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Note: Since the 162nd Wing trains Muslim students, it is important that staff and instructors know about this annual Muslim religious experience. Ramadan is a month of spiritualism, meditation, and abstinence from food and drink between sunrise and sunset. The following is a synopsis on Ramadan.
RAMADAN "WHAT AND WHY"
RSNF LIAISON OFFICE
Definition of Fasting
The Arabic term, Al-Sawm, usually translated into English as "fasting", literally means "to abstain". From a religious perspective, Al-Sawm means to abstain from eating, drinking, and engaging in sexual intercourse from dawn until sunset with sole purpose of worshipping (Allah), subhanahu wa taala.
During the month of Sha'ban of the second year in the Hijri calendar, fasting was enjoined onto the Muslims by Allah, as it had been enjoined on the previous nations which existed since Adam. Allah says:
"O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint. (2:183)
The Importance of Fasting
In one of his Hadiths, or reported sayings, the Prophet, peace be upon him, stated, "Allah said, 'All the deeds of the son of Adam are for his sake, except for fasting; it is for Me, and I will reward it. Fasting is a shield which protects man. If it is a fasting day for one of you, you should not be vulgar or loud, and if somebody curses you or fights with you, you should say, 'I am fasting'. To him who holds the soul of Muhammad (Pbuh) in his hands, the smell of the fasting person's breath is sweeter than the smell of musk. The fasting person experiences two types of happiness: the satisfaction that he experiences as soon as he breaks his fast and the one he will feel when he meets Allah and knows that he has fasted." (Related by Bukhari and Muslim)
The Benefits of Fasting
The previous verse and Hadith, as well as other Hadiths, clearly discuss the benefits of fasting. By reading certain verses and hadiths, we learn that through fasting, a person can learn piety, or "Takwa" that is the fear of Allah at all times. Takwa helps the individual become patient and strong in the face of any temptation that might break his fast. This Takwa also helps him exercise control over his desires.
Fasting also acts as a positive social force: it offers people the opportunity to exercise self-discipline, and it unifies society. Fasting also teaches people equality and fairness: when people fast, they share the same spiritual aspirations. The temporal differences between the poor and the rich become insignificant. Thus the rich learn to empathize with the poor and to be compassionate towards them.
Fasting benefits humans from a health standpoint as well: it helps in regulating the diet. By reducing ones meals to two per day and by practicing moderation, the individual can transform his diet into a less taxing one for his digestive system.
Fasting thus teaches the individual to be honest with himself and to be truthful to his beliefs so that he may fulfill his duties toward Allah, subhanahu wa taala. It also teaches him to be patient and to monitor his verbal behavior as well as his actions.
Types of Fasting
Fasting is categorized into four types: mandatory fasting, recommending fasting, disliked fasting and prohibited fasting.
MANDATORY FASTING: Islam requires a person to fast under particular circumstances. Thus fasting in such circumstances is mandatory and, therefore, can not be neglected. The types of fasting that are mandatory are the following:
Fasting during the month of Ramadan.
Fasting for atonement.
Kafarat al Nathr; that is, the fasting required when one vows to Allah. An example is when a person pleads with Allah for something and in return vows to fast for a specific period.
Fasting the Month of Ramadan
Fasting during Ramadan is mentioned in the Qur'an and in the traditions of the Prophet (Pbuh) to be a mandatory duty for every Muslim, male or female. Allah says:
"Ramadan is the month in which was sent clear signs for guidance and judgment between right and wrong. So every one of you who is present at his home during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period should be made up by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; he does not want to put you to difficulties. He wants you to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify him in that he has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful." (2:185)
The prophet, (Pbuh), said, "Islam is built on five principles: to bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His messenger; to perform the mandatory prayers; to offer Zakat (that is, mandatory contributions to the poor): to fast Ramadan; and to perform the pilgrimage (or Hajj) to the House of Allah when one can afford it." (Bukhari and Muslim) Thus, fasting the month of Ramadan is one of the pillars of Islam. It is hence imperative for every Muslim to await this month and to receive it with the sincere intention to perform all the acts of the worship required during this Holy month.
Who Should Fast the Month of Ramadan?
All Muslims who have reached the age of puberty, who are of sound mind, and who have good health must fast during Ramadan. Allah, in the Qur'an commands the believers to fast the month of Ramadan. However, fasting is not accepted by Allah from the unbelievers. Yet, if somebody converts to Islam, they must fast. They do not have to compensate for the times that they had missed before they converted; however, children are not required to fast. The Prophet, (Pbuh), once related certain guidelines in regard to fasting, that is to the following effect: "three types of people are freed from the responsibilities to fast: the child until he attains puberty; the sleeping person until regains wakefulness; and the insane person until he regains his sanity."
Abou Dawud, Al-Nisa'i, and Ibnu Majah, Muslim scholars state that parents should gradually introduce their children to fasting when they reach the age of seven, and they should ask them to fast after the age of ten, so that they will be prepared by the time they reach puberty. A Muslim woman can not fast while she is in her menstrual cycle or after a childbirth until postpartum bleeding stops.
When Should a Person Fast?
A person must fast if he/she is a Muslim. Fasting is not accepted from Kafirs, the unbelievers, or the Murtads, those who converted back to their previous religions. Fasting is not accepted from persons unsound of mind, drunkards, or those who lose consciousness for long periods during the fasting hours. But if a person has the intention to fast before dawn and he sleeps throughout the day until sunset, his fasting is correct. However, these people miss their obligatory prayers and do not experience the fast fully.
The proper time for fasting is pre-dawn until sunset.
Disliked Acts During Fasting
There are certain disliked acts that the fasting person should avoid in order to get the full reward from Allah. These acts are:
Sexual intercourse during the fast period.
Cursing, swearing and blasphemy.
Delaying the breakfast after sunset.
Tasting food without swallowing it, except the person who has to taste it, as a cook or servant.
Chewing tasteless, sugarless, or odorless gum. The gum may break in pieces and the person may swallow these pieces and thus, break the fast. However, if the gum does have taste or sugar, then it would break the fast.
Exaggeration in rinsing the mouth or rinsing one's mouth needlessly.
Kissing one's spouse during the fast period because it could lead to sexual excitement that would break the fast.
To think about or be influenced by any sexual arousing acts or material.
Circumstances to Break the Fast
ILLNESS. If the person is ill and he/she fears that fasting would increase his/her illness or he/she would find it difficult to complete the fast, that person is allowed to break the fast. Also, if a person knows that fasting would harm his/her health, then he/she should break the fast.
TRAVELING. As the following Qur'anic verse shows if a person is traveling he is allowed to break the fast. The prophet (Pbuh) saw a fasting man traveling. He made shade for himself, and he was very thirsty. The prophet (Pbuh) said: "It is not beneficial to fast while traveling."
However, there are conditions for the person to break the fast while traveling. These conditions are:
The distance of traveling has to be the same distance as the distance of shortening the prayer -- about forty-eight miles.
The traveling should not be for committing sin.
The person should make the intention for traveling from the evening, before dawn. If the person woke and he/she was fasting and intended to travel, he/she should not break the fast.
Pregnancy and Breast Feeding.
A pregnant woman or a woman breast feeding is allowed to break the fast and make up for it at a later date if they fear that their fasting would cause any danger to them or their children. If they fear harm or danger on the baby alone, they have to make up for the day and give the "Fediah" (redemption from omission of religious duty). The Fediah in this case is to feed a poor person every day during the month of Ramadan.
A Woman Who is in her Menstrual Cycle or is Giving Birth to a Child.
If a woman is in her menstrual cycle or has just given birth to a child, she must break the fast even at the last minutes of the day. She will, however, have to make up for the day of fasting at a later time.
The old person who can not fast, can break the fast and pay the Fediah. The Fediah is feeding one poor person every day during Ramadan.
If the person could not fast for temporary illness, but when he/she is cured, he/she has to make up for the days missed while sick.
If a woman's menstrual cycle stops at the middle of the day, it is of the sunnah of the prophet that she abstains from eating and drinking the rest of the day. She will also have to make up that day.
If a person feels extreme thirst or hunger that he/she can not tolerate, he/she is allowed to break the fast and to make up for it on a later day.
If a traveling person who was not fasting decided to remain in town, it is of the tradition of the prophet that he/she abstain from food and drink the rest of the day.
For those who are categorized as hard laborers, that is their jobs require extreme bodily effort, and they find it difficult to fast, they can break the fast and give Fediah for every day of the fast.