to marry should marry, because it will help him refrain from looking at other women, and save his private parts from committing illegal sexual relation; and he who cannot afford to marry is advised to fast, as fasting will diminish his sexual power.”
After stating that fasting is made obligatory because of its many benefits, Ibn al-Humām (d. 861/1457) mentions three of them that he considers important:
- The lower self, which constantly strives to lure the person into evil, finds peace with fasting, and its desire to commit ḥarām is broken.
- Fasting teaches compassion and mercy towards the poor. For when the lower self tastes the pain of hunger, it understands the plight of the poor and gets a good reward in the sight of Allah with the charities it will provide.
- The fasting person experiences the hardships of the poor and understands their predicaments better. This prompts him to focus on their problems and seek solutions. Thus, a person gains a degree in the sight of Allah.
 Al-Baqara, 2: 187. Al-Bukhari, Ṣawm, 16; Muslim, Ṣiyām, 33-35. Al-Bukhari, Adhān, 11, 13, Shahadāt, 11, Ṣawm, 17; Muslim, Ṣiyām, 36-39; al-Tirmidhī, Ṣalāh, 35; al-Nasā’ī, Adhān, 9, 10. Muslim, Ṣiyām, 38-44. Al-Bukhari, Tafsīr, 1/24. See al-Baqara, 2: 183. Muslim, Ṣiyām, 1, 2. See al-Dukhān, 44: 3; al-Qadr, 97: 1. Al-Bukhari, Ṣawm, 2, 9; Muslim, Ṣiyām, 30, 164; al-Nasā’ī, Ṣiyām, 42. Al-Bukhari, Ṣawm, 6. Al-Bukhari, Ṣawm, 9. Al-Baqara, 2: 153. Al-Zumar, 39: 10. Al-Tirmidhī, Daʿāwāt, 86. Al-Bukhari, Ṣawm, 9; al-Tirmidhī, Imān, 8. See al-Nasā’ī, Ṣiyām, 43; Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, V, 225. Al-Baqara, 2: 183. Abu Nuaym narrated this hadith from Abu Hurayra (ra) under the subject of medicine. The hadith is classified as ḥasan. Al-Bukhari, Ṣawm, 10, Nikāḥ, 2; Abū Dawūd, Nikāḥ, 1; al-Nasā’ī, Ṣiyām, 43; Ibn Maja, Nikāḥ, 1. Ibn al-Humām, Fatḥ al-Qadīr, II, 43 ff.
Source: Basic Islamic Principles (ilmiḥal) According to the Four Sunni Schools With Evidence From The Sources of Islamic Law, Prof. Hamdi Döndüren, Erkam Publications