Ramadan and fasting
by Shaykh Ahmed Abdul Mujeeb Qasmi Nadvi (translated by Muhammad Owais Jafrey
The Holy Qur’an says with regards to fasting in Surah Al-Baqarah verses 183-184:
“You who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be mindful of Allah.”
Allah (SWT) is addressing the believers and commanding them to observe fast. Fasting means to submit to Allah (SWT)’s command with a sincere intention and to abstain from food, drink and carnal and sensual temptations. Benefit of such an abstention purifies the self from immoral acts and builds a character which distinguishes right from wrong and virtue from vice. Allah’s command in the verse also adds that the believers have not been singled out for fasting, but fasting was also mandated for the followers of earlier prophets. Out of His love for the believers, Allah (SWT) does not want Prophet (SAW)’s Ummah to lag behind the earlier ummahs of earlier prophets, but excel them in status. Verse 48 of Surah Al-Ma’ida says:
“To each among you have We prescribed a Law and an Open Way…”
According to a tradition of Prophet (SAW), month-long fasting was made obligatory for the Christians. Once one of their rulers was struck by a serious disease and they vowed and offered to observe 10 additional fast for his recovery. The situation repeated itself with yet another king and 7 more fasts were added to make the total of 47. The king who followed these two earlier rulers suggested the addition of 3 more fasts to make the even number of 50.
The people of Nuh (AS) were commanded to observe 3 fasts each month. This mandate was changed for the Ummah of Prophet (SAW) and the whole month of Ramadanwas made blessed for them for fasting. Hasan Basri (RehA) says that earlier ummahs were required to observe 30 Ramadan fasts and a tradition of Prophet (SAW) also attests to what Hasan Basri said. According to Ibn-e-Umar (RA), food, drink and sleeping with wives after Isha prayers were forbidden for the followers of earlier prophets.
Like most of its commands, Islam made fasting obligatory in gradual stages. In the beginning Prophet (SAW) instructed the faithful to observe 3 fast per month, but these fasts were not obligatory. Later in the 2nd year of Hijrah, the command to make fasting compulsory was revealed. It carried a provision to feed the hungry and the indigent for those who though able to observe fast but chose not to. This exemption was cancelled by a latter command except for the sick, the pregnant women, feeding mothers and the week with a condition to fulfill the command by observing fasts for the missed Ramadan days later after the situation changes for the better making fasting possible.
To observe fast while traveling was left at the discretion of the traveler. Prophet (SAW) used his discretion to observe or not to observe fast while traveling. Some companions who undertook journey with Prophet (SAW) observed fast while some did not and no one raised fingers at the other. Once during a journey one of SAW’s companion, who was fasting fell down due to weakness. When Prophet (SAW) was told of the incident, he (SAW) said it was not a virtue to fast while in such a state of weakness. Off and on while the enemy challenged the Muslim for a battle, Prophet (SAW) strictly forbade fasting to his companions so they may retain their physical strength and be battle ready to face the challenge. Sayyidina Umar (RA) said that the believers fought twice during Ramadan: once at the battle of Badr and later at the conquest of Makkah and they did not fast on both occasions. He (RA) said that while getting ready to face the enemy before the conquest of Makkha, Prophet (SAW) had emphatically told his companions not to observe fast so that they can retain their usual shape to combat the enemy.
Any measure of distance to determine giving up fast is not indicated in any tradition of Prophet (SAW), and the practice of his companions varies with regards to fasting during travels. Some jurists opine that travels backed by religious need, motive or purpose are a condition to give up fast and missed fasts should be observed later after travels, while other jurists consider it permissible for all travels that one may embark upon.
This has been told time and again that one of the blessings of Ramadan is that the Holy Qur’an was revealed during this month. According to the Musnad-e-Ahmad, Prophet (SAW) said that the Suhuf-e-Ibrahim (Messages revealed to Sayyidina Ibrahim (AS)) was revealed on the first night of Ramadan, the Tauraat (Torah) in the sixth night, and the Injeel (New Testament, or the Gospel) on the 24th night.
Highlighting one of its own attributes, the Holy Qur’an says that it is the Guidance for mankind, and a code of conduct to charter human life. It is a standard that distinguishes truth from falsehood. It presents clear, and straight forward, easy to understand truths – truths without complexity – truths which are evident, plain and simple for a seeking mind and a searching heart. An unbiased and objective deliberation in the Holy Qur’an enlightens the mind and ushers it into a state of discovery, which can only be experienced and not explained. Such a unique blessing warrants that we should always thank Allah (SWT) for His great favor, but especially in this sacred month which is associated with its revelation. This month also draws us closer and closer to Allah (SAW) and drives us farther and farther from the temptations of evil.
Scholars regard intellect and intelligence as the greatest gifts of Allah, but man with all his intelligence and intellect gropes in the dark without the light which leads to the One, Who is the ultimate source of all wisdom and knowledge. Allah (SWT), Who is al-Aleem and al-Khabeer says in verse 15 of Surah Al-Ma’ida:
“A light has now come to you from Allah, and a Scripture making things clear, with which Allah guides to the ways of peace those who follow what pleases Him, bringing them from darkness out into light, by His will, and guiding them to a straight path.”
This month among all other months should be exclusively dedicated to discipline the mind, to train the thought, to purify the heart, to uplift the spirit, to win both the worlds – the Here and the Hereafter, and to win Allah’s pleasure and that of His beloved Prophet (SAW) through achieving piety. Allah (SWT) has blessed us with Ramadan, which offers a refresher course to achieve piety. Piety being the basis and foundation of our Deen and Shari’ah (Faith and the revealed Law) should be maintained at all cost. Qur’an is the spring for the world, Ramadan is the spring season, and the crop which such a season yields is piety. What is better then Spring, so let us celebrate this season as much as we can and thank and glorify Allah (SWT) as much as we can. Darud-o-Salaam on our beloved Prophet (SAW), who taught us to celebrate the Spring of Ramadan.
May Allah enable us to please Him and His Messenger! Aameen!
SWT = Subhanahu Wa Ta'Ala
SAW = Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam
AS = AlehisSalam
RA = Radhiyallaho anhu
RAnha= Radhiyallaho anha
The Friday Khutbahs are published to enhance your knowledge of Islam. The references of Quran and Hadith are the approximate translation of the Arabic text. The editors have not verified the accuracy of the the English translation. The scholarly reader is encouraged to refer to the original Arabic script if there is any doubt. Kindly notify us if the translation can be enhanced.