During Ramadan the aim of Muslims is to grow spiritually and become closer to Allah (SWT). A major part of this is harboured through fasting and abstaining from daily pleasures, such as eating, drinking and spousal relations from sunrise to sunset each day.
Fasting is such a focus of Ramadan, as removing these connections to worldly pleasures allows us to devote ourselves to our faith on a deeper level, whilst learning patience and compassion for others. The month is about nourishing our souls, rather than just focusing on the physical body. Fasting or Sawm in Arabic, is one of the five ‘Pillars of Islam’ which are recognised as the foundation to how Muslims live their lives. It represents the ultimate devotion to Allah and the attempt to try and rectify our character, from all the faults that we may have accumulated throughout the rest of the year.
There are however some rules and regulations which accompany the daily fast in Ramadan. After all the Qur’an tells us:
“Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear…” [The Holy Qur’an, 2:286]
Exemptions from the fast are given to those who are ill, pregnant or breast-feeding, menstruating, the elderly, or those who are travelling. In these cases, any fasting days missed can be made up for throughout the year.
Fasting is also recognised as not only abstaining from food and drink; there are other ills which Muslims should avoid such as smoking, swearing and impure or evil thoughts. The fast is an act of personal worship, which should bring a Muslim closer to Allah (SWT). In one hadith our beloved Prophet (SAW) said:
“Whoever does not give up false statements (i.e. telling lies), and evil deeds, and speaking bad words to others, Allah is not in need of his (fasting) leaving his food and drink.” [Bukhari]
In addition, Allah (SWT) said in a hadith about the behaviour of a fasting person:
“Every act of the son of Adam is for him, except fasting. It is (exclusively) meant for Me and I (alone) will reward it. Fasting is a shield. When any one of you is fasting on a day, he should neither indulge in obscene language, nor raise the voice; or if anyone reviles him or tries to quarrel with him he should say: I am a person fasting.” [Muslim]