The different forms of fasting are not only used in medicine as an example of diet and treatment, but they are also an important part of the three main monotheistic religions. As in medicine, also in the religious environment, fasting is not the end goal, but rather a means to a higher purpose.
Since time immemorial, the discipline of fasting has existed in all religions in order to strengthen spirituality and achieve internal peace. Just as Prophet Moses (PBUH) observed fasting for 40 days (Exodus 34:28) according to the Bible, Jesus (PBUH) also observed fasting for 40 days (Matthew 4: 2). Therefore, fasting was also a noble practice of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the founder of Islam. However, Islam has stepped forward and made it mandatory for all Muslims, as stated in the Holy Quran:
"Oh believers! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those who preceded you, so that you may be righteous. " (2: 184)
That is why fasting during the month of Ramadan is a fundamental pillar of the Islamic faith.
WHO SHOULD FAST?
Fasting is mandatory for all healthy and mature Muslim men and women. There is no specific age from which a Muslim should start fasting, but the main condition for observing a fast is to be healthy and to have reached the age of maturity so that fasting does not cause harm to the body or health. Therefore, the recommended age depends on the physical condition and maturity of each individual, but in general physical maturity is obtained between the ages of 15-18 years.
Travelers, people with temporary or chronic illnesses, pregnant women, nursing mothers, women during their menstruation and children are excluded and should not observe the fast.
WHEN DO MUSLIMS FAST?
Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan, which is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar system, which is 10 days shorter than the solar calendar. Therefore, the month of Ramadan changes each year by around ten days according to the solar calendar. Ramadan is the most important month for Muslims because during this month it was the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam.
HOW DO MUSLIMS FAST?
Fasting times depend on sunrise and sunset. Therefore, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, and having sex from sunrise to sunset. Furthermore, at this time Muslims are encouraged to refrain not only from sins but also from idle talk and deeds. Furthermore, this time should be used for self-reform and introspection, as the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) declared that whoever spends this month in full faith and seeking the pleasure of God, his previous sins will be forgiven.
Completing the entire recitation of the Holy Quran at least once and offering the voluntary “Taraweh” prayers in congregation after the evening prayers are Islamic customs especially associated with this month of Ramadan.
WHY DO MUSLIMS FAST?
The purpose of fasting is not simply to be hungry and thirsty, but during this month Muslims shift their attention from physical nutrition to spiritual nutrition. Fasting is a means to gain and increase righteousness, as the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) described fasting as a shield to protect against sins, actions, and vain talk. Ramadan literally means "heat" and it means that during this period Muslims feel a burning desire and a special enthusiasm in their souls to find and experience God. The spirit of Ramadan, with the performance of intense prayers, the frequent recitation of the Holy Quran and the vehement effort against his own ego, provides a Muslim with the opportunity to experience a spiritual rebirth.
Imam Marwan Gill.
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.