What is the Purpose of Fasting?
Fasting, as we all know, isn’t a new thing. It has played a significant role in many religions and cultures for centuries. Different religions observe fast on various occasions, such as Catholics observe fast on Good Friday and Ash Wednesday. Likewise, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, etc., have their own fasting practices. The people of these religions observe fast since they believe that fasting connects their physical and spiritual state.
The Month of Observing Fast for Muslims
The ninth Islamic month Ramadan is best described as the month of fasting for Muslims all over the world. The literal meaning of fast is abstinence. It means to abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, and marital relations from dawn till sunset.
In general, the month of Ramadan has great importance in the lives of Muslims as it teaches them devotion, self-control, self-discipline and sympathy for those who are needy, most deprived, or less affluent.
However, are you thinking, what’s the aim of fasting, and why fasting is so important, for Muslims?
Why Muslims Observe Fasting?
When we think about why fasting is so important for Muslims, we become aware that the purpose of fasting for Muslims is the surrender and submission to Allah Almighty who is the Creator of mankind. They observe fast as an act of worship, to get closer to Allah and to become compassionate to the poor. This is the main reason why fasting is so important for Muslims. It’s also observed to learn patience, discipline and avoid evil habits.
The Significance of Fasting for Muslims
Fasting doesn’t merely mean abstaining from eating and drinking. It’s a sign of obedience to Allah Almighty. By observing fast, a Muslim not only expresses his submission to Allah but also exerts control over his desires and wishes. Furthermore, in this holy month of blessings, mercy and forgiveness, the Holy Quran was revealed on the last Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) reportedly said, “During Ramadan, the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of hell are closed and the Satan is chained up.”
Health Benefits of Fasting
Fasting has many health benefits as well. Due to this reason, non-Muslims also practice intermittent fasting because of its potential health benefits such as
- helps in weight loss
- controls blood sugar
- induces cellular repair process such as remove waste material from cells
- maintains insulin levels
- reduces inflammation
- improves overall fitness
- protects from obesity
- boosts cognitive performance
- enhances heart health by improving blood pressure
- improves brain function
- boots metabolism
- aids in cancer prevention
Spiritual Benefits of Fasting
When we think about why fasting is so important for Muslims, numerous spiritual benefits come to our mind. In Ramadan, Muslims experience the following social and spiritual benefits of fasting and appreciate its value.
- Fasting ensures the unity of society.
- Muslims manifest their deep and great love for Allah by obeying His commands.
- Fasting teaches the rich what hunger is. When they keep fast and stay hungry and thirsty for a specific time, they start feeling sympathy for poor people.
- The sacred month of Ramadan brings discipline to the lives of Muslims. They make up fast from the adhan of Fajr till the adhan of Maghrib. So, nobody is allowed to eat anything after the adhan of Fajr and before the adhan of Maghrib.
- Patience and unselfishness are the two main qualities that come due to fasting.
- Fasting Muslims control their anger, remain calm and refrain from harming others physically and verbally.
- Muslims who observe fasting experience charity, brotherhood and unity.
- Fasting Muslims refrain from stealing, backbiting, cheating and avoid harming others.
- In Ramadan, Taraweeh is offered in the congregation, which is a great example of unity. Listening to the Quran together and meeting each other every day at the exact time not only develop love and affection for each other but also increase social interaction.
- The holy month of Ramadan not only makes the society purer but also helps people abstain from wrong acts since they avoid arguing, fighting, stealing and other evildoings.
What is Allowed and Not Allowed During Fasting?
While writing about dos and don’ts, different questions come to mind, such as
- What are the rules of Ramadan?
- To whom fasting is obligatory?
- Can you smoke while observing fast?
- Does showering break your fast?
- How should you behave during Ramadan?
- Does listening to music break your fast?
- Can you hug and kiss your wife while fasting?
- Can you use eye-drops during the hours of fasting?
- Should pregnant women fast?
- Should breastfeeding women fast?
- What if someone is having a chronic illness or is really old?
- Can you skip fast while travelling?
- Does vomiting break the fast?
- What if someone swallows his/her saliva while fasting?
- Can you brush your teeth with toothpaste while fasting?
- Can you use mouthwash during the hours of fasting?
- Is donating blood allowed while fasting?
What’s not permissible while observing fast?
However, what exactly are the rules and what can you do and what can’t you do? Many ex-pats might not be aware of the rules of Ramadan. Firstly, you’re not supposed to eat, drink or smoke in public, even if you’re not observing fast. Moreover, fasting is not only abstaining from food, drink or smoking but also avoid gossiping, arguing, fighting, swearing and being disrespectful to others. Sexual relations are also not allowed during the hours of fasting.
This great month which is a blessing for all Muslims is also a golden opportunity to develop qualities of tolerance, self-discipline, to control anger or malicious tongue. It’s time to awaken compassion for others and especially with the poor.
To Whom Fasting is Obligatory?
As one of the five pillars of Islam, it’s mandatory for all healthy Muslims who are adult and not mandatory to those who’ve not reached puberty, those who’re physically or mentally ill, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers and travellers while travelling to other countries or cities.
Should pregnant women observe fast?
In general, pregnant women are exempted from observing fast. However, if they’re physically fit and are not facing any complications like high heart diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney infections, they can make up fast. There are certain essential tips for pregnant women while fasting. They should stay hydrated and drink plenty of water at Suhur and Iftar. Moreover, they should break their fast with energy-rich foods including protein, fibre, dates and fruits. Besides, they can put off activities that leave them physically worn out while fasting. In case of too much weakness, they can skip fasting. Moreover, they can make up for the missed fasts later when they are healthy.
Should breastfeeding women observe fast?
Breastfeeding mothers are exempted from fasting during Ramadan. However, if breastfeeding mom feels fasting won’t affect her health, she can observe fast. Otherwise, she can later observe her missed fasts.
Can you give blood while fasting?
It’s recommended by the doctors to donate blood after iftar. However, if the person is physically fit and healthy and is not suffering from any medical conditions, he can donate blood during the fasting period. But in some cases, the person donating blood during the fasting period may experience weakness or dizziness.
Can you use toothpaste or mouthwash during the hours of fasting?
Your fast won’t break unless you swallow anything intentionally. But toothpaste and mouthwash are flavoured and there is a chance that you can feel the taste after using them during fast. Literally, you put yourself at the risk of invalidating your fast if you use them during fast. Therefore, we shouldn’t use mouth wash and toothpaste during fasting. Conversely, you can use both before starting to fast and after breaking the fast. It is makrooh. Makrooh is an impermissible act in Islam which is close to haram in the definition. For your convenience, Islam allows you to maintain oral healthy by using Miswak. The fine fibre brush of miswak will deeply clean your teeth.
Are medicated eyes, nose and ear drops permissible to use during the hours of fasting?
The use of eye drops is permissible as long as they don’t reach the throat. But the nose and ear drops are not permissible. Even for eye drops you should wait for the night and use them after breaking the fast. But in some extreme emergency, you can use them and spit out if you feel the taste in your throat.
Does the use of an inhaler break your fast?
Yes, the inhaler does break the fast. If we see the rules, one’s fast will become invalid when he intentionally inhales any gas or smoke. Therefore, you have to make up your missed fast afterwards. But this rule does not apply to those who unintentionally inhale the gas.
Is smoking permitted during the hours of fasting?
According to fasting rules, smoking is prohibited during the hours of fasting. Firstly, voluntary inhalation of smoke through the mouth or nose breaks the fast. Secondly, cigarette smoke has particles that can enter the stomach during fasting. In both ways, your fast will break. Therefore, smoking is not allowed during fasting hours. Furthermore, it is intoxication. Islam prohibits the use of intoxication. So, it’s better to avoid it on normal days also.
Can I listen to music while fasting?
Listening to music isn’t allowed and is considered haram not only in Ramadan but at all times. It’s forbidden by Islamic Law.
Can you hug or kiss your wife while fasting?
Yes, you can hug or kiss your wife not only during Ramadan but also when someone observes fast. However, sexual relationships are not allowed during the hours of fasting.
Can I swallow my saliva while fasting?
Yes, swallowing your own saliva doesn’t break your fast and it’s perfectly permissible.
Does vomit invalidate the fast?
There are two conditions in this case; Involuntary vomiting doesn’t break the fast either it is a mouthful or a little bit. If it runs down the throat impulsively then it does no harm to your fast. On the other hand, voluntary vomit breaks your fast if it is a mouthful. But a little bit of voluntary vomit does not break your fast. Please keep in mind that conscious attempts of breaking the fast is a greater sin in Islam.
Can I eat in front of my Muslim friends when they’re observing fast?
It’s ok to eat or drink in front of your Muslim friends who are observing fast. Muslims don’t think if they are fasting, others must fast too. However, eating in front of someone who is fasting is ethically not good and seems awkward.
Does taking a shower break your fast?
A bath, shower or swimming doesn’t affect your fast. However, not a single drop of water should be taken in during these activities as that would break your fast.
Why does Allah want Muslims to observe fast?
Keeping in mind, why fasting is so important for Muslims, it’s also a way to avoid evil habits, make yourself patient, and practice self-discipline. Allah has prescribed this religious duty to Muslims to overcome their desires and lust. Fasting also teaches us to prevent becoming a slave to our illegal aspirations and desires. The main purpose of fasting is to develop righteousness inwardly and outwardly by keeping away from sinful deeds. This spiritual practice is meant to benefit us in body, mind and heart. In short, fasting is not about burning your calories, it’s about burning your pride, ego and immoral acts, and bringing your heart and soul closer to Allah.
Written and Researched by Ammara Sheikh and Shumaila Farhat