significance of fasting in Islam can be deduced from many verses of The Holy
Qur an. For example, the verses 2:45 reads:
take recourse in patience and prayer, and it is indeed hard except for the
Based on several narrations,
“patience” has been interpreted as fasting due to the fact that
fasting, consisting of abandoning certain acts such as eating and drinking for
part of the day is one of the best forms of patience. Muslims have been advised
by the narrations to resort to fasting when confronted with challenging
problems and difficulties.
Although fasting is deeply
connected to the month of Ramadan, it is an important act of worship by itself
that cab be performed outside Ramadan as well. Except for two forbidden days,
fasting is a recommended deed throughout the year, especially in certain months
such as Rajab and Sha ban and on certain days such as Mondays and Thursdays.
Moreover the month of Ramadan, regardless of fasting, provides a great
opportunity to give even to those upon whom fasting is not incumbent an
opportunity to benefit from countless merits of this month. Interestingly, this
opportunity is not confined to mature people, for Islamic narrations state that
a fetus in his/her mother s womb or an immature child can participate in this
banquet of Allah SWT . Furthermore, sleeping is not regarded as an impediment
for one s share of the excellence of the month of Ramadan.
Month of Ramadan as described by
the Holy Prophet of Islam
In a well-known
sermon delivered by the Holy Prophet of Islam
S in the last
Friday of the month of Sha ban, he emphasized:
people! Month of Allah has come toward you bringing divine blessing, mercy and
The subtle point in this phrase is
the fact that these three divine offerings are not granted to the people at the
end of this month; rather, these are the special gifts of the month of Ramadan
from the very day it begins.
This is the month in which you have been invited
to the banquet of Allah. 2
According to the wording of the
above phrase, people are “invited” to this banquet. Therefore,
in order for one to enter such an auspicious banquet, he should accept this
invitation and act upon it.
Generally speaking, while
“banquet” is understood as requiring something to eat, drink and may
also include some kind of entertainment, the “banquet of Allah” is
essentially different. Fasting is a condition for one in order to receive the
special gifts granted by Allah SWT in this banquet.
elements of a banquet
For grasping the character of
divine banquest, we should first note that every banquet consists of four
are invited you will not be rejected. Thus, the host is expected to welcome his
guest; otherwise, an “invitation” is meaningless when the
invitee is denied of reception. Accordingly, when Allah SWT invites His
servants to the banquet of Ramadan, the gates of His mercy will be opened to
those who accept the invitation.
enter the venue of the banquet, you will be treated with honor and respect.
Although every person who has been let in is not competent of being respected,
the same is not true for the one who has been invited as a guest. In
light of this fact, one may understand the following statement in the
In this month, you are made of those people whom
Allah respects and honours.3
go to a banquet you will be given or shown something without payment. In other
words, you expect to gain something without return. Correspondingly, in the
banquet of Ramadan, Allah SWT not only rewards our actions gernerously, but
also entertains His guests with various bounties without them doing something
so much so that He counts the sleep of His guests as an act of worship and
their breaths as His glorification, as explicitly stated in the same sermon:
Your breaths in it the
month of Rama1an are glorification of
God and your sleep in it is worship.4
you are invited to a party, you naturally expect to meet the host and consider
his absence as a humiliation. Accordingly, when Allah SWT invites His servant
to His banquet, by nature, He is ready to show Himself to His guests and meet
“This is the month in which
you have been invited to the banquet of Allah..” This part of the sermon
inspires the fact that this blessing has been dedicated to the month of
Ramadan. The Holy Prophet of Islam added:
In the sight of Allah, this
month is the best month, its days are the best days, its nights are the best
nights and its hours are the best hours.5
Although this month s prominence
over others involves that its days, nights and hours are the best as well, by
mentioning these three phrases independently, the Prophet emphasized that every
portion of this month is better than its counterpart in every other month.
for the month of Ramadan
sermon continues by several instructions:
people! The gates of heaven are open in this month. So ask your Lord not to
The phrase, ‘the gates of heaven
being open’ has at least two meanings:
I The chance of the one to deserve
entering heaven is more in this blessed month than the other months.
II Due to the openness of heaven’s
gates, all kinds of divine mercy in heaven are ready to encompass the servants
in tis world, angels are permitted to come to their presence and the breeze of
heaven blow into this world. These make the sleep and breaths of the faithful
in the month of Ramadan like the inhabitants of heaven glorification of God and
Although the gates of heaven are
open, the Holy Prophet warns people that if they do not appreciate such a great
opportunity, subsequently Allah SWT will close them. The situation of the
gates of fire is quite the contrary:
the gates of the fire are closed. So ask your Lord not to open them.7
these lines, the condition of satans is described as follows:
satans are in chains. So ask your Lord not to dominate them over you.8
Although Satan and his assistants
are chained up in this month, committing sins results in releasing them.
Therefore, while the month of Ramadan is the best month in itself, for a group
of people, this month is worse than the other months just as the Holy Qur an is
“a cure and mercy for the faithful; and it increases the wrongdoers only
in loss” 17:82 .
The fourth Holy Imam, Imam Sajjad,
A in his farewell supplication for the holy month of Ramadan declares:
Oh month of Ramadan! Peace
be upon you! How long you were for wrongdoers and how awesome you were in the
hearts of the faithful! Al-Sahifah Al-Sajjādiyyah,
supplication no. 45
implied by this supplication and as proved by the experience, the month of
Ramadan, for those who do not fast deliberately and without any religious
excuse, seems like a whole year and every moment of it is a kind of torture for
them. On the contrary, those who do their best to appreciate this month find it
are concerned about losing a second without taking the full benefit of it.
instruction offered by the Holy Prophet in his Sh‘baniyyah sermon is:
When you feel hungry and
thirsty in this month remember the hunger and thirst of the Day of Judgment. 9
Tolerating thirst and hunger in
this world is so difficult. We must then ponder upon the fact that the thirst
and hunger in the hereafter last for years and years or for some groups of
people forever. Additionally, in this world, death may be regarded as a
solution for intolerable thirst and hunger, but in the next world, eternal life
turns this solution into a useless one. In this regard, Chapter 43 Verse 77
They will call out,” O
name of the guardian of the hell] Let your Lord finish us off!” He will
say,” Indeed you will stay on.
According to the Holy Qur an,
there is no death for wrongdoers in the hereafter and even when their skin is
burnt a new one will be replaced so the punishment of the hereafter is always
experienced as a fresh one! Chapter 4 Verse 56 reads:
those who disbelieved in Our Signs and Miracles, We shall cast them into the
Fire. As often as their skins are roasted wholly, we shall change them for
other skins that they may taste the punishment. Verily, Allah is the
compared to the chastisement of the doomsday, worldly pains can be regarded as
nothing. It has been recorded in history that during the caliphate of Imam Ali
A , when his blind brother Aqil asked him to grant him an additional portion
of public treasury due to his severe poverty, the Holy Imam A brought a hot
piece of metal near ‘Aqil. Feeling the hotness of it, Aqil protested:
“Are you going to burn me?” “No!” Imam replied. “You
cried because of a metal made hot by a human being for fun. Then, how do you
expect me not to cry for the fire prepared by Allah SWT due to His
reminding us of the hereafter, the thirst and hunger during the month of Ramadan
reminds those who fast of poor people experiencing the same feelings during
whole days of their life and encourages those who fast to spend some portion of
their properties in the way of Allah SWT and for the sake of needy people.
Holy Prophet of Islam S is quoted as saying:
Verily Allah SWT has
appointed some angels only in order to pray for the people who fast. Gabriel
has informed me that Allah SWT has said: “I have not commanded my angels
to pray for one of my creatures, unless I have accepted their prayers for
sixth Holy Imam, Imam Sadiq A has stated:
a person fasts on a hot day for the sake of Allah and becomes thirsty, Allah
SWT sends 1000 angels to touch his/her face and give him/her glad tidings up to
the time of breaking the fast when Allah SWT tells him/her: “How nice
you smell! What a pleasant soul you possess! Oh my angels! Bear witness that I
have forgiven him/her.”11
Based on narrations like this,
everything that seems bad in this world is not necessarily the same in the
hereafter and vice versa. Therefore, although the person who fasts his mouth
may smell bad in this world, he has a pleasant odour for Allah SWT and the
residents of heaven. On the other hand, a woman smelling nicely for non-mahram
men will not be the same in the world to come. Thus, realities are not
necessarily what appear to us in this world.
to a very famous tradition narrated by both Sunni and Shi ite scholars, the
Holy Prophet said:
SWT said: “fasting is for me and I am the one who rewards for it”.12
The content of this narration has
been widely discussed among the scholars. While all worships are for Allah
SWT and rewarded by Him, the Almighty, why has fasting been appropriated a
special position in this narration?
Three answers might be
reason is that fasting is the abandoning of some acts; thus, it is the only
worship that is not seen or known by anyone.
reason, as suggested by some scholars, is the fact that during the history, all
kinds of worship praying, pilgrimage, giving alms, sacrifice, and so on have
been offered to idols and false gods and the only exception among the acts of
worship is fasting since no one has ever fasted for anyone or anything other
than Allah SWT .
reason is the special relationship between fasting and Allah swt just as we
call some days as the days of Allah SWT and some places as the house of Allah
SWT , even though every time and place belong to Him. This meaning implies
the special mercy of Allah SWT for those who fast. The same implication is
true with the next phrase which says: “and I am the one who rewards for
it.” When some workers are employed by a person he may give their wage to
his agent to distribute among them. However, if the job is a special one he may
personally hand the wages out to them. Similarly, Allah
SWT without any
mediation rewards those who fast.
It is noteworthy to mention that
the Arabic term “aX- ” in
the above-mentioned narration can be read in both active and passive forms.
According to the latter, the narration gives another meaning:
“Fasting is for me
and I am its reward!”
Thus, the one who fasts has Allah
SWT with him/her as the reward of his/her act of worship just as the guest of
a banquet who expects the host to welcome and meet him/her.
by Saduq, p. 93. 2
Ibid. p. 95.
Ibid. p. 93.
10 Wasā il
al-Shi‘ah, vol. 10, p. 396.
Ibid. P. 409