Essentials of Ramadan the Fasting Month
Tajuddin B. Shu`aib
This is an in-depth resume of the essential rules and laws on the Fiqh of fasting designed to provide the reader with explana-tion for both spiritual and physical significance and uniqueness of this remarkable act of worship. Sheikh Shu`aib clarifies ma-jor point on fasting. His focus is relevance of this divine disci-pline on to the life and living as well as the interpretation of related text on Fasting based on Al-Qur`an and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (saas). This book serves as a guide and reference on courses on Islamic studies.
SHEIKH TAJUDDIN B. SHU`AIB born in Accra, Republic of Ghana West Africa. He received his Islamic education at Is-lamic University Median, Saudi Arabia. While in England in 1976 he joined the Muslim Educational Trust in London and was put in charge of Islamic studies program in the City of Lu-ton. He came to United States of America in 1977 and worked with the world community of Islam in the West at the organiza-tions west coast headquarters. In 1981 he was co-fonder of Masjid As-Salaam and Islamic studies center where he is work-ing now as the director and the Imam. Sheikh Shu`aib is an Is-lamic educator and has travelled to several states to deliver lec-tures in Masajid and Universities. He has also made several radio and television appearances and interviewed by Time magazine. He is the author of the now famous book The Pre-scribed Prayer Made Simple.
THIS BOOK is dedicated to Allah Subhanahu wa Ta`aalaa whose guidance, help and grace was instrumental in making this humble work a reality. I have many people to thank for their assistance.
Sister Linda El-Amin processed the manuscript. Brother Shafiq Qasim read the entire book. Sister Muslimah and Muhammad Alaby and her Dr. Isma`il Abdul Karim provided fresh per-spectives and fine editorial counsel. I am indebted to sheikh Ibrahim M. Al Habr director of Masjid Ibn Taymiyyah, Los Angeles California and Imam Ghurmallah A. Al-Ghamdi, Imam Masjid Riverside, California for their technical and scho-lastic inputs. I want to express my appreciation to every person who contributed with either inspirational or actual work with this book. I pray to Allah that He rewards each a beatify re-ward.
The Messenger of Allah (saas) reported in a Hadith Al-Qudsi that Allah said:
“All services of the son of Adam are for him except fast
ing, It is for Me, and I will reward him for it.” (Buk-
All praise is due to Allah, Subhanahu wa ta`ala, the Sustainer of the worlds. I pray that His peace and blessings descend upon the Most Noble of all the Messengers of Allah, Muhammad Bin Abdullah, sallallahu 'Alaihi wa salam, his family and com-panions.
Whenever the orbit turns and another month of Ramadan ap-proaches, happiness and joy return to the Ummah, for with it come two of the greatest gifts of Allah, namely the fasting month of Ramadan and the celebration of the revelation of Al Qur'an.
Fasting is an eloquent expression of Allah, leading this Ummah to the gates of His mercy, a key to unlocking the mysteries of His nearness. While humanity is divided on the basic elements of the notion of the Creator, a Muslim is far ahead of the rest of the world in this field and travelling at the speed of light to the neighborhood of the Throne of the Creator. Where else would you find a discipline that provides direct communication be-tween the servant the Served? Where else would you have an act of 'Ebadah that enriches self-worth, self-strength, self-rebuilding, self discipline and control? Where else would one find a discipline that moves the believer from unauthentic to authentic as the institution of fasting? Where else would you find a discipline that enriches the vital needs of human being, both physical and spiritual? Praise be to Allah!
The institution of Fasting is a unique form of worship pre-scribed as part of an overall system of Islam. Its uniqueness mirrors the uniqueness of the human being, a creature of physi-cal and spiritual parts whose excellence depends on the right proportion of these two parts. Too much of the physical mate-rial will ruin man, and too much of the spiritual will, too. Fast-ing orients the observer to the art of balancing the spiritual es-sentials with physical needs, a vivid proof that there is in all of us the will power, a pivotal element that controls our actions. This will be needed to help us curb the animalistic tendencies originating from the stomach, in full. It makes us forget about our beginning, it awakens the mind and kindles clear thinking and consciousness of Allah. Fasting is the sobering of a mind and reconstruction of our spiritual faculties.
Fasting has instilled in food and beverages a religious legiti-macy, as its amount and the hour taken are expressed in terms of deen, and chewing and sipping at proper intervals equals praise and glorification of Allah. It makes the individual ready and primed to meet the Creator. You see, it has never been easy trying to gain access to the nearness of Allah, SWT, due to several considerable obstacles obstructing our view, mainly ignorance, multiple images or double vision, passive will power, time, place, culture, upbringing and prejudice. Fortu-nately, the gates that lead to the nearness of Allah swing both ways with the help of fasting.
Fasting cures the double vision that many people suffer in the realm of spirituality. The inauguration of Fasting eliminates the middleman, a spiritual broker, an insidious opinion held by some that a believer can only gain access to nearness to Allah through another, who is endowed with superpowers to reach Allah more easily. No, indeed, Allah is ineffable yet approach-able. It is the sum and scope of Allah's 'Ebadah that clarifies all the acts of 'Ebadah including Salat. Fasting renders this mag-nificent and beautiful idea of Tawhid of Allah, there being no deity but Allah, and Muhammad being His Messenger, into an effective power charge, a potent and effective concept for fo-cusing and organizing one's world view and epitomizing the religious and psychological orientation of the believer.
On the other hand, Ramadan was the host month for the inau-guration of the final revelation, Al-Qur`an Al-`Azeem. Allah (SWT) bestowed this book upon humanity through His Mes-senger Muhammad bin `Abdullah. The reading of Al-Qur`an has been mandated by its Author, Allah himself, for the believ-ers all the time, more so in the month of Ramadan, as this is reported from the Messenger. Muslims past and present have always mixed fasting with reading of Al-Qur`an. Perhaps the reason for this is that one of the objectives of Ibis (shaytan) is to hinder the believer from reading Al-Qur`an. But during Ramadan Shaytan himself is hindered from tempting the be-liever-for Al-Qur`an avails the reader a cherished privilege of directly conversing with the Creator of the Universe.
Thus, I included this vital discussion to help the reader with the rules that are essential for reading and reciting Al-Qur`an. In-deed, the spiritual training during the month of Ramadan can not be complete without a great deal of reading of the Book of Allah. This divine Book deals with the questions of total life: creed, moral instructions, administration of warnings, giving good news, lessons from historical events, interpretation of the material and natural phenomenon, inviting humanity to their Maker, and admonishing the unbelievers. Al-Qur`an is an ex-position on the spiritual as well as physical doctrine in which every verse and sentence has an intimate bearing on the other verse and sentence. Ramadan affords a believer an opportunity to cross-reference his entire life with the reading of Al-Qur`an; and anyone who observes this practice during Ramadan has a better chance of graduating to a higher level of faith.
The third pillar of Islam, Zakat, is also discussed briefly and concisely in order to illustrate the basic Fiqh on Alms-giving. This is an opportunity that should not be lost on eligible Zakat payers: to mix Ramadan with mandatory gift giving so as to carry on the commands of Allah (SWT) and to combat greed of an affluent person and to help needy meet his essential needs, and thus build a bond of strong relationship in the Ummah.
Therefore, ESSENTIALS of RAMADAN, THE FASTING MONTHis a summary of the fundamental rules and laws on the Fiqh of Fasting, based on Al-Qur`an and the Sunnah of the Messenger (saas) to assist the reader in observing this special 'Ebadah of worship, as well as the traditionally related duties and obligations as mentioned earlier, Zakat and the reading of Al-Qur`an. All praise be to Allah the Most High in the begin-ning and in the end.
Fasting, or siyaam, has two meanings. Generally, siyaam or sawm, is derived from the root sama, to restrain from normal things, such as eating, drinking, and talking. If an individual refrains from these things, he is considered saaim, the observer of fast. Al-Qur'an uses the word generally when it revealed the conversation between the angel and Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the angel instructed her:
“...And if you do see any man, say, ‘I have vowed to remain silent for Allah.’ ”
The phrase “to remain silent” is the interpretation of the Arabic word, “sawm.” The reason for this interpretation is that “sawm” cannot mean fast, i.e. restraint from food, because Mary had just been told to eat from the palm tree. This general meaning is common in the Arabic language.
In the Shari'ah, Islamic law, the word “sawm” means and im-plies a specific act, that, is, “to worship Allah, abstaining, with intention to please Him from fast breakers, such as physical nourishment, food, drink, and sexual intercourse or a lustful discharge of semen from the period between the break of dawn until sundown.
As this definition implies, the Islamic fasting is total abstinence from any food particles passing through the mouth or nose, as well as drinks of any kind -water, milk, juices, etc. -along with abstinence from sexual association during the day that commences from the break of dawn till sunset.
Although the definition indicates restraining the stomach and private parts, the tongue, eyes, ears and other limbs are equally obligated to be restrained if the faster wants to gain the total rewards of fasting. This is why the Messenger of Allah (saas) has been reported as saying in a hadith by Abu Hurairah:
“He who does not desist from obscene language and act-ing obscenely (during the period of fasting), Allah has no need that he did not eat or drink.” (Bukhari Muslim)
In another hadith by Abu Hurairah (raa), the Prophet (saas) said:
“Fasting is not only to restrain from food and drink, fasting is to refrain from obscene (acts). If someone ver-bally abuses you or acts ignorantly towards you, say (to them) ‘I am fasting; I am fasting.’” (Ibn Khuzaimah)
Indeed, these two reports imply fasting will not be complete until one observes three elements:
Islam is built on five pillars. Each represents a unique utility, an institution, if you will, through which the believer builds his relationship with the Creator and the creation. Of all the pillars of Islam, none is more special than siyaam, fasting. While there may be an appearance of Riya, eye service, or show, in all other pillars - Salaat, Zakaat, Hajj, and even the Kalimah - there is no such possibility in fasting. The only One who knows that you are really abstaining is Allah, the Almighty. It is easy to pre-tend to be fasting; while in hiding, you may eat or drink. Thus, fasting is considered a special worship, as Hadith reports from the Messenger of Allah (saas) have detailed.
It has been reported by the way of Abu Hurairah (raa) that the Prophet (saas) reported that Allah (SWT) said in a Hadith Al-Qudsi:
“All services of the son of Adam are for him except fast-ing. It is for Me, and I will reward him for it. Fasting is a shield. On the day you fast, do not use obscenity, nor yell at others, nor act ignorantly towards them. How-ever, if anyone abuses you verbally or attempts to draw you to fight with him, say 'I am fasting' two times. The Prophet (saas) then states: I swore by the One (Allah) in Whose Hand is the soul of Muhammad, the breath of the faster is sweeter to Allah on the Day of Judgment than the scent of musk. The faster experiences enjoy-ment twice: he is pleased when he breaks his fast, and he is pleased when he meets his Maker” (Muslim)
Among the points this incisive hadith revealed is that fasting is Allah's. Certainly, there is only one reason why a believer will put himself or herself through this trying physical exercise that -to seek the pleasure of Allah (SWT). The fast is the single