بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
Muslims perform fasting during the Holy month of Ramadan. In fasting they refrain from normally lawful eating, drinking and sexual activity from dawn to dusk. The main purpose of fasting is to increase consciousness of Allah in oneself. During fasting we abstain from halal and lawful things knowing that we are being watched by Allah although no one else is watching, so our consciousness of Allah increases. The purpose of training of Saum/fast is to increase our consciousness of Allah. Similar is the concept of Akhira or accountability. It a reaffirmation of the fact to be aware that Allah watches us when one one else does. With this training we pay heed to accountability. Think of accountability as if your video is being made all time and this video would be made available at the time of our final accountability. Normally, when people are conscious of their video being made, they behave differently being conscious of the fact that they are being recorded. Many a people, if they know for sure that they would get away with a bad act as nobody in the world would know about it, they would do so, forgetting at the moment that we cannot get away with any evil act and Allah will make us accountable for every single thing we did in this life. The training of Saum/fast is related to this concept in that we develop the feeling of being conscious of Allah and this consciousness of Allah in our nafs keeps us away from doing evil things. In Ramadan our striking the body with the discomfort refraining from eating and drinking acts as constant reminder of consciousness of Allah. Once the consciousness of Allah becomes part of our nafs, it should extend beyond the month of Ramadan.
2:185 شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْقَانِ ۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ ۖ وَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ ۗ يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ وَلِتُكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَاكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
Ramadan is the month in which Al-Quran/The Reading was sent down, a guidance for mankind, and clarification from the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong), so whosoever is a witness amongst you of that month, then he should fast in it, but if any one is ill, or travelling, then the count (should be made up) in later days. Allah intends facility for you; He does not intend to put you to hardship. So that you complete the prescribed period (of fasting), and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and you be grateful to Him.
In the month of Ramadan our defense mechanism increases against doing evil by refraining from even lawful halal things during the day. People usually refrain themselves from doing bad and evil things in Ramadan, which they may do in other months. If we can refrain our selves in doing evil during this one month, we may try to train ourselves to refrain from doing evil for the rest of the year.
The fasting as other orders of Allah, has always been incumbent upon believers in all times.
2:183 يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
O ye who believe! Fasting is written over you as it was written over those before you, that you may take guard,-
In case of sickness or travel you should not fast but keep count of these days to be completed later. It is not allowed to do fasting in sickness which will worsen because of keeping fast. Similarly while travelling significant distances which may involve time difference between destinations, keeping fast is not allowed.
In case you are in-capacitated to fast due to physical conditions or being at a place where it is difficult to distinguish between days and nights, then you can do Fidya/recompense of Saum i.e arrange to feed a poor person in lieu of keeping fast.
2:184 أَيَّامًا مَّعْدُودَاتٍ ۚ فَمَن كَانَ مِنكُم مَّرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ ۚ وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ فِدْيَةٌ طَعَامُ مِسْكِينٍ ۖ فَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيْرًا فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّهُ ۚ وَأَن تَصُومُوا خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
(Fasting) for a counted number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (should be completed) from days later. For those who can do it (With hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will,- it is better for him. And it is better for you that you fast, if you only knew.
In Ramadan people try to indulge mostly in worship of the Lord and in doing so some, avoid contact with their wives during the Ramadan nights, sometimes sacrificing their desires. Allah advises that you need not be dishonest to your nafs/physche and seek your woman during the Ramadan nights as this is lawful.
However, contact with women during Aaitekaf/devotion in the mosques is not allowed.
2:187 أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ لَيْلَةَ الصِّيَامِ الرَّفَثُ إِلَىٰ نِسَائِكُمْ ۚ هُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَّكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ لِبَاسٌ لَّهُنَّ ۗ عَلِمَ اللَّهُ أَنَّكُمْ كُنتُمْ تَخْتَانُونَ أَنفُسَكُمْ فَتَابَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَعَفَا عَنكُمْ ۖ فَالْآنَ بَاشِرُوهُنَّ وَابْتَغُوا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ ۚ وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ الْخَيْطُ الْأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الْخَيْطِ الْأَسْوَدِ مِنَ الْفَجْرِ ۖ ثُمَّ أَتِمُّوا الصِّيَامَ إِلَى اللَّيْلِ ۚ وَلَا تُبَاشِرُوهُنَّ وَأَنتُمْ عَاكِفُونَ فِي الْمَسَاجِدِ ۗ تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ فَلَا تَقْرَبُوهَا ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ آيَاتِهِ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ
It is lawful for you to be intimate with your women in the night of fasts, they are a covering for you and you are covering for them. Allah knows that you used to be dishonest with your nafs/psyche, so He returns over you and pardoned you about it. So now be in contact with them and seek what Allah has written for you,
And eat and drink until from dawn the white thread clarifies for you from the black thread then complete the fast towards the night and you do not accompany them when you are devoted/Aakif in the mosques. These are the boundaries of Allah so you do not go near them. Likewise Allah clarifies His Ayas / signs for people so that they may take guard.
In keeping Saum/fast We can eat and drink in the night as long as we don’t see a slight indication of morning light getting distinguished from the night’s darkness. Then the prohibition of Saum will last during the day till dusk when again the day changes into night; going towards the night (i.e not actual night)
Correction with Saum/Fasting:
If we recognize ourselves deviating from the Right, then we can apply the method given in below Ayat for correction:
5:89 لَا يُؤَاخِذُكُمُ اللَّهُ بِاللَّغْوِ فِي أَيْمَانِكُمْ وَلَٰكِن يُؤَاخِذُكُم بِمَا عَقَّدتُّمُ الْأَيْمَانَ ۖ فَكَفَّارَتُهُ إِطْعَامُ عَشَرَةِ مَسَاكِينَ مِنْ أَوْسَطِ مَا تُطْعِمُونَ أَهْلِيكُمْ أَوْ كِسْوَتُهُمْ أَوْ تَحْرِيرُ رَقَبَةٍ ۖ فَمَن لَّمْ يَجِدْ فَصِيَامُ ثَلَاثَةِ أَيَّامٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ كَفَّارَةُ أَيْمَانِكُمْ إِذَا حَلَفْتُمْ ۚ وَاحْفَظُوا أَيْمَانَكُمْ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
Allah does not call you to account with futile talk in your oaths, but He calls you to account with what you deliberate in your oaths/right. Thus it’s expiation is to feed ten indigent persons, the average of the food you feed your families; or clothe them; or free a neck. If any does not find such then fast for three days. That is the expiation for the oaths/right you have sworn. Guard your oaths/right. This way Allah make clear to you His Ayahs/signs, that you may be grateful.
For example a person recognizes that lying is wrong conduct and is not ‘Right’ but he thinks that he is forced to do so because of circumstances beyond his control. Then he can start doing correction by paying an expiation every time he finds himself deviating from right i.e either feed ten poor, or clothe them or free a neck from debt or if he is not able to afford these then fast for three days. After paying the expiation for a few times, He should be much better able to control himself in deviating from the Right, Insha’Allah.
For bigger matters e.g Zihar or accidentally killing a person unintentionally the prescription is for two months consecutive fasting in order to mitigate the profound effects on ones psychology 4:92, 58:4.
Saum of Speech
19:26 فَكُلِي وَاشْرَبِي وَقَرِّي عَيْنًا ۖ فَإِمَّا تَرَيِنَّ مِنَ الْبَشَرِ أَحَدًا فَقُولِي إِنِّي نَذَرْتُ لِلرَّحْمَٰنِ صَوْمًا فَلَنْ أُكَلِّمَ الْيَوْمَ إِنسِيًّا
(O Maryam) “So eat and drink and cool (your) eye. And if you see any man, say, ‘I have vowed a fast to (Allah) Most Gracious, and this day I will not enter into talk with any human”
A less commonly known Saum/fast is of speaking to people. When one has the initial encounter with the Spirit of Allah’s Ayat/Ayahs, then he/she is not to speak about them immediately to any one, unless one attains clarity about the Ayahs and practically implement them in one’s life.