The book “Fasting in Ramadan: A Simple Guide To Ritual, Social & Spiritual Dimensions” is a collection of articles written and speeches given by ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi on the various dimensions and significance of the Holy month of Ramadan.
Fasting during the month of Ramadhan is one of the pillars of Islamic teachings.
Almighty Allah says:
“O you who believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it had been prescribed for those (communities) who came before you. So that you may guard yourself (against displeasing Allah).” (2:183)
According to this verse, the tradition of fasting is not unique to Islam; even the Christians and the Jews are familiar with this tradition. For example, the Jewish people observe fasting in connection with the Day of Atonement; and there is the Christian tradition of Lent which refers to the period of forty days, excluding Sundays, from Ash Wednesday to Easter, which was until recent past observed annually as a season of fasting.
Fasting for Muslims means that all physically fit and mature Muslims have to totally and completely abstain from food, drink, smoking and sexual activity. This abstinence has to be exercised every day from dawn to dusk.
The Qur’an says:
“It is made lawful for you to have sexual relations with your wives during the night of the fast.” (2:187)
The same verse further says:
“Eat and drink until the ‘white thread’ (i.e., dawn twilight) becomes visible from the ‘black thread’ (i.e., darkness below the horizon); and then complete the fast till night time…”
So during the month of Ramadan, the daily schedule of a Muslim family changes. They get up while it is still night time to have their pre-dawn meal; and then go without food, drink or smoking for the entire day until the night. That is when they break their fast. The Qur’an is very clear that the fasting starts from dawn and ends after the night has set in – “then complete the fast till night” – and that is why the Shi‘a Muslims, in following the Imams of the Ahlul Bayt, emphasize that one has to wait for some time after the sunset to break the fast because in their view sunset (al-ghurub) and night (al-layl) are not the same.
The length of the days of Ramadan depends on the season in which that month occurs. The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar system; it is ten days shorter than the common calendar. An Islamic month begins with sighting of the new moon, and ends upon the sighting of the next new moon. When Ramadan occurs in winter, the days are shorter; and it is easier to fast. But when Ramadan occurs in summer, the days are longer, and it is not that easy to fast. This is one example of the justice and fairness by Allah so that all people may fast through various seasons; and that is why the lunar system of calendar is preferable for the religious rituals.
Title: Fasting in Ramadan: A Simple Guide To Ritual, Social & Spiritual Dimensions
Author: Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi
Publisher: Al-Ma’arif Publication
Pub. Date: June 2017