Sense Of Fasting (Spiritual aspects)

Experience shows that a blind man has generally a stronger memory, and certain of his senses are more developed them those of an ordinary man who has sight. In other words, if certain faculties are not utilized. They may strengthen some other faculties. Similar is the relation between the body and the soul. In weakening the body there is strengthening of the soul (spirit), even as the pruning of the branches of a tree procures more flowers and more fruit.

When an individual fasts, his conscience pricks him in the face of evil deeds, and he is more able to resist temptations. Further, the fast makes him think of God more, develops his inclination for charity, makes him taste the sweetness of obedience to the Lord.


Students learn for several months continuously, then they get a summer vacation. Employees work for six days of the week, the seventh day being a holiday for leisure and rest. Men expend mental and physical energy the whole day, whereafter the repose of sleep renovates their faculties for the next day.

Even machines and tools require relaxation, and we observe this for motor cars, aeroplanes, locomotives, etc, is it, therefore, not reasonable to think that the stomach and the digestive organs also require rest? In fact modern medicine has also reached the same conclusion, and a large number of doctors in Switzerland, Germany, etc., prescribe, for various chronic diseases, forced hunger and thirst for longer or shorter periods according to the exigencies of the sickness and the physical capacities of the sick person. 

They have also found that various glands secrete certain acids in the stomach on account of hunger and thirst and that these acids kill many a germ which produce different diseases. Statistics have also shown that several digestive and other diseases are less abundant among people who have the habit of fasting every year.

We know that man requires a change of climate, air and water from time to time, Patients recovering from illness are sent away for convalescence to a place other than their habitual living place. The more fortunate among the Westerners pass a month of summer vacation outside their home. In other words, it is necessary to change the normal habits from time to time. This is also a kind of rest.

We see, for instance that cultivators use their fields alternately and give 'rest' to the soil. Continuity being harmful, Islam has forbidden fasting during the whole year, even for those who want spiritual benefits thereby. Experience has also shown that if one fasts forever, it becomes a habit, and a second nature, and does not profit by it as does he who fasts with intervals. In fact, if one fasts more than 40 days consecutively, it becomes a habit; and if one fasts for less than a month it has not much effect.

To terminate this discussion, those who fast on medical prescription or even under compulsion as a discipline, do get the material benefits inherent in fasting; but there being no intention of a spiritual search, they do not benefit thereby spiritually. Muslims fast with the intention of complying with the command of Allah. They therefore have its reward for their piety, while not losing the physical and materials benefits of the fasting.

In short, from whichever point of view one may study the Muslim way of fasting, it compares favourably with its counterparts in other civilizations. In fact, if it is day in Switzerland it will be night in America, and vice-versa. Every 1,000 miles East or West makes the difference of about one hour. 

The Prophet is reported to have said at breaking the fast: "0' Allah for You have I fasted, in you have I believed, and with You nourishment do I break the fast. Accept it from me O' Lord!"


Those people who have not a deep insight into human nature and do not look at both the spiritual and material aspect often have the morbid mental state to object to the injunctions of Religion. Among them are those who pass taunting remarks against fasting. They say what sort of worship is this to starve from morning till evening.

If we think over the philosophy of worship and understand in the light of the Quranic verse that our existence is meant for worship and existence is based on eating and drinking, therefore it also has a bearing on worship. 

Then we shall realize that just as sometimes talking is worship and some time keeping silence, in the same way some times eating will be worship and some times abstaining from it. Both these aspects are some times prescribed by the physical physician and some times by the spiritual one, Accordingly Allah sent this message to us through the spiritual Physician [Prophet Mohammad (S.A.).

Fasting has been ordained to you as it was ordained to those before you so that you guard yourself (against evil). In this holy verse: 

(i) 'has been ordained' shows 'Fasting is incumbent'.

(ii) 'As it was ordained on those before you' indicates 'Fasting dates back to the beginning of mankind'.

(iii) 'So that you may guard yourself against evil' means fasting will make you pious. Now if we consider over the different phases of piety, the advantages of fasting will be clear. Man has three instincts: 

(i) Quwwate Shahwania (Faculty of Lust) By this instinct a man nourishes his body and produces children. If it exceeds its limit concerning diet, it makes him greedy and gluttonous. It may make the blood impure or a man may fall a permanent prey to dyspepsia and so on. The excess of this very instinct in sexual sphere causes many internal and external diseases which can not be enumerated here.

(ii) Quwwate Ghazabania (Faculty of a version and acquirement): By this a man seeks his advantages and wards off his disadvantages. If this instinct is not kept within proper bounds, a man either becomes a coward or quarrelsome. All these aspects are against 'piety' and to end the obligation of fast with piety shows that the observer of fast becomes pious, the natural conclusion of which is that his instincts are moderate. Neither he is gluttonous nor quarrelsome. Accordingly the Holy Prophet (S.A.) and the Infallible Imams (A.S.) have mentioned these attributes of fasting.