What is the third pillar of Islam and why is it so important? Fasting, or sawm in Arabic, is a spiritual practice that involves giving up food, drink, and other physical needs from dawn to dusk during the holy month of Ramadan. But fasting is more than just a physical challenge. It is also a way of worshiping Allah (SWT), developing self-discipline, and enhancing one’s spirituality. In this blog post, I will explain the meaning, purpose, and types of fasting in Islam, and how you can make the most of this blessed month.
The Quran uses the Arabic word “sawm” to describe fasting. The word sawm literally means “to abstain”. Fasting the third pillar of Islam is an integral and significant religious practice, deeply rooted in its history and faith. It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, which are the core acts of worship and practice that define the life of a devout Muslim. Fasting in Islam is a means of spiritual growth, self-discipline, and drawing closer to Allah. Fasting during the month of Ramadan is the most well-known and widely observed form of fasting in Islam. There are other types of fasting as well.
The five pillars of Islam are the basic acts of worship that every Muslim is expected to perform. If you want to learn more about each pillar in detail and explain how they relate to each other Click on the given link: Five Pillars of Islam
Fasting during Ramadan (Sawm al-Ramadan)
This is the most important and widely observed form of fasting in Islam. It takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, known as Ramadan. Ramadan shifts approximately 11 days earlier each year on the solar-based Gregorian calendar. Muslims experience Ramadan in different seasons throughout the course of their lives.
Ramaḍan is the month in which the Quran was revealed as a guide for humanity with clear proofs of guidance and the decisive authority. So whoever is present this month, let them fast.(Surah al-Baqarah 2:185)
But whoever is ill or on a journey, then ˹let them fast˺ an equal number of days ˹after Ramaḍân˺. Allah intends ease for you, not hardship, so that you may complete the prescribed period and proclaim the greatness of Allah for guiding you, and perhaps you will be grateful. (Surah al-Baqarah 2:185)
During this month, Muslims fast from dawn (Fajr) until sunset (Maghrib). This includes abstaining from food, drink, smoking, and marital relations during daylight hours. The pre-dawn meal before fasting begins is called Suhoor, and the meal to break the fast at sunset is called Iftar. If you want to learn more about Ramadan click on the link: What is Ramadan, and why is it Important for Muslims?
In addition to fasting during Ramadan, Muslims are encouraged to observe voluntary fasts throughout the year. Some examples of voluntary fasts include:
- Fasting on Mondays and Thursdays: It is a Sunnah (tradition of the Prophet Muhammad SAW) to fast on these days.
- Fasting on the 13th, 14th, and 15th of each Islamic lunar month: These days are known as the “white days.”
- Fasting on the Day of Arafah: This fast is observed on the 9th day of the Islamic month of Dhul-Hijjah.
- Fasting on the 9th and 10th of Muharram (Aashura): It is recommended to fast on both these days.
Fasting on Ashura is highly recommended, but not obligatory, for Muslims. If you want to learn more about Click on the given link: The Importance of Karbala and Fasting on Ashura in Islam
Fasting for Atonement (Kaffara)
If a Muslim breaks their fast during Ramadan intentionally or by engaging in sexual intercourse during daylight hours. They are required to make up for it by fasting for 60 consecutive days or by feeding 60 needy people.
Fasting to Make Up Missed Days (Qada)
If a Muslim is unable to fast during Ramadan due to illness, travel, pregnancy, or other valid reasons. They are required to make up for the missed fasts at a later time. This is known as Qada fasting, and it allows individuals to fulfill their Ramadan fasting obligation when they are able.
Days when fasting is forbidden
In Islam, there are specific days on which fasting is forbidden or strongly discouraged. Here are some of the days when fasting is either forbidden or discouraged:
Eid al-Fitr, also known as the “Festival of Breaking the Fast”. It is a joyous festival that marks the end of Ramadan. It is a day of celebration,
thanksgiving, and communal prayer. Fasting on Eid al-Fitr is forbidden because it is a day of feasting and expressing gratitude to Allah for the successful completion of Ramadan.
Eid al-Adha, also known as the “Festival of Sacrifice,” is another important Islamic festival. It commemorates the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to Allah’s command. Fasting on Eid al-Adha is also forbidden as it is a day of sacrifice, communal prayer, and celebration. Instead of fasting, Muslims who can afford it are encouraged to perform the act of Qurbani (animal sacrifice) and distribute the meat among family, friends, and the needy.
Days of Tashreeq
The 11th, 12th, and 13th of Dhul-Hijjah are known as the Days of Tashreeq, occurring immediately after the Eid al-Adha. Fasting on these days is discouraged, particularly if one has performed the Qurbani sacrifice. These days are meant for feasting, celebrating, and making supplications to Allah.
Fasting According to the Sunnah
Fasting the third pillar of Islam according to the Sunnah involves following the recommended practices and etiquettes associated with fasting. Observing fasting in this manner not only fulfills the religious obligations but also brings additional spiritual rewards. Here is a guide on how to fast according to the Sunnah
The intention to fast is essential. Before starting your fast each day, make a sincere intention in your heart to fast for the sake of Allah and to seek His pleasure. While the intention doesn’t have to be verbalized, it should be genuine and sincere.
Suhoor (Pre-dawn Meal)
It is Sunnah to have a pre-dawn meal known as Suhoor. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) encouraged eating Suhoor even if it is just a sip of water and a few dates. The Suhoor meal should be taken shortly before the Fajr (dawn) prayer.
Iftar (Breaking the Fast)
At sunset, when the Maghrib prayer time begins, Muslims should break their fast with a meal known as Iftar. The Sunnah is to break the fast with an odd number of dates and water, following the tradition of the Prophet (SAW). After this, the Maghrib prayer should be performed, and then a more substantial meal can be consumed.
Supplication (Dua) at Iftar
The Prophet encouraged making specific supplications at the time of Iftar, including: “O Allah, for You I have fasted, and with Your provision, I break my fast.”
Recitation of Quran
Fasting is an excellent time to recite and reflect upon the Quran. The Sunnah is to read and listen to the Quran throughout the month of Ramadan. Many Muslims aim to complete the recitation of the Quran during this month.
Extra Acts of Worship
Engage in extra acts of worship, such as performing additional prayers called Taraweeh, which are offered at night during Ramadan. The Prophet Muhammad (SW) encouraged praying Taraweeh in the congregation at the mosque.
Seeking Forgiveness and Repentance
Ramadan is a time to seek forgiveness and repent for our sins by doing istighfar. The Prophet (Peace be upon Him) emphasized the importance of turning to Allah with a sincere heart and asking for His pardon during this blessed month.
Acts of Charity (Sadaqah and Zakat)
Giving to the needy and helping those less fortunate is highly encouraged during Ramadan. Muslims should strive to be generous and perform acts of charity, including giving Sadaqah (voluntary charity) and fulfilling their obligatory Zakat obligations.
If You want to learn more read our other article: Islamic Charity: Sadaqah, Zakat, and More
Avoiding Sinful Behavior
Fasting goes beyond abstaining from food and drink. Muslims should also avoid sinful behavior, including lying, backbiting, gossiping and
anger. Ramadan is a time to improve one’s character and strengthen one’s relationship with Allah.
Maintaining Good Character
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) emphasized the importance of maintaining good character and being kind and compassionate to others. This is especially important during the fasting month.
Consistency and Moderation
Fasting according to the Sunnah involves maintaining consistency and moderation. It is not about extreme hardship but about drawing closer to Allah through sincere worship and self-control.
Gratitude and Patience
Throughout Ramadan, Muslims should express gratitude for Allah’s blessings and demonstrate patience in the face of difficulties and challenges that may arise during fasting.
By following these Sunnah practices, Muslims can make the most of their fasting experience during Ramadan and gain spiritual growth, self-discipline, and closeness to Allah.
Fasting the third pillar of Islam is a comprehensive practice that covers not only physical aspects, such as avoiding food and drink, but also ethical and spiritual aspects, such as avoiding sins, increasing worship, and seeking Allah’s forgiveness. In Islam Fasting has many benefits for Muslims, such as cleansing their hearts, strengthening their willpower, feeling the hardship of the needy, and attaining Allah’s mercy and reward.