Fasting or Sawm as it is known in Arabic, is the fourth pillar of Islam. This fasting, however, is specific to the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. All Muslims are required to fast for a period of 29/30 days from dusk till dawn in observance of this pillar.
The instruction to fast was given to Muslims by Allah in the following verse of the Qur’an:
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous” [2:183]
Islam also teaches that it was during the month of Ramadhan that the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):
“The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion…”(2:185)
During the fasting period, Muslims are supposed to stay away from the following things:
All the other things which are forbidden in Islam are even more forbidden during the month of Ramadhan due to the month’s sacredness.
Muslims are encouraged to increase their good deeds during this period through acts like Reading the Quran, giving charity, remembrance of God, praying and a host of other good deeds that are encouraged in the Qur’an and Hadith.
Islam teaches that fasting is not only good for health purposes, but that it has a number of spiritual benefits that help Muslims lead generally better lives. Some of the benefits of fasting are mentioned below:
While all adults or children above the age of puberty are required to fast, there are given groups of people that are exempted from Fasting the month of Ramadhan. These are encouraged to either feed the poor throughout the holy month or to make up the days they missed or both. Some of these people include:
Muslims break their fast at dusk with a light meal that is commonly referred to as Iftaar. Muslims are encouraged to break their fast with water and dates as was practiced by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and later go on to have a larger meal. The evening meals during the month of Ramadhan are usually times for family and community get togethers.
The month of Ramadan ends with one of the two big festivals on the Islamic calendar, and that is Eid El- fitr also known as the feast of breaking the fast. On this day, Muslims celebrate successfully ending the month of Ramadhan and are required to extend a helping hand to the poor by giving Zakat-el fitr. This is a compulsory act of charity given in the form of foodstuffs that is aimed at helping the poor enjoy the general glee of the day.