At the outset, for somebody who does not have experience with fasting, it seems to be hardship on the people. It is very common for Muslims (Submitters) to have a colleague or a friend who may exclaim, “You mean you cannot even drink water till sunset, not even a sip!” Submitters know that God did not reveal His laws if it were a hardship for us (3:108). In fact, obeying and following God’s commandment of fasting during the month of Ramadan or in any other times, is for our benefit both spiritually and physically.
The Arabic counterpart of fasting is “Siyam” or “Saum”, which literally means ‘to be at rest’. Many medical professionals recognize that fasting is beneficial to our health. It provides a break in the cycle of rigid habits and gives some of our internal organs much-needed rest. However, in our emphasis on refraining from food, drink, and marital relations during the daylight hours, we should not forget many other important aspects of this sacred time. Perhaps, it would help us to remember not only the physical act of fasting, but also its underlying purpose.
Like all other practices in Submission, the practice of fasting has been in existence since the time of Abraham. Here are details of fasting from the Quran along with its mathematical confirmation:
[2:183] O you who believe, fasting is decreed for you, as it was decreed for those before you, so that you become righteous.
[2:184] Specified days. But whoever is ill among you or on a journey, then the prescribed number in other days. And for those who can do it (but with hardship), there is a ransom of feeding a poor. But whoever volunteers good, then it is better for him. And if you fast, it is better for you if you knew.
[2:185] Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed as guidance for the people, clear proofs of the guidance, and the statute book. So whoever among you witnesses the month, then he should fast in it. But whoever is ill among you or on a journey, then the prescribed number in other days. God wishes for you ease and He does not wish for you hardship so that you can complete the prescribed number, and that you can glorify God for what He has guided you so that you may be grateful.
[2:187] Permitted for you is to approach unto your wives during the nights of fasting. They are garments for you and you are garments for them. God knew that you used to betray your souls. So He has redeemed you and has forgiven you. Now, you may have relation with them and seek what God has prescribed for you. And you may eat and drink until the white thread becomes distinct to you from the black thread of the dawn. Then, you shall fast until the night. And do not have relation with them while you are devoted in the masjid. These are the God given limits, so do not transgress them. Thus, God makes His revelations clear to the people so that they may be righteous.
[33:35] The submitting men, the submitting women, the believing men, the believing women, the obedient men, the obedient women, the truthful men, the truthful women, the steadfast men, the steadfast women, the reverent men, the reverent women, the charitable men, the charitable women, the fasting men, the fasting women, the chaste men, the chaste women, and the men who commemorate God frequently, and the commemorating women; God has prepared for them forgiveness and a great recompense.
Expiation through Fasting
If a pilgrim does not have an animal to sacrifice
[2:196] And you shall complete the Hajj and the ‘Umrah for God. But if you are prevented, then you shall make an animal sacrifice what is easy to obtain, and do not shave your heads until the animal sacrifice reaches its destination. But whoever among you is ill or has an ailment of his head, then you may expiate either by fasting or giving a charity or a sacrifice. And when you are secure, then whoever continues the ‘Umrah to the Hajj, then he shall make an animal sacrifice what is easy to obtain. But whoever has no animal sacrifice, then you shall fast for three days during the Hajj and seven when you return. This is ten in all; that is for him whose family does not live nearby the Sacred Masjid. And you shall fear God, and know that God is severe in enforcing the retribution.
When someone kills someone by accident
[4:92] No believer shall kill another believer, unless it is an accident. If one kills a believer by accident, he shall atone by freeing a believing slave, and paying a compensation to the victim’s family, unless they forfeit such a compensation as a charity. If the victim belonged to people who are at war with you, though he was a believer, you shall atone by freeing a believing slave. If he belonged to people with whom you have signed a peace treaty, you shall pay the compensation in addition to freeing a believing slave. If you cannot find a slave to free, you shall atone by fasting two consecutive months, in order to be redeemed by GOD. GOD is Knower, Most Wise.
When an oath is violated
[5:89] GOD does not hold you responsible for the mere utterance of oaths; He holds you responsible for your actual intentions. If you violate an oath, you shall atone by feeding ten poor people from the same food you offer to your own family, or clothing them, or by freeing a slave. If you cannot afford this, then you shall fast three days. This is the atonement for violating the oaths that you swore to keep. You shall fulfill your oaths. GOD thus explains His revelations to you, that you may be appreciative.
If someone estranges his wife as his mother
[58:2] Those among you who estrange their wives (by declaring them as forbidden in sex) as their mothers know full well that they are not their mothers. Their mothers are the women who gave birth to them. Indeed, they are committing a blasphemy and a falsehood. GOD is Pardoner, Forgiver.
[58:3] Those who estrange their wives in this manner, then reconcile thereafter, shall atone by freeing a slave before resuming their sexual relations. This is to enlighten you. GOD is Cognizant of everything you do.
[58:4] If you cannot find a slave to free, you shall fast two consecutive months before resuming sexual relations. If you cannot fast, then you shall feed sixty poor people. You shall believe in GOD and His messenger. These are GOD’s laws. The disbelievers have incurred a painful retribution.
Like Shahaadah, Salat and Zakat the commandment of fasting has also been mathematically confirmed. There are 11 occurrences of the word, “Siyam” or “Saum” in 10 verses of 5 suras in the Quran. If we add the numbers of suras and verses of these occurrences, the total is 1387, which is divisible by the code 19 of the Quran (19×73). However, the mathematical confirmation of the precise commandment from God for both obligatory and optional fasting along with brief comments is given below:
Ramadan is a very significant month wherein fasting is decreed for us and also the Quran, the statute book was revealed on the night of 27th Ramadan known as the ‘Night of Power’ or ‘Laylat al-Qadr’ which is better than a thousand months for providing guidance and clear teachings for us. Thus, we are given the opportunity to gain the real benefit of enhanced remembrance of God throughout the month. The additional time spent before dawn preparing for the fast, the breaking of the fast, and the supplications to God for His support in making the fast easy and the increased gathering to commemorate God, all help us remember God so much more. Every moment that we submit to God’s command to refrain from food and drink from dawn to sunset, we are automatically remembering and praising Him consciously and subconsciously. God has not only given us this great blessing, He is also compassionate in accommodating every kind of situation, just so that His servants can submit to His commands and fulfill their obligations. In addition, fasting provides us an opportunity to amend ourselves in the event of violating God’s commands. But there are many corruptions and misconceptions in the practice of fasting that nullify our worship – to consider Ramadan a sacred month, give sadaqatul fitr (a charity made required and given during the month of Ramadan including on the first morning after Ramadan), perform Tarawih and extra salat prayers such as Eid Salat prayer in congregation on the first morning after Ramadan are a few that are very common among us, and as a consequence we are deprived of such benefit.
Peaceful Friday, salaam and God bless.