Each year in Ramadan, millions of Muslims around the world observe one of their religion’s most sacred practices, fasting (Swam). During this month, Muslims refrain from eating any food, drinking any liquid, smoking and engaging in any sexual activity from dawn to sunset. They also try to abstain from vices in favor of spirituality and seeking closeness to Allah. Here are some spiritual and social facts about fasting, you might find new:
Wouldn’t it be easier for you to refrain from unlawful acts when you deliberately avoid doing things which are lawful for you on normal days? Despite its physical benefits, fasting is much beyond mere abstention from foods, drinks and other physical wants. In fact, we have fully observed the practice of fasting only if we also keep your tongue, ears, eyes, hands, feet and all our other organs away from sin. So, fasting would be the most helpful if our soul also refrains from worldly desires [i].
“There are many people who get nothing out of their fasts but hunger and thirst, and many more who get nothing out of their night prayers but exertions and sleepless nights.” 
Patience is one of the most important virtues in Islam. Muslims have always been advised to learn and develop this characteristic in different aspects of their life. There are many verses in the Quran and narrations about the significance of patience. the Holy Quran says: “O you who have faith! Take recourse in patience and prayer; indeed, Allah is with the patient” (2:153). It is also narrated from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) that: “Faith is composed of two halves: One half is patience and the other is gratitude” 
As through fasting, we endure the pains of thirst and food deprivation patiently. We can also practice self-control and tolerance in other situations.
Many studies have shown that fasting can have many health benefits. These include lower blood pressure, reduced cholesterol, reduction in blood sugar levels, detoxification of the body, and brain and Alzheimer’s disease prevention, etc. . That is why fasting has now become one of the most popular diet trends around the world. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) says: “fast to be healthy” 
When fasting, we focus more on our inner self. We try to free ourselves from worldly desires, which makes us achieve contentment, happiness and inner peace.
One aspect of God’s favor upon the fasting person is that his/her request will be always fulfilled by Him. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has said: “The invocation of the fasting person will never be rejected” . It is also narrated from Imam Ali (AS): “The sleep of the fasting person is worship, and his/her silence is deemed as glorifying, his/her prayer is answered and his/her good deeds are multiplied” .
By forbidding ourselves from eating, we begin to feel, although to a small extent, the pain of poverty a countless number of our fellow human beings suffer from. And this taste of hunger will make us feel we are all equals in one way or another. That is, when we will most probably have mercy on the poor and give in charity to support them.
What’s more, fasting, in a different sense, is a reminder of the deprivation we will undergo on the Day of Judgement.
Fasting is a manifestation of the Islamic unity. Muslims around the world start and end fasting nearly the same day. They also make visitations and gather together to break their fast, at Iftar. Inviting friends and relatives for Iftar is so recommended in Islam introducing it as one the most rewarding acts in Ramadan. “The reward of giving Iftar to a fasting person is the same as the reward of fasting.”  This enhances friendship and family ties among members of the Muslim community. It also brings them kindness, brotherhood, sympathy, compassion, and love, as well.
In a rather spiritual sense, fasting will grant us protection from the wrath of Allah and lead to salvation from hellfire in the hereafter. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) has said: “Fasting is a shield that protects against hellfire” .
There is still more to fasting than the eight above-mentioned points. fasting is actually one the most important practices the religion of Islam has been built upon. In short, it is a sign of faith, to see which one of us is sincerely obedient to Allah. It is a way to renew our faith in Allah. To be more observant of our deeds, to get in touch with our inner self and our Creator once again. What other lessons do you think we can learn from Ramadan?
[i] Imam Ali (AS): “The most advantageous form of fasting is the abstinence of soul from worldly desires” .
- Tasnif al-Ghurar al-Hikam. Wa Durar al-Kilam, p. 176, Hadith 3346
- Nahjul Balagha (Peak of Eloquence), Sobhi Saleh, p. 495, Saying. 145
- Nahj al-Fasaha, Hadith 1070
- Health Benefit
- Nahj al-Fasaha, p. 547, Hadith 1854
- Nahj al-Fasaha, p. 547, Hadith 1856
- Da’wat, p. 27, Hadith 45
- Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni, Kitab al-Kafi, vol.4, p.68, hadith no.1.
- ibid, p. 62.
Does the Quran have any direct verses about books? Can the Quran guide us on what kinds of books to read? How can a book that was revealed about 1400 years ago tell us about which book genres are useful and which are not?
In this text, we will study the status of reading books in the Quran and in Islamic teachings.
The first thing about books is the fact that the Quran, the miracle of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) is a book. Therefore, there is no doubt that there are no problems with reading books in Islam. But, the question that if there is any limitations in reading different types of books is considerable.
The word book has been used a lot in the Quran and has been used for three different meanings. Yet, all of them are used for a thing that records concepts and meanings and transfers them to the audience. In all different meanings of the book, it has been mentioned as a medium. The three different types of books mentioned in the Quran are as follows:
1- The books that contain religious rules and laws. 
2- The books that record the deeds and actions of people. 
3- The book in which all the events and details of this universe have been written and is kept by Allah. 
Writing books is also an important point in the eyes of the Quran, as books are crucial means of conveying messages and transferring history to the next generations. They are also great means of spreading knowledge, wisdom, science, etc. the status of books and writing are so high in the eyes of Allah (SWT) that there is a chapter in the Quran called “Pen” (Qalam) in which Allah (SWT) swears by pens and what is written by it. 
However, it is also very important that the written content should be useful, based on truth, and produced for the growth and improvement of human beings:
“So woe to them who write the Book with their hands and then say, ‘This is from Allah,’ that they may sell it for a paltry gain. So woe to them for what their hands have written, and woe to them for what they earn!” (2: 79)
This can be a very important lesson and point to all of those who use their writing talent and produce written material for their audience. The above verse shows how enormous the effect of written products are on the readers.
Reading is also a very important point that is mentioned in the Quran. The most unique verse of the Quran that shows the importance of reading is, according to some Islamic scholars, the first verse of the Quran that was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP):
“Read in the Name of your Lord who created; Created man from a clinging mass. Read, and your Lord is the most generous, who taught by the pen, taught man what he did not know.” (96: 1-5)
The above few verses show how learning knowledge and wisdom is connected to writing and reading. It is by writing that human beings transfer their thoughts and learnings to others, and it is by reading those writings that people learn from others. It is by reading that people think, contemplate, and come up with new ideas which lead to more learning, wisdom, discovery and inventions. Therefore, Allah compares those who seek knowledge and those who do not and asks us:
“… Say, ‘Are those who know equal to those who do not know?’ Only those who possess intellect take admonition.” (39:9)
Despite the importance of gaining knowledge through reading in Islam [i], still we might ask if all the books available in the market are useful, worth reading and lawful (Halal) to read in Islam.
The point is that the Quran does not mention all different book genres and does not discuss each genre in detail. But, it provides specific frameworks that work as a type of criterion. Knowing the criterion helps us to distinguish which books are useful for us and which ones can harm our soul and spirituality.
For example, the Quran is not against stories or novels since the Quran itself is full of amazing stories, some of which are examples or stories . Allah (SWT) claims that He is the best storyteller when He says:
“We will recount to you the best of narratives in what We have revealed to you of this Quran, and indeed prior to it you were among those who are unaware [of it].” (12: 3)
Reading such books will result in many positive effects on our mind and soul. As Imam Ali (AS) says, “The greatest peace is obtained by reading books”. Also, at the times of difficulties and hardships, sometimes one finds no remedy other than taking refuge in books, perhaps to find a way out; As Imam Sadiq (AS) puts, “There will be chaotic days when people would not find peace unless within their books” .
However, this does not mean that reading all types of storybooks, novels or myths are useful. Allah mentions in the Quran that real believers are those who “avoid vain talk” (23: 3). Therefore, books in which we can find parts that would waste our time or those that contain stories, chapters, or lines that may harm human soul and spirituality are not recommended to read. Apart from the books that may harm our soul, reading and learning can be considered as a sign of a Muslim.
[i] “Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon Muslims.” Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) .
- The Quran (38:29)
- The Quran (45:29)
- The Quran (10:61)
- The Quran (68:1)
- The Quran (39:27)
- Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.8126.
- Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, vol.1, p.52.
- ibid, p.83.
According to what has been said in the first part of this article, the income one earns is either Halal (gained through lawful ways), which can be freely spent, or Haram (gained through foul means), or sometimes of doubtful origins (mixed up of both Haram and Halal), which must be seriously avoided. Now you might wonder what some of the precise examples of unlawful earning are in today’s world.
Translated as usury, Riba refers to unfair, exploitative interests made in business. The unjust interest gained from the repayment of a loan or the simultaneous exchange of unequal commodities are the two common examples of usury. “There is the principle of the relationship between one's efforts and the amassing of wealth and the importance of participating in the risk of losing one's wealth as well as increasing it in any economic transaction. That is why Riba or interest is forbidden in Islamic Law”  [i].
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) has said: “The worst unlawful earning is the income a governor gains through bribery” . When some people bribe to gain what they want easily, the others who avoid giving bribes for any reason will face many difficulties to obtain what they are entitled to. Also, the bribe receivers will not fulfill what they are required to do by law unless they are bribed.
So, if bribery spreads among people, especially government officials, in a society, it will definitely lead to an increase of corruption within the community [ii].
One of the great sins in Islam is cheating in selling things, which could be of two kinds; selling something at a higher price than its real value, especially when there is a shortage of that product in the market, and also selling short measures to consumers [iii]. The loss of public trust and financial corruption are among the most devastating results of this sin.
There are also other examples for selling short measures, one of the most common of which happens in offices when employees are not conscientious enough to fulfill their job commitments and responsibilities. So, the income they earn is Haram.
Any income one gains through the role she/he has in producing, distributing, or consuming alcoholic beverages and also drug is considered Haram:
“They ask you about wine and gambling. Say, "In them is a great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit…"” (2:219)
Muslims believe there is no harming nor reciprocating harm in Islam. So, they seriously avoid anything that inflicts harm upon them or their fellow brothers.
Based on the verse above, the money one earns through gambling is Haram, too[iv].
That is because Islam highly recommends earning the livelihood through productive jobs and encourages hard work and striving to earn money rather than becoming wealthy or losing all one’s money overnight.
The income one may earn by singing or playing a song which is typical of or suitable for frivolous gatherings, and carouses are also unlawful (Haram) [v].
“Indeed those who want indecency to spread among the faithful—there is a painful punishment for them in the world and the Hereafter, and Allah knows, and you do not know” (24:19)
There are numerous instances of indecency in the world we are living today, from the provocative pictures of countless celebrities anyone can find in media, on the internet, etc. to the films that encourage immorality, and to sexual exploitation of women and so forth and so on. In fact, Islam has been sent to spread and complement the best of morality .
Therefore, the income earned through any attempt to spread any immorality or indecency in the society is certainly Haram.
Magic and fortune telling are believed to be destructive in the Islamic teachings, since according to the Quran: “Your omen is with Allah” (27:47), so, we should not put our trust in anyone except Him. Islam considers magic an act of devil and a great sin which has to be avoided [vi].
What has been mentioned above are among the most common examples of unlawful income. There are other instances as well which you can ask a proficient Islamic jurist or scholar about. On top of that, human’s common sense and reason can indicate what is exactly unlawful (Haram) and should be avoided.
This article is to give you some hints so that you become more cautious about your income in order to lead a decent and virtuous life.
[i] “Those who exact usury will not stand but like one deranged by the Devil’s touch. That is because they say, ‘Trade is just like usury.’ While Allah has allowed trade and forbidden usury” (2:275).
[ii] “Do not eat up your wealth among yourselves wrongfully, nor proffer it to the judges in order to eat up a part of the people’s wealth sinfully, while you know [that it is immoral to do so]” (2:188).
[iii] “‘O my people! Observe fully the measure and the balance, with justice, and do not cheat the people of their goods, and do not act wickedly on the earth, causing corruption’” (11:85).
[iv] “O you who have faith! Indeed wine, gambling, idols, and the divining arrows are abominations of Satan’s doing, so avoid them, so that you may be felicitous” (5:90).
[v] “Among the people is he who buys diversionary talk that he may lead [people] astray from Allah’s way without any knowledge, and he takes it in derision. For such there is a humiliating punishment” (31:6).
[vi] “…and Solomon was not faithless but it was the devils who were faithless—teaching the people magic and what was sent down to the two angels at Babylon, ... They would learn that which would harm them and bring them no benefit; though they certainly knew that anyone who buys it has no share in the Hereafter. Surely, evil is that for which they sold their souls, had they known!” (2:102).
- S.Hussain Nasr, A Young Muslim’s Guide to Islam, p.58
- al-Jame al-Saqir, vol. 2, p. 45
- Allama al-Hilli, Nahj al-haqq wa kashf al-sidq, p. 495
- Kanz-ol-a’maal, 13th vol. p.151, Hadith #36472