Ramadan is the time when Muslims are required to fast. But we might wonder: Is our fasting accepted? Do we really observe the conditions that are essential for fasting? After all, what are these conditions? Can the fast (Sawm) of those who do not perform the prayer (Salat), talk behind other people’s back, drink Alcohol, etc. be accepted? Does it bring all the benefits of fasting on body and soul, in its real sense of the word?
Or even sometimes, some non-Muslims show interest in performing fasting (Sawm). They might want to know what it feels like to fast. To know why Muslims are so enthusiastic about this act, or as they say to put themselves in Muslims' shoes. Indeed they are welcomed to take part in this beautiful ritual. Yet, they should note that Islam has specified some conditions for fasting (Swam) to be accepted.
What Are the Conditions that Make Fasting Meaningful and Pleasurable?
Converting to Islam
Having faith in the pillars of Islam
Being in sound mind and Not being unconscious [i]
Having the intention (Niyyah) of fasting
Avoiding whatever renders fasting void
Also, the one who is traveling, a menstruating woman, and the person who would receive harm by fasting are not required to fast.
As stated earlier, fasting is not the mere act of not eating and drinking. Rather it is a multi-dimensional practice. Aside from being a bodily endeavor, fasting is the spiritual effort of Muslims to elevate their souls and reach Allah’s satisfaction. So, not eating and drinking will not necessarily bring about the many spiritual and psychological effects of fasting. It is a process that influences the manner and the soul of the person, with the passage of time.
It is a whole series of actions that are accepted only when one has embraced Islam previously, believes in the Oneness of Allah and performs other practical principles of Islam such as prayer (Salat) as well.
In other words, if there were no spiritual and divine side to this action, it would not be called fasting (Sawm) anymore. As Imam Ali (AS) puts: “It is possible that a person who fasts, does not receive any benefit from his/her fasting other than hunger and thirst” . Why would anyone want to bear hunger and thirst just for the sake of it? There must be something to motivate one going through such a challenging practice.
Intentions are the driving forces for actions, which determine their value and their expected effects. This is true for fasting as well, same as any other obligatory practice in Islam.
Fasting is first and foremost an act of worship and not a mere physical practice. Thus the first prerequisite for this act is to be done with the intention of serving Allah. There may be someone who is only interested in the health effects and physical benefits of fasting. Yet without a divine intention, his/her practice cannot be called fasting in Islam. This does not mean that you need to perform a special ritual before fasting; you should only be aware of your own will to fast and the reason why you fast.
Muslims believe that they fast for Allah [ii]. And what they have for breaking their fast is given by Allah, as a manifestation of His infinite mercy [iii]. With this in mind, Muslims feel inner joy and bliss after a long day of fasting with all its hardships. Since they find a meaning for their efforts. Then, they ask Allah to accept their act of worship [iv], regardless of its physical benefits or any other worldly attitude. At last, they whisper their needs and wishes to Allah, knowing that He is “all-hearing and all-knowing” .
We are born free, and Allah has endowed us with the power of choice. We choose to refrain from eating and drinking consciously. We choose to secure our tongue, eye, and ear from any vices. We choose to surrender to the will of Allah, and we choose to get closer to our divine Creator.
If our power of choice is undermined by any circumstances (e.g., not being mentally sound, being unconscious, not having the intention for fasting), fasting loses its meaning and necessary function. That is to emphasize human being's free will to be better, to go forward and prove his/her value.
[i] i.e., one must be aware of what he/she is doing, or be in control of his/her actions.
[ii] A Hadith from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) .
[iii] اللّهُمَّ لَكَ صُمْنَا: “O Allah: For You have we fasted” 
[iv] وَعَلَى رِزْقِكَ أَفْطَرْنَا :“and with Your sustenance have we broken our fasting” 
[v] فَتَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا : “so, (please) accept form us” .
- Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, vol.1, p.18-17.
- Nahj al-Balaghah, Wisdom no. 145.
- Dua after breaking the fast (Iftar)
Racism and ethnocentrism are closely linked to the sense of superiority that lies within every human being. This issue has a long history - as long as human life, and is still an ongoing behavior that causes serious problems among human beings.
Racism is an important issue that Islam has considered; the issue whose history dates back to nations existed long before the birth of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). This unequal treatment was so weaved into people’s lives which they didn’t even realized its vile nature. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), also, lived in a society where racism was very common. The situation became even harder when people started to follow the religion of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). That was when racism out of tribal prejudice was extended to segregation based on religion, and many people who followed Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) were driven from their homes or hometowns.
The specific conditions of the era in which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) lived, as well as the deep roots of this wrong attitude in the history of humankind, were the main reasons why Allah (SWT) makes many recommendations about racism in the Quran. The Prophet of Islam (PBUH&HP), also, worked really hard to clear the minds of people from tribal, religious, and any other types of racism.
During the Arab ignorance, privileges such as lineage, race, wealth, number of children, and affiliation with a powerful tribe were considered the criteria of superiority over others. The verses of the Quran indicate that the number of children and folks were so important to them that in some arguments they even went to a cemetery and started to count the number of their dead ones:
“Rivalry [and vainglory] distracted you until you visited [even] the graves.” (102: 1-2)
It should have been hard for people of that mindset to accept that their lineage, children, tribe and wealth is of no importance in the eyes of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). According to an account, he said, “All the people, from the past or at present, are as equal as a comb’s teeth; therefore neither Arabs are superior to non-Arabs, nor white people to blacks. You are only distinguished by your piety and righteousness” .
However, although the Quran was revealed in such an environment that was limited in various ways and had a limited connection with the world outside the island, and the issue of ethnicity, race, and tribal life prevailed in all its aspects, it did not take on such a color at all. Allah addresses people in the Quran using the following phrases: "O children of Adam," "O people," "O you who believe," or "O you who have faith." The Quran removed racial privileges in that racist environment, and with the beautiful logic of "you are all children of man and were created from one parent," Allah declared them all brothers and sisters belonging to the same family:
“O mankind! Indeed, We created you from a male and a female and made you nations and tribes that you may identify yourselves with one another. Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God wary among you. Indeed Allah is all-knowing, all aware.” (49:13)
As the verse above implies, One’s character and status are only measured by the level of submission to Allah and following His commands, not social or financial conditions.
Apart from racism based on lineage, race, wealth, etc. people before and at the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) believed that religious beliefs gave them superiority over others.
Based on that belief, people of different faiths were always conflicting with each other, instead of having sound arguments about different issues. Therefore, religious discriminations had been severely condemned by Islam, emphasizing that belonging to the followers of religion does not make people good or bad. But, it is their actions and their level of obedience toward Allah that give them superiority:
“The Jews say, ‘The Christians stand on nothing,’ and the Christians say, ‘The Jews stand on nothing,’ though they follow the [same] Book. So said those who had no knowledge, [words] similar to what they say. Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning that about which they used to differ.” (2: 113)
The issue of fairness and justice among human beings is so important in Islam that the Quran has taken care of all different aspects in which people may act unjustly toward each other. Apart from racial issues that have been ongoing for ages, the issue of undermining and suppressing women in different domestic and social aspects, and depriving them of their rights had been a challenging issue in most parts of the world.
The Quran condemns this segregation and states that men and women are equal in the eyes of Allah:
“Whoever acts righteously, [whether] male or female, should he be faithful, We shall revive him with a good life and pay them their reward by the best of what they used to do.” (16:97)
Also, the necessity of observing women’s rights had been emphasized in many narrations from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and his progeny. Imam Ali (AS), says in an account, “Women are Allah’s trusts upon you, do not hurt them, and do not put pressure on them” . Therefore, men should be careful with their manners in treating women whether in family or in society.
To conclude, the only thing that gives superiority to people is their piety and faith. Looking at the issue like this makes people closer to each other and all differences in color, race, ethnicity, shape, wealth, etc. create no distance between people. People gather around based on their spiritual interests and try not to judge each other, since the only one who is aware of the most faithful is Allah (SWT):
“… And be wary of Allah. Indeed Allah knows best what is in the hearts.” (5: 7).
- Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid, Al-Ikhtisas, p.341.
- Muhaddith Nuri ,Mustadrak al-Wasail, vol.2, p.551.
One of the features of a believing Muslim is that he/she always wants to grow closer to Allah and constantly seeks His satisfaction. For this reason, there are numerous narrations from the infallible Imams (A.S) indicating the right time and place for seeking closeness to Allah.It is clear that God is the Most Gracious, and his Mercy is always bestowed upon humankind wherever they are. However, there are special times and places at which God’s benevolence towards His creatures becomes even greater. One of these occasions is the Day of Arafah.
The ninth day of Dhu al-Hijjah (the final month of the Islamic lunar calendar) is the day of Arafah when Hajj pilgrims stand on the plain of Arafat (a vast desert about 20 km southeast of Mecca) to pray. Arafah can be translated as knowing, understanding or theosophy .
According to historians, it was on the plain of Arafat where Adam and Eve met each other once again after their descent from heaven and long separation upon the Earth, and their sins were forgiven by Allah.
It also recalls how Gabriel taught the prophet Abraham (AS) all the Hajj rituals on the plain of Arafat.
The day of Arafah is so important that Imam Hussain (AS), the third infallible Shia Imam, recited the famous supplication of Arafah one year during his pilgrimage to Mecca on this day.
Arafah is one of the most blessed days in Islam that carries a lot of merits for the ones who are present on the plain of Arafat and other people elsewhere. This day in its blessedness and sacredness weighs the same as the Night of Qadr. It has been narrated, “People who were not able to achieve their purpose in the Night of Qadr or those who were not forgiven on that day, Arafah is the last opportunity for them” .
So, many Muslims occupy themselves with reciting the Holy Quran, prayer, and supplications hoping that there would be more opportunities for them to be forgiven by Allah on this special day. One of the best deeds performed by Shia Muslims is reciting Imam Hussain’s (AS) supplication of Arafah, which best represents the spirit of this day. Contemplation on this amazing supplication which encompasses facts about monotheism and its degrees will ultimately bring us closer to Allah.
In this supplication, we first praise God in a loving and friendly manner. Then we count the blessings God has bestowed upon us, and after confessing our misdeeds and sins, we ask Allah to forgive them. That is when we put forth our request to God. Now let’s recite and think about some of the most beautiful verses from this supplication (Dua): (You may also find the audio and the English subtitle of this supplication here.)
“Praise be to Allah Whose determination cannot be repelled by anything, whose gifts cannot be stopped by anything, and Whose making cannot be resembled by the making of anyone. He is the All-magnanimous, the All-liberal.”
“Even before that (before you showed me the right path), You had compassion on me, through Your excellent conferral and Your affluent bestowals. So, You fashioned my creation from semen that gushed forth and put me up in triple darkness among flesh, blood, and skin. You have not made me witness my creation, and You have not referred any part of my creation to me.”
“So, Exalted be You, O All-merciful, O All-beneficent. When I commenced (my life) by pronouncing words, You perfected for me the affluent bestowals and brought me up to an increase every year. When my creation was accomplished, and my power became straight, You put me under the obligation of Your Claim, which is that You inspired me with recognition of You and alarmed me by the wonders of Your wisdom.”
“As You created me from the best of soil, You, my God, have not wanted for me to have a certain favor (and to be deprived of another) and You, therefore, provided me with the various kinds of living and types of wealth, out of Your great and grand conferral upon me, and Your eternal kindness to me.”
“And I bear witness, O my God, with my true belief, and the fortitude of the determinations of my conviction and the purity of my open belief in Your Oneness and the essence of the secret of my conscience, and the ties of the canals of the light of my sight, and the lines of my forehead and the hallows of the courses of my breath, and the (nasal) cavities of my nose, and the courses of the meatus of my hearing, and whatever my two lips hide and cover up, …”
“I bear witness) that if I try my best and strive throughout all ages and at all times, if I live them, to thank properly only one of Your favors, I will not be able to do that, except through a favor of You, which also requires me to thank You for it, once again with new thanking and with praise that is newly acquired and newly prepared.”
“It is I who did wrong. It is I who had evil intention…I now acknowledge of my sins; so, (please) forgive them to me.”
Arafah is one of the best days to turn to God with sincere repentance. Allah, on this day, accepts the repentance of His servants and grant them forgiveness if they are truly regretful and determined to give up their sins.
“O Allah, (please) make me fear You as if I can see You. Make me happy by fearing You. Do not make me unhappy by disobeying You. Choose for me through Your decree. so that I will not long for hastening that which You have delayed or delaying that which You would hasten.”
Eventually, you will find yourself immersed in the ocean of Allah’s mercy, which is what a true believer always seeks.
“O Allah, Verily, You are the nearest of those who are prayed, You are the promptest of those who may respond, the most generous of those who may pardon, and the most responding of those who are asked. O All-beneficent of the world and the Hereafter, and All-merciful!”