Sawm (Fasting) is the fourth Pillar of Islam. It means abstention from food, drink and sexual intercourse from down to sunset. The aim is to purge (e.g., to free oneself from moral or ceremonial defilement) the individual from “within” a as pects of Shari”ah (Islamic law) and from “without”. Achieving purity of soul, mind and body makes him respond to what is lawful, pure, praiseworthy, exemplary, virtuous, wholesome, righteous, pleasant beneficial and truth — (good). On the other hand, he will guard himself by avoiding what is unlawful, filth, obscene, abhorrent, repugnant, wicked, harmful, pernicious, despicable, obnoxious, sinful and false — (evil). God says in the holy Qur’an:
“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before youm that ye may (learn) self-restraint…” (Al-Baqarah, 2:183)
On the authority of Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to say that Allah said: “Every act of the son of Adam is for him save fasting, which is done for My sake, and I will give a reward for it. Henceforth by Allah in Whose Hand is the life of Mohammad, the breath of the observer of fast is sweeter unto Allah than the fragrance of musk.” (Muslim)
Salman al-Farisi (Allah be pleased with him) told of Allah’s Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) saying in a sermon, which he delivered to them on the last day of Sha’aban:
“A great month, a blessed month, containing a night which is better than a thousand months, has approached you people. Allah has appointed the observance of fasting during it as an obligatory duty, and the passing of its nights in prayer as a voluntary practice. If someone draws near to Allah during it with some good act, he will be like one, who fulfills an obligatory duty in another month, and he, who fulfills an obligatory duty in it, will be like one, who fulfills seventy obligatory duties in another month. It is the month of patience and endurance, and the reward of patience and endurance is Paradise.” It is the month of sharing with others, and a month in which the believer’s provision is increased. If someone gives one who has been fasting something, with which to break his fast it will provide forgiveness of his sins and save him form Hell, and he will have a reward equal to his without his reward being diminished in any respect.”
Some of them remarked to Allah’s Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that they did not all have the means to give one who had been fasting something with which to break his fast, and he replied:
“Allah gives this reward to him, who gives one, who has been fasting, some milk mixed with water, or date, or a drink of water with which to break his fast, and anyone, who gives a full meal to one, who has been fasting, will be given a drink from my tank by Allah and will not thirst till he enters Paradise. It is a month, whose beginning is mercy, whose middle is forgiveness and whose end is freedom from Hell. If anyone makes things easy for His slave during it, Allah will forgive him and free him from Hell.” (Baihaqi transmitted it in Shu’ab al Iman).
It was also related that the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon) once said: “There is a fixed principle for rewarding all the good deeds of men, and even good deed will be rewarded according to it. But the fast is an exception. The standing command of Allah is that since man forgoes food and drink and subdues his passions solely for His pleasure, He will recompense him directly for it.” (Sihah-I-Sitta)
Other relevant ahadith are listed herein below to show us the significance of Sawm (fasting):
“Whoever does not make the intention before daybreak to fast is not considered fasting.” (Abu dawud, an-Nasa’I and at-Tirmidhi)
“Even a perpetual fast will not compensate for missing one day of fasting in Ramadan without an excuse or illness.” (Ahmad and at-Tirmidhi)
“Whoever fasts Ramadan because of Iman (faith), seeking reward from Allah alone, will have his past sins forgiven; and whoever passes Laylat al-Qadr (the blessed night) in prayer because of Iman, seeking reward from Allah alone, will have his past sins forgiven.” (al-Bukhari and Muslim)
However, Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) advised the Muslims to eat something before the Adhan (call to prayer) for the Fajr Prayer, He said: “Take sahur (pre-dawn meal), for there are blessings in it.” (al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Again, he clarified other things for our guidance, he said:
“When one of you hears the adhan while he has a cup in his hand, he should not put it down until he satisfies his need from it.” (Abu Dawud)
“Whoever forgets and eats or drinks by accident while he is fasting, he should complete his fast, for it is Allah who has fed him and given him drink.” (al-Bukhari and Muslim)
In addition, Sawm (fasting) instill in the believers numerous desirable virtues. It promotes Islamic awareness and God-consciousness among believers wherever they may be. It also develops in man sound social consciousness, patience, kindness, sincerity, honesty, well-power, determination and self-restraint. It is a collective experience within the community and gives spiritual strength to every member. At the same time, fasting reminds the rich people to have sympathy and compassion toward the less fortunate members of the society.
On the authority of Sahl ibn Sa’d (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “In Paradise there are eitht gates including a gate call ‘Rayyan’. None but those who fast, will enter it” (Agreed upon)
It should also be clear to all that Ramadan is a yearly training for Muslims. Whatever good we are able to learned during the whole month should be practiced religiously over the rest of the year. Doing of good deeds does not stop after Ramadan, rather, we should continue and strive to do more of it for the benefit of our souls. We should not allow our Iman (Faith) to decrease or follow the habit of hypocrites who perform prayers only during Ramadan. As we learned the virtue of charity, we have to practice charity the whole year round. The remembrance of Allah, The performance of righteous deeds and avoidance of evil are always exhorted during this period. So also, Muslims should practice them throughout the year in order to increase Imam and cement their good relationship with Allah, our creator, on Whom we depend for everything.