A Systematic Study of the Holy Qur’an — Fundamental Duties

Fasting (Sawm)

Just as Salat, fasting (Saum) has immense physical, mental, spiritual and social benefits. Fasting of one kind or the other is prescribed in almost all the religions of the world. It symbolises self-sacrifice, devotion, discipline, patience, control, generosity and purification. Fasting of all kinds has a soothing and purifying effect on the body, mind and soul. In Islam however, it becomes a much more comprehensive exercise.

  1. Islamic fasting is directly related to the beginning of the revolution of Islam. Its observance in the month of Ramadhan marks the beginning of the revelation of the messages of God to Muhammad (Peace be upon him!), Qur’an being the collection of these messages. This also means it also marks the beginning of the Prophet’s mission. This is why, there are strenuous efforts to recite the whole of Qur’an at least once in the month of Ramadhan; people do it individually as well as collectively. This refreshes the whole mission in the minds of followers; they get an annual reminder of what is expected from them, how they must conduct and what is their ultimate mission: mission of Peace. They are told in categorical terms that the best form of Jihad is Jihad against Nafs (soul) and the best way to do this is to engage in an intellectual and ideologicalJihad with the help of Quran.
  2. Islamic fasting is a much better organised and disciplined activity. It is obligatory on all Muslim adults to fast for the whole month of Ramadhan every year. Rules are much more precise. Nothing can be taken, not even water, during the fast that lasts the whole day. Having sex is not permitted during the fast, but is allowed in the night after the fast has ended. Thirty fasts in continuation, along with stress on the spiritual enlightenment through recitation of Quran, have a rectifying and purifying effect on the whole personality. This is a sort of strict training period, which reconditions the body for virtues and against vices. It also helps a person to curtail his weight, increase his resistance and immunity, give up his addictions and forsake his moral weaknesses. After each Ramadhan, many people give up smoking and drinking and become better Muslims. During Ramadhan at least gambling and drinking show a steep decline in Muslim community. In pure Islamic states, of course, the problems are minimal even in the ordinary days.
  3. Fasting also brings with it the month of charity; its socio-economic impact will be discussed in the next section.
  4. The month of fasting each year also reminds Muslims that thoughJihad against self and through Quran are the best in normal circumstances, in certain situations, armed Jihad becomes mandatory. It was on the 17th of this month that Muslims had been permitted to take up arms against the aggressors after a fourteen year long period of patience against severe persecution. This will also be discussed in detail in a later section.
  5. Fasting month in Islam ends at Eid, the festival of thankfulness to God, peace, brotherhood and equality. The populace of the area or city gathers at one place to pay obeisance to God and listen to the sermon of Imam. They hug one another, exchange visits and gifts and help their poor brothers and sisters; each one pays a certain minimal amount, Fitra to the needy. At a larger scale functions are organised to promote communal harmony, especially in areas where diverse religious communities cohabit.

Thus the month of fasting does everything that wholesome peace necessitates. It strengthens physical, mental and spiritual health of individuals; increases their awareness and knowledge about injunctions of God; involves practical steps to reduce economic disparities in society; promotes equality, brotherhood and communal harmony; and reminds followers of Islam of their duty to combat acts of aggression against them and those by the forces of evils against mankind.

Fasting in Quran

The month of fasting

O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you…(2: 183/A)

Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down Quran, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgement (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting…(2: 185/A)

…(Fasting) for a fixed number of days. (2: 184/A) {NOTE: Fasts are 29 or 30 depending on the visibility of moon.)


..but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later. God intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful.(2: 185/A)

For those who can do it (with hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. (2:184/A)


..eat and drink, until the white thread of dawn appear to you distinct from its black thread; then complete your fast till the night appears…(2: 187/A)

Permitted to you, on the night of the fasts, is the approach to your wives. …” (2: 187/A)

…. but do not associate with your wives while ye are in retreat in the mosques.( 2: 187/A)