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.
The Holy Quran is said to be "the highest miracle of Islam". But why would a book turn out to be the proof of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) prophethood? What does it reveal about Islam's attitude toward the issue of learning or seeking knowledge? How does a true Muslim seek knowledge?
There are many verses in the Quran about acquiring knowledge. The very first verse of the Quran that was sent to our Prophet starts with an imperative form of the verb "read" (Ighra) . Literacy and having knowledge is so important in Islam that Quran equals illiteracy to being in darkness [i]. Accordingly, it is the duty of any Muslim to try to learn. Besides, many Islamic scholars advise Muslims to strive for achieving knowledge. One of them is a quotation (hadith) from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP): “Seek knowledge, even if it is in China”. Considering the distance between the Arabian Peninsula (where the Prophet lived) and China as well as the lack of transportation 14 centuries ago, one can imagine how arduous it was to travel there. In addition to many life-threatening dangers, it is no exaggeration to say that it took several months to arrive there. This shows the emphasis on the importance of learning.
When the prophetic mission of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) started, most people in his land were illiterate, so, he asked the literate ones to teach Muslims; even prisoners of war were granted freedom provided that they taught literacy to at least ten Muslims. It has been said that once, the Prophet (PBUH&HP) entered a mosque and saw two groups of people; one group was praying and the other was sharing knowledge. He stated that both of them were doing a good job, and then continued his speech by saying that he was sent to people by God “to teach” them. So he went and sat in the second group . When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was alive, there were places like schools where both women and men had the freedom to take part in classes. And, different fields of knowledge were learned including religion, literature, poetry, rhetoric, medicine, astronomy, etc .
A human being is curious by nature. We have been created with an inquiring mind. It has been said that all human beings are bestowed a gift, that is the brain as well as the desire for learning. The desire to learn is in our nature . In Islamic instructions, there is a huge emphasis on the value of seeking knowledge. It has been quoted from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP): “Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave”. It is a must for every Muslim regardless of their age, race, or gender . All people must have the ability and liberty to learn, teach, exchange, and share information. It does not matter from whom you are learning. As long as they have the knowledge, it would be perfect. There is an Islamic hadith from the fifth Imam of Muslims, Imam Muhammed Al-Bagher (AS), quoted from Jesus Christ (AS) saying that: “Learn knowledge from someone who has it and does not look at their deeds.” There is no kind of prejudice whatsoever in choosing the teacher. The only important thing is the learning itself. Besides, ignorance has been known as the root of many miseries; and knowledge is like a vast amount of treasure that never runs out.
- Ahamiyate Danesh-Andoozi az Nazare Eslam Akhlagh va Irfan
- Morteza Motahari, "Talim va Tarbiyat Dar Eslam [Education in Islam]", Sadra, p. 22, 2008.
- Soheyla Jalali, Derakhsheshe Zanane Mosalman Dar Arseye Elm va Farhang Dar Sadre Eslam Pajooheshgahe Oloom va Farhange Islami
- Morteza Motahari, "Moghadame'I bar Jahanbiniye Eslami. [An Introduction to Islamic Ideology]", Sadra, p. 274, 2004.
- Faeze Azimzade Ardebili, Hghe Amoozeshe Zanan Dar Eslam va Gharb [The Right of Learning for Women from Islamic and Western Viewpoint
Every day we meet several people at work, in the shops, at the university, in the neighborhood, or at parties and gatherings with whom we communicate and interact. Talking, telling jokes, shaking hands, touching or kissing usually happen in these interactions; but, is a Muslim allowed to do all these with whoever he/she wants? Or is he/she permitted to be exposed to such acts? These and many similar questions are answered in Islam.
To clarify and form the relations among people, Islam has presented the concept of Maharim and the two categories “Mahram” and “non-Mahram” which sometimes serve as conditions, requirements, or the basis of several Islamic laws. Regarding the Islamic rules on marriage, these categories define who a person can and cannot marry. Likewise, when dealing with the Islamic dress code, i.e., explaining whom one must cover specific parts of a body in front of, the concept of Maharim is required.
One’s Mahram is anyone whom it is permanently forbidden to marry because of blood ties, marriage ties or breastfeeding. However, a woman does not need to cover her hair and put on Hijab when she is in their presence. A woman's male Mahrams fall into three categories plus her spouse . Mahrams for a man are derived similarly. The Maharim for both, extracted from the verses of the Holy Quran (4:22-23) and (24:31), are listed below , and all other people and relatives are considered as non-Maharams.
Permanent or blood Mahrams, with whom one is Mahram through blood ties:
parents, grandparents, and further ancestors;
children, grandchildren, and further descendants;
siblings of parents, grandparents, and further ancestors (cousins and their children are not Mahram);
children and further descendants of siblings;
In-law Mahrams, with whom one becomes Mahram through marriage ties:
stepfather (mother's husband) if their marriage is consummated, stepmother (father's wife) even if their marriage is not consummated;
stepson (husband's son) even if their marriage is not consummated, stepdaughter (wife's daughter) if their marriage is consummated[i];
Rada or "milk-suckling Mahrams," with whom one becomes Mahram because of being breastfed by her. When a woman breastfeeds an infant that is not her child for a certain amount of time under certain conditions, she becomes the child's rada mother and everything concerning blood Mahrams apply here, such as rada father/mother, rada sister/brother, rada aunt/uncle and so on. In English, these can be referred to as milk-brother, milk-mother, etc. [ii].
It is forbidden (Haram) to marry Mahrams, but one can marry non-Mahrams who have reached puberty. As explained above, Married couples are Mahram to each other. But unlike other Mahrams, the limitations and rulings on looking and touching do not apply to them; i.e., married couples are the only ones allowed to touch and look at the whole body of one another; even the private parts.
Regarding social interactions, there are some rules according to the concept of Maharim:
Women and men are both required to keep their gazes downcast and should not stare at the other person when facing non-Mahrams or talk to them. Even Mahrams are not allowed to see certain parts of the body of each other (this will be discussed more under a separate topic “the Islamic rules on looking“);
When talking to non-Mahrams, the tone of voice should be serious, and the dialogues should be direct and as much as necessary. One should also avoid telling jokes and laughing loudly [iii];
Any physical contact (i.e., shaking hands, hugging touching) with non-Mahrams is forbidden (haram), except for curing patients. In this case, if a doctor of the same gender as the patient exists and can cure, then it is forbidden to refer to a non-Mahram doctor.
When being sole in a closed room (where no one else can enter, i.e., locked place), it is forbidden for a non-Mahram man to remain alone in the company of a non-Mahram woman. The Prophet of Islam (PBUH&HP) said: “No man is alone with a woman except that Satan is the third one present ” ;
It is required (Wajib) to cover specific parts of a body in the presence of a non-Mahram according to the Islamic dress code. For men, this includes from navel to knee. For women, the clothing should cover their hair and body, but covering the face and the hands, from the wrist to the fingers, is not mandated .
[i] sister-in-law and brother-in-law are not Mahram.
[ii] Refer to your source of emulation (Marja’ Taqlid) for more details and the rulings.
[iii] See the article on modesty.
- Mahram and non Mahram
- S. H. al-Amili, “Wasail al-Shia”, vol. 20, p. 131.
- A. Aroussi Howayzi, “Tafsir Noor al-Thaqalayn”, vol. 3/589, T. 105.