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    Why Do Muslims Fast during Ramadan?

                                         BY  Abdullateef Bello

        "...whoever witnesses the Month of Ramadan should fast through it..."


    As Muslims prepare for the age-old annual compulsory one-month fast, this article looks closely at
    some of the reasons why muslims do Ramadan fast. It also traces the history of fasting in Islam.

    History of Ramadan Fast

    What turns out now to be a compulsory annual event (i.e fasting during the month of Ramadan by all
    able-bodied Muslims) started in the early years of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) in Medina, precisely
    in the second year of Hijra. Prior to his flight to Medina (known as Hijra), the Prophet(s.a.w) was in
    the habit of fasting three times per month (this gives 36 days in a year) when he was in Mecca and to
    a great extent when he settled in Medina. Not long, the Prophet(s.a.w) soon discovered that the
    Jews in Medina used to set aside one special day for fasting. By Islamic lunar calendar, the day used
    to be 10th of Muharram, often called yawmu :ashura. The Prophet(s.a.w) then asked the Jews about
    the significance of the day. He was told that it is the day Allah helped Prophet Musa(a.s) to
    humiliate, defeat and drown the tyrant, Fir'aon. By all standard, since Musa(a.s) was a prophet of
    Allah and of course a muslim, the Prophet(s.a.w) felt that Musa(a.s) was nearer to him as a Prophet
    (as well as to the muslims) than to the Jews. To this end, he ordered his companions to fast along
    with him that day.

    Narrated Ibn 'Abbas(r.a): When Allah's Apostle(s.a.w) arrived at Medina, he found the Jews fasting
    on the day of 'Ashura. The Prophet(s.a.w) asked (about it) and they replied: "This is the day when
    Moses(a.s) became victorious over Fir'aon". The Prophet(s.a.w) said (to the muslims), "We are
    nearer to Moses than they, so fast on this day" (Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol.6, p.233)

    The Prophet(s.a.w) also sent a companion to go round Medina to announce to all the muslims that
    whoever has eaten should fast for the remaining hours of the day and whoever has not eaten should
    fast for the day (see Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 3, hadeeth 181, p. 103). It is evident that 'Ashura fast
    was the first communal fast made obligatory for the muslims by the Prophet(s.a.w) whereas his own
    habit of 3-day-fast-per-month remained optional.

    The All-knowing Allah formally revealed two verses regarding fasting in the second year of Hijra: the
    verses spelt out the reasons for fasting; when to do so; who should be exempted? etc. Let's see the

    "O ye who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for people before you so that
    you will (learn how to attain) piety" (Q2:183)

    "(fasting is) for a fixed number of days: but if any one of you is sick, or on a journey, the prescribed
    number (should be made up) from (other) days later. For those who can do it (with hardship) is a
    ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But whoever can give more (than this) of his own free
    will--(then) it is better for him, and it is better for you that ye fast, if ye but knew." Q(2:184) When
    these two verses were revealed, 'Aisha(r.a) reported that the Prophet(s.a.w) then said to the
    muslims: "Ramadan fast is a divine obligation but whoever likes to fast 'Ashura day (as well) may do
    so voluntarily or leave it". Undoubtedly, Ramadan fast is a blessing to the muslims in the sense that
    from one-day 'Ashura fast, Allah gave them a whole month of Ramadan instead. Ramadan may be
    29 or 30 days depending on when the moon was sighted.

    A cursory look at the qur'anic verses above reveals that the All-wise intend ease for the muslims and
    not difficulty: for instance, ransom was allowed for those who choose not to fast due to hardship or
    difficulty. This freedom or leniency was shortlived when the All-wise and the All-knowing Allah
    tightened His injunction with another revelation that nullified giving ransom, by able-bodied muslims,
    in exchange for missed Ramadan fast thus:

    "Ramadan is the (month) in which Qur'an was sent down, as a guide to mankind, and a clear
    guidance and judgement (so that mankind will distinguish right from wrong). Whoever among you
    witnesses the month of Ramadan should fast through it. But whoever is sick or on a journey, the
    prescribed period (missed should be made up) by days later. Allah wants ease for you and He does
    not want to put you into 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" Q(2:185).

    This verse shows that Allah wants every able-bodied muslim to "complete the prescribed period"
    (30 or 29 days depending on when the moon was sighted). It infact re-emphasises the importance of
    Ramadan fast which Allah made clear in the last part of Q(2:184) where He said: "...it is better for
    you that ye fast if ye but knew". Unambiguously, feeding of the poor person as a ransom for not
    fasting (by those who can fast) is not allowed by Q(2:185). This is the genesis of Ramadan fast in

    Remarkably, it is clear that 'Ashura fast was replaced by Ramadan fast, but the habit of fasting
    3-day-per-month which the Prophet(s.a.w) used to do was a blessing in someway because his 36
    days a year fasting can be interpreted thus: Allah approved 30 days as FARD (i.e obligatory) for the
    month of Ramadan, and the Prophet(s.a.w) recommended six days fasting in the month of Shawwal
    for all muslims (though this is voluntary). If these two fastings are adopted, one would have done 36
    days (which is the same as fasting round the year).



Short History of Hajj
1/14/2005 - Religious - Article Ref: IC0301-1834
Number of comments: 46
By: Invitation to Islam
IslamiCity* -



Hajj literally means 'to set out for a place'. Islamically however it refers to the annual pilgrimage that Muslims make to Makkah with the intention of performing certain religious rites in accordance with the method prescribed by the Prophet Muhammad .

Hajj and its rites were first ordained by Allah in the time of the Prophet lbrahim [Abraham] and he was the one who was entrusted by Allah to build the Kaba - the House of Allah - along with his son Ismail [Ishmael] at Makkah. Allah described the Kaba and its building as follows:

  • "And remember when We showed Ibrahim the site of the [Sacred] House [saying]: Associate not anything [in worship with Me and purify My House for those who circumambulate it [i.e. perform tawaaf] and those who stand up for prayer and those who bow down and make prostration [in prayer etc.]."
    [Surah Al-Hajj
  • After building the Kaba, Prophet Ibrahim would come to Makkah to perform Hajj every year, and after his death, this practice was continued by his son. However, gradually with the passage of time, both the form and the goal of the Hajj rites were changed. As idolatry spread throughout Arabia, the Kaba lost its purity and idols were placed inside it. Its walls became covered with poems and paintings, including one of Jesus and his mother Maryam and eventually over 360 idols came to be placed around the Kaba.

During the Hajj period itself, the atmosphere around the sacred precincts of the Kaba was like a circus. Men and women would go round the Kaba naked, arguing that they should present themselves before Allah in the same condition they were born. Their prayer became devoid of all sincere remembrance of Allah and was instead reduced to a series of hand clapping, whistling and the blowing of horns. Even the talbiah [1] was distorted by them with the following additions: 'No one is Your partner except one who is permitted by you. You are his Master and the Master of what he possesses'.

Sacrifices were also made in the name of God. However, the blood of the sacrificed animals was poured onto the walls of the Kaba and the flesh was hung from pillars around the Kaba, in the belief that Allah demanded the flesh and blood of these animals.

Singing, drinking, adultery and other acts of immorality was rife amongst the pilgrims and the poetry competitions, which were held, were a major part of the whole Hajj event. In these competitions, poets would praise the bravery and splendor of their own tribesmen and tell exaggerated tales of the cowardice and miserliness of other tribes. Competitions in generosity were also staged where the chief of each tribe would set up huge cauldrons and feed the pilgrims, only so that they could become well-known for their extreme generosity.

Thus the people had totally abandoned the teachings of their forefather and leader Prophet Ibrahim. The House that he had made pure for the worship of Allah alone, had been totally desecrated by the pagans and the rites which he had established were completely distorted by them. This sad state of affairs continued for nearly two and a half thousand years. But then after this long period, the time came for the supplication of Prophet Ibrahim to be answered:

  • "Our Lord! Send amongst them a Messenger of their own, who shall recite unto them your aayaat (verses) and instruct them in the book and the Wisdom and sanctify them. Verily you are the 'Azeezul-Hakeem [the All-Mighty, the All-Wise]."
    [Surah Al-Baqarah

Sure enough, a man by the name of Muhammad ibn 'Abdullaah was born in the very city that Prophet Ibrahim had made this supplication centuries earlier. For twenty-three years, Prophet Muhammad spread the message of Tawheed [true monotheism] - the same message that Prophet Ibrahim and all the other Prophets came with - and established the law of Allah upon the land. He expended every effort into making the word of Allah supreme and his victory over falsehood culminated in the smashing of the idols inside the Kaba which once again became the universal center for the worshippers of the one True God.

Not only did the Prophet rid the Kaba of all its impurities, but he also reinstated all the rites of Hajj which were established by Allah's Permission, in the time of Prophet Ibrahim. Specific injunctions in the Quran were revealed in order to eliminate all the false rites which had become rampant in the pre-Islamic period. All indecent and shameful acts were strictly banned in Allah's statement:

  • "There is to be no lewdness nor wrangles during Hajj."
    [Surah al-Baqarah
  • Competitions among poets in the exaltations of their forefathers and their tribesmen's achievements were all stopped. Instead, Allah told them:
  • "And when you have completed your rites [of Hajj] then remember Allah as you remember your forefathers; nay with a more vigorous remembrance."
    [Surah al-Baqarah
  • Competitions in generosity were also prohibited. Of course, the feeding of the poor pilgrims was still encouraged as this was done during the time of Prophet Ibrahim but Allah commanded that the slaughtering of the animals which was done for this purpose should be done seeking the pleasure of Allah rather than fame and the praise of the people. He said:
  • "So mention the name of Allah over these animals when they are drawn up in lines. Then, when they are drawn on their sides [after the slaughter], eat thereof and feed the beggar who does not ask, and the beggar who asks."
    [Surah al-Hajj
  • As for the deplorable practice of spattering blood of the sacrificed animals on the walls of the Kaba and hanging their flesh on alters, then Allah clearly informed them that:
  • "It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah, but it is Taqwaa (piety) from you that reaches Him."
    [Surah al-Hajj
  • The Prophet also put a stop to the practice of circling the Kaba in a state of nudity and the argument that the pagans put forward to justify this ritual was sharply rebutted in Allah's question:
  • "Say: Who has forbidden the adornment [i.e. clothes] given by Allah which He has produced for His Slaves?"
    [Surah al-A'raaf

Another custom which was prohibited through the Quran was that of setting off for Hajj without taking any provisions for the journey. In the pre-Islamic period, some people who claimed to be mutawakkiloon (those having complete trust in Allah) would travel to perform Hajj begging for food through the whole journey. They considered this form of behavior a sign of piety and an indication of how much faith they had in Allah. However Allah told mankind that to have sufficient provisions for the journey was one of the preconditions for making Hajj. He said:

  • "And take a provision [with you] for the journey, but the best provision is at-Taqwaa (piety)."
    [Surah al-Baqarah
  • In this way, all the pre-Islamic practices, which were based on ignorance, were abolished and Hajj was once more made a model of piety, fear of Allah, purity, simplicity and austerity. Now, when the pilgrims reach the Kaba, they no longer find the carnivals and the frolic and frivolity that had once occupied the minds of the pilgrims there before. Now, there is the remembrance of Allah at every step and every action and every sacrifice was devoted to Him alone. It was this kind of Hajj that was worthy of the reward of paradise, as the Prophet said: "The reward for an accepted Hajj is nothing less than paradise."

May Allah grant us all the ability to visit His House and perform the Hajj in the manner of the Prophet Muhammad . Aameen.




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