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Fasting

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Fasting or Ṣawm (Arabic: صوم), is one of the most important obligatory rituals in Islam. Muslims must abstain from a number of activities including eating and drinking from dawn to dusk to obey God's command. Fasting is one of the ten Ancillaries of the Faith, and it has been obligatory in other religions in different fashion.

Fasting is a mean to seek proximity to God, and it increases one's piety. It purifies the soul and the body, atones for some sins, and also strengthens self-control and sympathy [towards the poor]. In addition, it inculcates a sense of fraternity with the needy and hungry. According to jurisprudence fasting is categorized into four types: obligatory, recommended, disliked and forbidden. Moreover, according to some hadiths, fasting is categorized into three levels in Mysticism: common fasting, special (khas) fasting and the most especial fasting (khas al-khas).

Fasting is considered as one of the pillars of Islam. It is obligatory for every mature, rational and healthy Muslim. The verse on fasting was revealed in Sha'ban 28, 2/624: "O you who have faith! Prescribed for you is fasting as it was prescribed for those who were before you, so that you may be Godwary."[1]. However some of its details on the conditions of fasting were changed and some were abrogated.

The ritual of fasting is an act of worshiping God. However except obligatory fasting days in the month of Ramadan, there are numerous recommended fasting days.

In Other Religions

Fasting, lexically means abstaining.[2] In shari'a fasting means abstaining body and soul from things which invalidate fasting.[3]

The Qur'an clearly expressed this divine deed as a religious ritual which was practiced in different religions.[4]

Prophet Moses (a) prior to receiving scrolls from God was fasting forty days and nights in the Mount Sinai; he avoided drinking and eating during that time.[5]

In Islam

Shia Islam

Fasting became obligatory for Muslims in Sha'ban 28, 2/624, thirteen days after change of the qibla.[6]

During the early periods of Islam, Muslims were supposed to follow two more commands: After breaking meal (iftar) Muslims had to eat only before they go to bed and also marital intercourse was regarded unlawful during the whole month of Ramadan. Both commands were abrogated later.[7]

In Quran

Fasting was stated fourteen times in Qur'an. The commands on fasting are stated in Qur'an 2 verses 183 to 185[8] and 187[9]. In addition, fasting is regarded as a replacement for practices of hajj or compensation of committed sins. As stated in Qur'an 33:35, the men and the women who fast will be forgiven by God[10]. Also in Qur'an 19:26, lady Mary (a) made a promise not to speak for a period of time, which is called as fasting in the Qur'an.[11]

In Hadith

Fasting was mentioned in hadiths as:

  • One of the five pillars of Islam[12]
  • Creates balance between deprived and rich people[13]
  • Rescues people from hunger and thirst in the Day of Judgment[18]
  • Brings health for the body[23]
  • Has a special gift from God (or God Himself is its reward)[27]
  • To abandon fasting would lead to disbelief[29]

Levels

In 'irfan books, three levels of fasting is mentioned:

  • Common fasting is only abstaining from eating and drinking and also the things which could make fasting unacceptable.[30]
  • Special fasting (khass) also includes the rules mentioned above as well as abstaining every part of the body from sins. It also includes praying at nights, avoiding bothering people, not being jealous of people, avoiding personal adversities and also trying to have a better day comparing to the other days.[31]
  • The most especial fasting (khas al-khas) not only includes the rules mentioned for special fasting but also it includes emptying one's heart from everything other than God, avoiding obeying desires and lust and even avoiding thinking about committing sins.[32]

According to hadiths a true fasting is regarded as abstaining every part of body from things prohibited by God,[33] including eye, ear, tongue, etc.[34] In addition, being careful about mouth is far more important than abstaining from food, and also being careful about heart is far more important than mouth.[35]

Philosophy

In the Qur'an, hadiths and the words of scholars, some reasons have been mentioned for fasting. When the Qur'an states the ruling of fasting, it mentions piety as one of its reasons: "O you who have faith! Prescribed for you is fasting as it was prescribed for those who were before you, so that you may be Godwary." (Qur'an 2:183)

One of the most important philosophies of fasting is improving ikhlas (sincerity) and will power; it also helps the person to better worship God.

Fasting would make people to recognize the hunger and thirst so that they would remember the Day of Judgment and the eternal life in the hereafter and prepare for themselves. Such hardship would make people to avoid arrogance. It also prepares them for practicing the obligatory religious deeds as well as khums and zakat.

In a hadith narrated from God by Prophet Muhammad (s), the result of fasting is expressed as: wisdom and true knowledge of God which makes people spiritually calm and peaceful in difficulties of life.

Fasting makes people united, co-operative and devoted, which lead to helping the poor.

Moreover, fasting improves discipline, contentment and patience in the face of sins and difficulties of life among individuals and society. Social misconducts significantly reduce in the month of Ramadan.

Through patience and tolerance, fasting prepare people to be committed in achieving their goals.

Kinds of Fasting in Jurisprudence

According to jurisprudence, fasting is categorized into four types:[36]

Obligatory

  • All days of the month of Ramadan
  • Compensation of the missed fasting days
  • Compensation of the missed fasting days of parents
  • The third day of i'tikaf
  • Fasting instead of animal sacrifice as one of the practices of hajj
  • Expiation for those who intentionally has broken obligatory fasting
  • Those who has broken their promise or oath

Recommended

All the days of year are regarded as recommended days for fasting except for the forbidden days, disliked days and obligatory days of fasting. Besides fasting is highly recommended in these several days:

  • The first and the last Thursday as well as the first Wednesday after the tenth of each lunar month
  • Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth of each lunar month
  • All days of the months of Rajab and Sha'ban
  • From fourth to ninth of Shawwal
  • The twenty ninth and twenty fifth of Dhu l-Qa'da, known as dahw al-ard
  • The first nine days of Dhu l-Hijja, about the ninth of Dhu l-Hijja which is known as Arafa if one is incapable of reciting the Arafa supplication, fasting would be Makruh (reprehensible)
  • The eighteenth of Dhu l-Hijja known as Eid al-Ghadir
  • Twenty fourth of Dhu l-Hijja known as Day of mubahala
  • The first, third and seventh of Muharram
  • Seventeenth of Rabi' I in which Prophet Muhammad (s) was born
  • Fifteenth of Jumada I
  • Twenty fifth of Rajab, the day of Bi'tha

It is common among Muslims to prepare teenagers who are not obligated to fast yet, to start preparing them by fasting in a partial fashion in which they should abstain from snacks between meals.

Disliked

Forbidden

  • Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha
  • The day in which there are doubts whether it is the first day of the month of Ramadan or the last day of Sha'ban; if the intention is fasting for the first day of the month of Ramadan it is regarded as a forbidden, but if the intention is fasting on the last day of Sha'ban it will be acceptable. However if it turns out it was the first day of the month of Ramadan, it can be regarded as the obligatory fasting of the month of Ramadan.
  • If one is sure that fasting is harmful or risky for him, then fasting would be forbidden.
  • Fasting of speech, i.e. to intend abstaining from speaking in addition to abstaining from food and drinks.
  • If one Intentionally fasts for two consecutive days without breaking the first one, it is regarded forbidden.
  • Fasting of the days of tashriq for those who are in Mina (during Hajj).
  • Fasting of a person who is on a trip.

Some Rules

  • While people are still liable to obligatory fasting, they cannot make recommended fasting, rather they have to compensate (qada) for their missed fasting.
  • If a person is observe a recommended fasting, then is invited for a meal by friends or relatives, it is recommended to accept the invitation and break the recommended fasting.

Those Who Are Not Obligated to Fasting

  • Old and ill people who are not expected to recover and who may suffer severe difficulty, are not obligated to fasting, and they do not need to compensate it either. However, they have to give away a specific amount of food called "mudd" (approximately 750 grams of flour or rice or dates etc.) for each obligatory fasting day they have missed.
  • If fasting is potentially dangerous for pregnant or nursing women and their child, they are not permitted to fast. However they have to compensate those obligatory fasting days in future and give a mudd of food to a poor person.
  • Those ill people who may recover in future and those who cannot tolerate hunger and thirst are allowed to break their fasting, only they have to compensate each fasting day they miss. If one is potentially in danger of death or losing a part of body one has to break fasting.[37]

Conditions

The intention of fasting is abstaining from the things which are forbidden for those who are fasting.[38]

Intention

Time

  • For compensating fasting, whoever did not break the rules of fasting before call for noon prayer, he can intend the rest of day as a compensatory fasting.[40]
  • For recommended fasting whoever did not break the fasting until sunset, can intend the rest of the day as a recommended fasting.[41]

What Invalidate Fasting?

Any of the following nine things can invalidate fasting:

  • Eating and drinking (issues like injection is a matter of dispute)
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Attributing lie to God, Prophet Muhammad (a) or the Imams (a)
  • Immersing the entire head in water (according to some jurists)
  • Deliberate inhalation of smoke, dust etc. (according to most of jurists)
  • Remaining in the state of janaba, hayd (menstruation) or nifas (postnatal bleeding) up to adhan of fajr
  • Masturbating
  • Deliberate vomiting
  • Enema with liquid

The above-mentioned acts will invalidate Fasting if done intentionally; however, if one does them unintentionally or is forced to do them, the fasting is not void.[42]

Drinking in Hardship

Some of jurists believe that if people face difficulties during fasting in tolerating thirst, they are allowed to drink only amount of water which fulfills the need.[43]

There is disagreement whether the fasting is void or not. Some believe that they should continue fasting without compensating it in future.[44] However some other jurists believe that the fasting is invalid and it should be compensated but there is no need for kaffara.[45]

In Polar Regions

Muslims in Polar Regions such as Sweden face long days in summer. Islamic organizations and also jurists have expressed different attitudes toward this issue and they have not reached an agreement yet.[citation needed]

Expiation (Kaffara)

Main article: Kaffara of Fasting

Those who has broken fasting during obligatory fasting days such as the month of Ramadan due to traveling, sickness, etc. are required to compensate these days with another fasting. Compensation of the fasting of Ramadan is not required to be immediate but it is until the beginning of next month of Ramadan.[46] However if they fail to do so, they have to offer kaffara to a needy person and also compensate the missed day.[47] If they intentionally break obligatory fasting without an excuse, they are required to feed sixty poor people or fast for sixty days (thirty one days must be consecutive according to most of marja's), they also have to compensate the missed fasting day.[48]

If they break fasting by a forbidden action, they are required to do al-kaffara al-jam' and feed sixty poor people and fast for sixty days as mentioned above.[49]

Breaking Fast

Main article: iftar

The evening meal when Muslims end or break fasting at sunset is called iftar. According to majority of Shi'a faqihs, they must wait for the time of adhan of Maghrib prayers.[citation needed] Breaking fasting with water, milk, or date fruits is recommended.[50] Because giving iftar to people is considered highly praiseworthy among Muslims,[51] it would generally lead to gatherings of relatives, neighbors and friends.

Also it has become a custom among Muslims to give iftar to people in mosques and holy shrines.

See Also

Notes

  1. Qur'an 2:183
  2. Farāhīdī, Kitāb al-ʿAyn, 1419 AH, p. 171; Ibn Fāris, Muʿjam maqāyīs al-lugha, 1404 AH, vol. 3, p. 323; Rāghib Iṣfahānī, Mufradāt, 1412 AH, p. 500
  3. See al-Sayyid al-Murtaḍā, Jumal al-ʿilm wa l-ʿamal, 1387 AH, p. 89; Al-Shahīd al-Awwal, al-Durūs al-sharʿīyya, 1417 AH, vol. 1, p. 266
  4. See Ṭabāṭabāʾī, al-Mīzān, 1390 AH, vol. 2, p. 7-8
  5. Exodus 34:28
  6. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, 1403 AH, vol. 18, p. 194; Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-Yaʿqūbī, Dār Ṣādir, vol. 2, p. 42
  7. Ṭabrisī, Jawāmiʿ al-jāmiʿ, Jāmiʿa-yi Mudarrisīn, vol. 1, p. 106; Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī, Wasāʾil al-Shīʿa, vol. 7, p. 81
  8. O you who have faith! Prescribed for you is fasting as it was prescribed for those who were before you, so that you may be Godwary. (183) That for known days. But should any of you be sick or on a journey, let it be a [similar] number of other days. Those who find it straining shall be liable to atonement by feeding a needy person. Should anyone do good of his own accord, that is better for him, and to fast is better for you, should you know. (184) The month of Ramadan is one in which the Qur'an was sent down as guidance to mankind, with manifest proofs of guidance and the Criterion. So let those of you who witness it fast [in] it, and as for someone who is sick or on a journey, let it be a [similar] number of other days. Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire hardship for you, and so that you may complete the number, and magnify Allah for guiding you, and that you may give thanks. (185)
  9. You are permitted, on the night of the fast, to go into your wives: they are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them. Allah knew that you used to betray yourselves, so He pardoned you and excused you. So now consort with them, and seek what Allah has ordained for you, and eat and drink until the white streak becomes manifest to you from the dark streak at the crack of dawn. Then complete the fast until nightfall, and do not consort with them while you dwell in confinement in the mosques. These are Allah's bounds, so do not approach them. Thus does Allah clarify His signs for mankind so that they may be Godwary (187)
  10. Indeed the Muslim men and the Muslim women, the faithful men and the faithful women, the obedient men and the obedient women, the truthful men and the truthful women, the patient men and the patient women, the humble men and the humble women, the charitable men and the charitable women, the men who fast and the women who fast, the men who guard their private parts and the women who guard, the men who remember Allah greatly and the women who remember [Allah greatly] —Allah holds in store for them forgiveness and a great reward
  11. Eat, drink, and be comforted. Then if you see any human, say, "Indeed I have vowed a fast to the All-beneficent, so I will not speak to any human today."
  12. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, 1407 AH, vol. 2, p. 18-24 and vol. 4, p. 62
  13. Ṣadūq, Man lā-yaḍuruh al-faqīh, 1413 AH, vol. 2, p. 73
  14. Nahj al-balāgha, ed. Ṣubḥī Ṣāliḥ, Saying 252, p. 512
  15. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, 1403 AH, vol. 93, p. 257
  16. Ṣadūq, Man lā-yaḍuruh al-faqīh, 1413 AH, vol. 2, p. 75
  17. Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī, Wasāʾil al-Shīʿa, 1409 AH, vol. 10, p. 9
  18. Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī, Hidāyat al-umma, 1412 AH, vol. 4, p. 268
  19. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, 1407 AH, vol. 4, p. 62; Ibn Shuʿba, Tuḥaf al-ʿuqūl, 1363 Sh, p. 258
  20. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, 1407 AH, vol. 4, p. 65
  21. Qummī, Tafsīr al-Qummi, 1404 AH, vol. 1, p. 46; ʿAyyāshī, Tafsīr al-ʿAyyāshī, 1380 AH, vol. 1, p. 43
  22. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, 1403 AH, vol. 93, p. 255
  23. Pāyanda, Nahj al-faṣāḥa, 1387 Sh, p. 547
  24. Ṭabrisī, Makārim al-Akhlāq, 1412 AH, p. 51
  25. Ṭūsī, al-Amālī, 1414 AH, p. 296
  26. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, 1407 AH, vol. 4, p. 62
  27. Ṣadūq, Man lā-yaḍuruh al-faqīh, 1413 AH, vol. 2, p. 75
  28. Nūrī, Mustadrak al-wasāʾil, 1408 AH, vol. 7, p. 400
  29. Ṣadūq, Man lā-yaḍuruh al-faqīh, 1413 AH, vol. 2, p. 118
  30. Ansārīyān, ʿIrfān-i Islāmī, 1386 Sh, vol. 6, p. 272
  31. Ansārīyān, ʿIrfān-i Islāmī, 1386 Sh, vol. 6, p. 272
  32. Ansārīyān, ʿIrfān-i Islāmī, 1386 Sh, vol. 6, p. 272
  33. Ibn Abī l-Ḥadīd, Sharḥ nahj al-balāgha, 1404 AH, vol. 20, p. 299
  34. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, 1407 AH, vol. 4, p. 87
  35. Tamīmī al-Āmidī, Ghurar al-ḥikam wa durar al-kalim, 1410 AH, p. 423
  36. See ʿAllāma al-Ḥillī, Tadhkirat al-fuqahāʾ, 1414 AH, vol. 6, p. 5-6; Najafī, Jawāhir al-kalām, 1404 AH, vol. 16, p. 352 and vol. 17, p. 89-132; Ṭabāṭabāʾī Yazdī, al-ʿUrawa al-wuthqā, 1419 AH, vol. 3, p. 521 and 657-663
  37. Imām Khomeini, Tawḍīḥ al-masāʾil, 1424 AH, vol. 1, p. 955-958
  38. Imām Khomeini, Tawḍīḥ al-masāʾil, 1424 AH, vol. 1, p. 880
  39. Imām Khomeini, Tawḍīḥ al-masāʾil, 1424 AH, vol. 1, p. 881
  40. Imām Khomeini, Tawḍīḥ al-masāʾil, 1424 AH, vol. 1, p. 881
  41. Imām Khomeini, Tawḍīḥ al-masāʾil, 1424 AH, vol. 1, p. 881
  42. Ṭabāṭabāʾī Yazdī, al-ʿUrawa al-wuthqā, 1419 AH, vol. 3, p. 541-577; Imām Khomeini, Tawḍīḥ al-masāʾil, 1424 AH, vol. 1, p. 891
  43. Ḥakīm, Mustamsak al-ʿurwa al-wuthqā, 1374 Sh, vol. 8, p. 324; Āmulī, Miṣbāḥ al-hudā, 1380 AH, vol. 8, p. 140; Imām Khomeini, Istiftāʾāt, Daftar-i Nashr-i Islāmī, vol. 1, p. 321
  44. See: ʿAllāma al-Ḥillī, Muntahā al-maṭlab, 1412 AH, vol. 9, p. 139; Shahīd al-Awwal, al-Durūs al-sharʿīyya, 1417 AH, vol. 1, p. 273-276; Ardabīlī, Majmaʿ al-fāʾida, 1403 AH, vol. 5, p. 325-326; Ḥakīm, Miṣbāḥ al-minhāj, “Kitāb al-Ṣawm”, 1425 AH, p. 161
  45. See: Āmulī, Miṣbāḥ al-hudā, 1380 AH, vol. 8, p. 140; Ḥakīm, Mustamsak al-ʿurwa al-wuthqā, 1374 Sh, vol. 8, p. 324; Sabziwārī, Muhadhdhab al-aḥkām, 1413 AH, vol. 10, p. 132
  46. Ṭabāṭabāʾī Yazdī, al-ʿUrawa al-wuthqā, 1419 AH, vol. 3, p. 635-537; Imām Khomeini, Taḥrīr al-wasīla, Dār al-ʿilm, vol. 1, p. 298
  47. Imām Khomeini, Taḥrīr al-wasīla, Dār al-ʿilm, vol. 1, p. 298
  48. Imām Khomeini, Taḥrīr al-wasīla, Dār al-ʿilm, vol. 1, p. 926
  49. Bahjat, Jāmiʿ al-masāʾil, 1426 AH, vol. 2, p. 29
  50. Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī, Wasāʾil al-Shīʿa, 1409 AH, vol. 10, p. 156-161
  51. See: Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, 1407 AH, vol. 4, p. 68-69; Ṣadūq, Man lā-yaḍuruh al-faqīh, 1413 AH, vol. 2, p. 134-135

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