A Definition Of Fasting

Originally, in Arabic the word as-sawm meant aI-Jmsak i.e. to abstain totally from any act including eating, drinking, walking, speaking etc. Thus, the Arabs used to refer to' a horse refusing to run or to be fed, as!a'im i.e. fasting. As is clear the word sawm is ancient and was used in a different context by the Arabs before Islam. Then, however it did not have the specific meaning given to it by Islam as a term denoting a certain religious obligation. 

* Shi eikh Saduq - Uyun Akhbar ar-Rid/ia. 

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As an Islamic term, it means to refrain intentionally from what breaks fasting. * 

To a Muslim, fasting is not just refraining from eating and drinking but carries the added significance of worship, psychological comfort, morality and legislation. It is neither the irrational motionless Imsak of pre-Islamic Arabs nor the mere abstaining from eating and drinking, but is in fact the building of one's character, control over desires, and an inspiration towards social and scientific creativity. 

Allah has commanded this sanctified duty and enjoined it on the Muslims, as He had enjoined it on the believing nations before. He assigned the blessed month, the month of Ramadhan, for every adult and healthy Muslim as a period of fasting. This sacred ordinance was prescribed by Allah, the Exalted for all believers and revealed in the preceding month of Sha'ban, nearly a year and a half after the Hijrah.* 

Gradually, the Almighty revealed numerous other verses about the month of Ramadhan and the rules of fasting. In the light of these divine injunctions,the Prophet expounded the merits of fasting, its significance, regulations, effects, benefits and great reward. Hence, Fasting is one of the pillars of Islam, and a religious duty for all those who believe in Monotheism, and consequently whoever denies it is a disbeliever. 

It is an apparent sign of obedience, submission and servitude to Allah, the Exalted. By fasting, a Muslim expresses his submission to Allah's command, his response to His will, and the control over his own desires and wishes, at the Almighty's behest. In Ramadhan a Muslim's abstaining from food, drink, sexual intercourse, etc. during the prescribed hours, is the very manifestation of the creatures' obedience to the Creator's Will. 

* Mohaqqiq al-Hilli, Shara'e al-Islam. 
* The Prophet's auspicious migration to Medina, (622 AC.) ivhich marks the start of the Islamic calendar. 

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This self-deprivation represents a state of self-control, and of overcoming carnal pleasure, desire and enjoyment, for the blissful love of Allah, His proximity, and the eagerness to obtain His consent. It is a triumph of pristine love over one's desires and wants. It characterizes the control over transient pleasures for the eternal ones promised by the Almighty. 

This response to divine commandments represents and incarnates true servitude, and is a brilliant display of spirit, intellect and decisive will power. 

By fasting,a person keeps himself away from the pleasures of life, with no preventive or hindrance factor, except that of obeying Allah and showing genuine devotion to His commands. A hadith succintly explains this fact : "A fasting person is in a state of worship, even when (asleep) in bed, except when he backbites wwther Muslim."* 

"... Every breath you take is (has the reward oj) Tasbih (praise to Allah) and your sleep in worship..." * 

In a moving speech, the Messenger of Allah describes the believing soul that fasts for love of Allah out of truthfulness and sincerity, and thus the whole day becomes an altar of worship, and each and every activity of the fasting body, provided it abstains from loathsome acts, is nothing but worship embodied. The Prophet describes the sleep of a fasting Muslim,even the very breathing to be acts of worship, because they emanate from a body regarded as being in continual worship through abstaining from tasting delicious and lawful things, solely out of obedience to the Creator. The Almighty Himself extols fasting and attributes it as a special blessing for mankind as is clear from a hadith Qudsi. 

* Al-Kulayni, al-Fni mm aI-Kafi. vol. 4, The Book of Fasting. p. 190/3rd edition. 
* Prophet's Sermon - Uvun Akhbar ar-Ridha. 

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The Prophet said: 

"Allah, the Exalted says: Fasting is (exclusively) for Me and I will reward it."

The eighth Imam, Au ibn Musa ar-Ridha (a.s.) quotes his ancestor the Prophet on the chain of authority of his noble forefathers: 

"0 people, anybody who a, this month cultivates good manners will walk over the Sirat (bridge to Paradise) on the day when feet will tend to slip... "