Islamic Perspectives

Fasting and its relevance in our daily lives

Fasting is universal. It is practiced by most religions in the world. The form of observing it varies according to the systems of religious beliefs. However, the content of spirituality remains the same, that is, to please God and purify self. 

Fasting in Islam springs from the same foundational source of faith. It acknowledges the universality of it. The Holy Quran gives credence to the universality of fasting in the following words:

'“Believers, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you; perchance you may become righteous.” (02:183)

Having acknowledged the tradition of fasting as a universal phenomenon, Islam made fasting as its fourth pillar.  Islam set higher goals for fasting. Its practice is aimed at attaining spiritual, physical and social welfare for mankind. 

Ramzan at Dargah Hazrat Nizamuddin

First, the spiritual side of fasting in Islam is to establish a direct bond with the Almighty, Allah:

“Every deed of the son of Adam is for him except fasting; it is for Me and I shall reward for it…”(Al-Bukhari)

Fasting is for Allah alone and no one else. To experience proximity with the Almighty, a person has to learn how to self-control. Controlling urges is essential for one’s spiritual growth. The word ‘fasting’ itself means ‘to abstain’ from all unlawful desires.

Second, as for physical benefit of fasting, the Prophet of Islam said, ‘Fast and be healthy’, as narrated by Abu Nu’aim. Even modern science has acknowledged the reward of fasting. In 2012, a Horizon documentary aired on BBC 2 named, “Eat, Fast and Live Longer”. In this documentary, Dr. Michael Mosley spoke of his discovery of two secrets of power behind the ancient idea of fasting -- the first being ‘good health’ and the second ‘longevity’( A Swiss physician, Dr. Barsilus noted that: The advantages of hunger as a remedy exceed those ingesting medicines several times. Fasting hastens the destruction of the decaying tissues of the body by means of hunger, and then builds new tissues through nutrition.

Third, the social side of fasting is to infuse the spirit of altruism and philanthropy in a person towards people who suffer from malnutrition and starvation.

The whole experience of hunger from dawn to dusk during Ramadan must arouse a feeling of deep sympathy in a one’s heart toward millions who go hungry every day.

Having such higher goals set for the pious observance of fasting, do devotees really strive to benefit from the Holy month of Ramadan? Or is it just another year of going without food, bereft of spirituality, longevity of health and philanthropy? It seems with our extravagance, we are failing to achieve even the physical benefits of Ramadan.The month of Ramadan is a training to imbibe its substance and spirituality for the rest of the year.

Fasting is an experience for a noble cause. Going without food matters less unless its experience is extended both during and beyond the period of holy month of Ramadan. This is truly the objective of fasting in Islam.