Sawm, or siyaam, is an Arabic word which means “keeping away from something.” In Islam. it means to abstain from eating, drinking and other things from dawn until sunset with the intention of getting closer to Allah.
The fast of Ramadan was made obligatory on Muslims in the second year of the Hijrah. When the month of Ramadan comes, Muslims must fast it because of Allah’s Command:
“So whoever of you witnesses the month of Ramadan) must fast it.”
Fasting also makes one realize, through one’s own experience, how it feels to be hungry and thirsty, and thus to gain a true appreciation of the needs of the poor
For whom is the Fast obligatory?
Fasting in the month of Ramadan is compulsory for every Muslim who has reached physical maturity, is healthy and sane. Fasting is not obligatory on small children.
Those who are Exempted from Fasting Altogether
- The permanently ill who are not likely to recover from their illness.
- Those people who are too old and feeble to fast at any time of the year.
- Those in similar situations who find it difficult to fast, no matter the season.
These people do not have to make up for the missed days, but they are required to feed a poor person a mudd of food for each day they missed. A mudd is a measure of approximately two-thirds of a kilogram.
Those who are Allowed to Postpone Fasting
The following are allowed to break the fast and are required to make up for the missed days:
- The ill people who are not terminally ill, if the fast is likely to make their illness worse or delay recovery;
- The traveller, if he travels as far as the distance requires shortening the obligatory prayers. If he is able to fast while travelling, then he can do so.
Some Virtues of Fasting
Fasting has a large number of virtues including the following:
- The smell of the mouth of a fasting person is more pleasant to Allah than the smell of musk. (Al-Bukhaaree)
- Fasting is for Allah alone and He alone rewards for it. (Al-Bukhaaree)
- The fasting person has two moments of joy: (1) when he breaks his fast and (2) when he meets his Lord. (Al-Bukaaree and Muslim)
- Fasting is a form of protection (from Hellfire). (Al-Bubaaree and Musim)
- When the month of Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened the gates of Hell are locked and the devils are chained. (Muslim)
- In Paradise there is a gate called ar-Rawaan, through which only those who fast would enter. (Muslim)
- Whoever fasts Ramadan with firm faith and seeking reward (from Allah) will be forgiven his past sins. (Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim)