“Fasting is like a shield” [Archives:2008/1191/Community]

September 18 2008

By: Wafa'a Sa'eed Salem
[email protected]

Fasting is the fourth pillar of Islam. The other pillars are faith or testimony, prayer, charitable giving and pilgrimage to Mecca. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, if they are able.

While fasting during Ramadan, individuals refrain from eating and drinking and practice abstinence. It is a time of worship and contemplation to fulfill Allah's commands and keep away from all sins. It's also a time to strengthen family and community ties and be on our best behavior.

The importance of fasting is that it is secret worship. The characteristics and virtues of this type of worship are as follows.

The rewards of such worship are granted to fasters directly from Allah, as noted in the Hadith (the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed): “Fasting is for My sake and it is I who reward it. The faster gives up his sexual desire, his food and drink for My sake. Fasting is like a shield. The faster has two joys: one when he breaks his fast and the other when he meets his Lord. The change in the breath of the mouth of the faster is better in Allah's estimation than the smell of musk.”

During Ramadan, all of paradise's gates are opened and all devils are restrained, while the angels request forgiveness for fasters until the final moments of Ramadan, Lailat Al-Qadr or the “Night of Destiny,” which is better than a thousand months of doing good deeds. Ramadan fasters receive mercy and forgiveness for their sins and are liberated from hell.

Ramadan is a time of intense worship, reading the Qur'an, giving charity, purifying one's behavior and performing other good deeds. As a secondary goal, fasting is a way to experience hunger because while they are hungry and thirsty, Muslims are reminded of the suffering of the poor.

During Ramadan, Muslims commonly go to the mosque where they spend hours praying and studying the Qur'an. Because they are urged to read the entire Qur'an during this month, its 114 chapters are divided into 30 equal parts for this purpose.

In addition to the five regular daily prayers, during Ramadan, Muslims recite a special prayer called the Tarawih or “Night prayer,” during which the Qur'an is recited in mosques every night. In this way, by the end of the month, the complete scripture has been recited.

Some Muslims also spend an entire Ramadan night in prayer. As mentioned earlier, there's Lailat Al-Qadr or the “Night of Destiny,” which is the holiest night of the holiest month because it is believed to be the night on which Allah first began revealing the Qur'an to the Prophet Mohammed through the angel Jibreel (Gabriel).

It is a time especially devoted to prayer and there are rewards and blessings associated with it. Muslims are told in the Qur'an that praying throughout this night is better than a thousand months of doing good deeds. No one knows exactly which night it is; it is simply one of Allah's mysteries.

In short, we must take advantage of the entire month of Ramadan to do good deeds and ask Allah to accept our deeds.