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Fasting and its Impacts

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Fasting and its Impacts

Introduction
Fasting has great importance and significance in the Islamic system of worship. Its importance can be gauged from the fact that it is the third pillar of Islam. Fasting means abstaining from eating and every type of cravings from early morning, i.e. dawn to dusk. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) explained the meaning of fasting in these words:
“There is charity (zakat) for everything and charity of body is fasting.”

Meaning and philosophy
Fasting is the third fundamental pillar of Islam and has a stature of an enormously important worship. In the Arabic language, the word ‘soum’, which is translated into English as ‘fasting’ means ‘to stop;’ ‘to refrain’. In Islamic lexicon, saum is used for the practice by which man abstains from eating and avoids sexual intercourse from dawn to sunset. The core objective of fasting is to achieve piety and righteousness so that a capacity to resist sins is inculcated in man. Like all other worships, fasting also is a source to be nearer to Allah. Regrading fasting, Allah Almighty has said in a Hadith-e-Qudsi:
“Fasting is for Me and I will give its reward.”
Obligatory fasting for a whole month makes such a great practical training module which inculcates in man a sense and feeling that he is refraining from even the lawful things like eating, drinking and enjoying matrimonial blessings only for the sake of Allah, then why should he not abstain the things prohibited by Him? Fasting infuses in man a spirit of obedience to the will of Allah.

Importance of fasting
Allah says in the Holy Quran:
“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you. That ye may (learn) self-restraint.” (al-Baqarah: 183)
“And fasting is better for you that you fast, if only you know.” (al-Baqarah: 184)
Importance of fasting in hadith
(i) In a Hadith-e-Qudsi, Allah says:
“Fasting is for Me and I will give its reward.”
(ii) The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said:
“If a man leaves a fast without any lawful reason, he cannot compensate it even if he observes fast for the whole life. (Tirmizi)
(iii) The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said:
“There is a charity for everything and the charity of a body is fasting.”

Impacts and objective of fasting
The purposes of fasting are as follows:
(i) Purgation of one’s self
One of the main objectives and impacts of fasting is the purgation of one’s soul and its piety. A believer, who fights hunger and thirst from dawn to dusk, neither casts an evil eye on anyone nor does he think about evil and he actually purges his soul from the dirt of sins. And self-purification is the core objective as well as the true essence of fasting. Allah says in the Holy Quran:
“Successful indeed are those who purify themselves.” (al-A’la:14)
(ii) Obedience to Allah
The foremost impact of fasting is following Allah’s will and His commandments. Had it not been Allah’s ordainment, then who would have remained hungry for the whole day. A fast is observed only to abide by the ordainments of Allah Almighty, to accept that He is the real Master and Sustainer and we are His servants. He gives us means of sustenance and we have been ordained to fast only to attain His pleasure.
(iii) Attainment of Allah’s pleasure
There is a Hadith-e-Qudsi about those who observe fast:
“Fasting is for Me and I will give its reward.”
A Muslim observes fast so that his Master and the Creator may be pleased with him. The secret to attain Allah’s pleasure lies in unwavering obedience to Him. If they are contented with and surrender to Allah’s will, He will surely reward them.
(iv) Tolerance and patience
One purpose and impact of fasting is to make the observer tolerant and patient. If a man remains hungry, thirsty and avoids evil deeds, he becomes tolerant and patient and this trait remains in his character even after Ramadhan.
(v) Character-building
The purpose/impact of fasting is character-building too. If a man, addicted to abusing, backbiting and adultery, starts observing fast during Ramadhan, his fasting will keep him away from all these vices. If he does not shun these evils, then according to the Holy Prophet (ﷺ), “Allah does not care about a person if he remains hungry.” It is so because the purpose of fasting cannot be achieved in this way.
(vi) Piety
The basic aim of fasting is to cultivate piety and foster virtues in man. In the Holy Quran, achieving piety and righteousness has been described as the core objective of fasting.
“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you. That ye may (learn) self-restraint.” (al-Baqarah: 183)
It is elaborately evident from Allah’s commandment that fasting has been made obligatory on previous nations so that they might become pious, virtuous and God-fearing.
(vii) Cooperation
By cultivating a sense of cooperation in man, fasting creates tolerance and patience and fosters the spirit of cooperation in society. It negates the lust of greed and awakens the feelings of helping others. That is why all those who observe fast come out helping and cooperating with others. In fact, fasting gives the message of cooperation to the whole humanity. When a man remains hungry and thirsty, he realises others’ pains and problems caused by hunger which, in turn, awakens the spirit of cooperation.
(viii) Justice at large
It is the fasting that introduces equality in society by inculcating a sense of justice at large in people. It eradicates disparity and injustice in society. In this way, an observer of fast thinks for his own well-being as well as of poor and helpless people. It leads him to a sense of collectiveness.
(ix) Thanksgiving
Fasting stirs man to thank his real Creator and Master. While describing the purpose of fasting for its observers, Allah says in the Holy Quran, “Allah has made fasting compulsory for you so that you become thankful.”
Thanksgivings to Allah is also a purpose of fasting just like obedience to Allah, attainment of Allah’s pleasure, piety and self-purification.
Individual and collective benefits and impacts of fasting
By observing fast in its essence, one can reap the following benefits and impacts:
ü Attainment of self-purification.
ü Awakening of the spirit to follow Allah’s commandments.
ü Fervour to be nearer to Allah to achieve His pleasure.

Individual and collective benefits and impacts of fasting
By observing fast in its essence, one can reap the following benefits and impacts:
ü Attainment of self-purification.
ü Awakening of the spirit to follow Allah’s commandments.
ü Fervour to be nearer to Allah to achieve His pleasure.
ü Creation of feelings of tolerance and patience.
ü Character building.
ü Attainment of piety and righteousness.
ü Establishment of a sense of cooperation.
ü Fostering of justice at large.
ü Rise to the feelings of thankfulness and patience.
ü Easiness in treading the path of good morals.
ü Inclination to avoid bad morals.
ü Development of self-accountability.
ü Lack of ostentation while performing good deeds.
Conclusion
As abovementioned, undoubtedly, fasting has an immense impact on society. All Muslims, irrespective of their status, must fast during this month. This brings into the open the true equality of men and thus goes a long way in creating feelings of love and brotherhood among them. During Ramadhan, evil conceals itself, while good comes to the fore. The whole atmosphere is filled with cleanliness, righteousness and purity.

The writer is head of Islamic Studies department at Government Khawaja Rafique Shaheed College, Lahore.

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