Islam as a code of life always takes into consideration the well-being of mankind and its environment at all times. Thus, all its laws and legislation are for the benefits and advantages of the humanity.
Allah (swt) in the glorious Qur’an says:
"…and has not laid upon you any hardship in religion, the faith of your father Ibrahim; He named you Muslims” (Qur’an 22, Verse 78)
Fasting is one of the practical laws (Furu-ud-deen) in Islamic laws and it is made compulsory on every matured, sane believer once in the year in the holy month of Ramadan. Thus, the legislation of fasting in the Islamic law is made for the utmost benefits of man. This indeed comes out of the divine mercy and benevolence of Allah on His creatures. Allah (swt) says:
"…Allah desires ease for you and (He) does not desire for you difficulty…”
However, some short-sighted individuals perceive and consider fasting as a punishment rather than a Divine favour and a rare blessing of Allah. However, those who have a deep insight and correct perception of fasting actually affirmed its all-round benefits; spiritually and otherwise for its observers. In actual fact, fasting in the month of Ramadan is a special invitation from Allah to a ‘Divine feast’; which its philosophy and benefits cannot be totally explained by man. However, the blessings and favours in this great month are abundantly available and readily bestowed upon the fast-observers in accordance with their merits, worth and absorbing capacities. For the great importance attributed to fast, in Hadith-al-Qudsi, the Prophet (s.a.w.a) reported Allah (swt) to have said:
"Fasting is (exclusively) for Me, and I will also give reward for it”
Significance of the Ramadan Fast
The month of Ramadan, (i.e. the ninth month in Islamic calendar) is the month of compulsory fast, the best and the only month whose name is categorically mentioned in the glorious Qur’an. Every single second, minute, hour, night and day in this month is incomparable to any other in the remaining months. It indeed surpasses all months in merits and favours. In this holy month, Allah considers the fast-observers as His special guests. Their breathings and sleep there-in merit the rewards of worship (i.e. Ibadat) while their prayers and supplications are favorably granted and sanctified. During this holy month, the doors of Heavens, Paradises and the everlasting bliss are thrown open while those of the Hell-fires are closed for the believers and the devils are held in chains.
Above all, the revelation of the glorious Qur’an was on a very special night (i.e. the night of majesty) of this month. A night which its merits, superiority and superabundant bounties and favours are second to none. The worships of worshippers in this night are superior and better than the worships done in one thousand months (More than 83 years).
Allah (swt) in the glorious Qur’an says:
"The night of majesty is better than a thousand months…”( 97: 3)
Thus, he is indeed, the fortunate one, he who has attained proximity to Allah, earned His forgiveness and favours in this holy month while the most unfortunate ones is he who is deprived of Allah’s pardon and forgiveness.
Meanwhile, those who truly want to reap the immense blessings and benefits of this month would have made adequate preparations in the previous months, so that the holy month of Ramadan will not be a preparatory ground to ‘sow seeds’ but rather a ‘harvest period’ for the superabundant bounties of Allah.
Benefits of Ramadan fast
As a matter of fact, no one except the All-Knowing God can expound the philosophy and benefits of Ramadan fast in its totality. There is no doubt that the greatest and the utmost benefit of Ramadan fast according to the Qur’an is its spiritual benefit. However, apart from this, there are other associated benefits, which shall be discussed as follow:
1. Spiritual benefits
The ultimate benefit of fast is its spiritual one. According to the Qur’an, the greatest spiritual benefit of Ramadan fast is Taqwa (i.e. Consciousness of Allah) and attainment of Allah’s countenance. Thus, with the attainment of this spiritual quality, both the material as well as the spiritual needs of man in this world and in the hereafter are been catered for and guaranteed by the All-Compassionate God. Without any doubt, whoever is deprived of this noble and ultimate goal of fasting is indeed a great loser and the most unfortunate one.
Thus, our main aim of fasting should be that which our Creator; Allah (swt) wishes, that is, to reach to the peak of perfection and attain proximity to Him (The Exalted). Hence, fasting should keep us far apart from bodily sensual desires and lead us to angelic and spiritual virtues. Of course, fasting saves its observer from the Hell-Fire and makes him to attain Paradise. However, that should not be our main objective or motive for fasting; rather, the attainment of the pleasure of Allah must be our objective in every act of worship we observed.
2. Physiological benefits
Obviously, one of the habits fasting infuses in its observers is the habit of moderate and less eating. This goes a long way in protecting the body from the infliction of so many diseases and consequently, the body remains hail and healthy. This is because, the less food one consumes, the higher the rate of digestion to the blood stream and vice versa. Moreover, it is an established fact that fast is the best remedy for some physiological defects such as chronic disorder of the intestines, obesity, spontaneous blood pressure, diabetes, chronic nephritis and etcetera .
The Prophet (s.a.w.a) was reported to have said: "Fast, so that you will be healthy”
3. Psychological benefits
Fasting, particularly in the holy month of Ramadan is a whole month training programme for its observers to sincerely abstain from their most desired daily activities such as eating, drinking, lawful sexual pleasure and etcetera for a specific period of time without the supervision and watchful eyes of any human-being. Consequently, if man can overcome and has control over his mind to this extent during the month of Ramadan, then he would be able to have certain levels of control over his wishes and carnal desires and hence, transforming him into a well-disciplined individual for the rest of his life.
Besides, the habit of moderate and less-eating purifies the heart and insight and it enhances the sense of quick grasping while over-eating on the other hands, slows down the sense of perception , reduces the power of quick grasping of things and hence, results to blindness of the heart, mental defect and idiocy.
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said:
"Whoever keeps his stomach hungry, his thinking culminates to the highest level, thus, making his reflections stronger”.
4. Moral & Ethical benefits
Fasting is not only about the renunciation of foods and drinks alone, but, it is an abstinence from every vices and ill manners such as backbiting, lying, hypocrisy, conceit, oppression and usurpation throughout the month as well. A genuine fast is the one that is observed while our eyes, ears, tongue, limbs, and every organ of the body are also abstained from vices.
Besides, it was categorically stated by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) that whoever backbites a believer while in the state of fasting or breaks his fast with a usurped item (food) will not only be deprived of the rewards for the fast but will be punished for the sins.
Thus, if any fast-observer during the period of Ramadan fast could renounces vices and immoral acts, then, he would be able to refrain from the same even after the end of the fast. This of course, goes a long way in reforming the fast-observer to a well-moral individual, even for the rest of his lifetime.
5. Social benefits
Without any doubt, the well-being of an individual is indeed the well-being of the society. That is to say, if an individual is well mannered and disciplined, definitely, the society feels its positive impacts and vice versa. Thus, for the moral reformation the Ramadan fast infuses in the lives of its observers, there wouldn’t be any avenue for crimes and vices in the society, and hence, making the human society free of vices and violation of other peoples’ rights.
Besides, fasting, particularly in the month of Ramadan is an avenue for self- reformation and transformation. During this period, most people who are nonchalant to religious activities become committed and dedicated worshippers throughout this blessed month and perhaps for the rest of their lifetimes.
Furthermore, during the month of Ramadan, the rich and the well-to-do individuals experience the conditions and situations of the poor and less-privileged ones of the community and they thereby render necessary supports and assistance to them. This goes a long way in unifying the Muslim community.
6. Economic benefits
It is obvious that fasting reduces in its observers the extravagant consumption of foods and drinks and hence, reduces the excessive spending on foods items. Consequently, it retains some extra amounts of money, which might have been extravagantly spent. Moreover, the month of Ramadan is a month of genorosity when Zakat (Alms-giving), Khums and other charitable acts are been given-out to the assigned authorities and the less-privileged individuals in the society. This consequently, creates adequate amounts of wealth in circulation for the economic well-being of the community at large.