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.
It takes courage to live in this world. Because if you are alive, then you need to take action. And for taking a decisive step, you need to be courageous. The courage to stand up for an oppressed person, the courage to stand up against discrimination, the courage to stop violence against animals, the courage to preserve the earth, or even the courage to listen to the news of genocide and wish to have the strength to do something for it.
But many of us do not take action. Or do not even care. We may be afraid or may wait for someone else to do something. Say a superman or someone beyond us.
Many philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to modern thinkers regard courage as one of the most vital human virtues. For Plato, courage is “what allows reason to rule, both in the individual and in society.” Aristotle also believes that courage is not just about taking risks but thinking wisely in the face of danger . Taking risks is courageous, but knowing why you are risking is even more critical.
Islam, also, values the attribute of courage highly [i]. In Islam courage is the result of many other virtues. Even more, the reason behind your courageous deed is of more importance than having courage in itself. In other words, you are courageous if you are taking action for the right cause. That is, what you have found belief in after in-depth and rational investigation [ii], and do not forget to be moral along the way.
Imam Hussain (AS) Was Courageous in the true Sense of the Word Because He…
Imam Hussain (AS), saw the injustice that was imposed upon the society of his time and realized how what the rulers called Islam was far from the true teachings of Islam. Oppression, tyranny, unjust use of public property, etc. made life miserable for people.
So, instead of remaining silent and doing nothing, he decided to improve the society. He practiced courage in standing up against what was wrong, and in accepting the dangers of his decision.
Surrendering to and accepting the injustice and oppression, is considered a huge sin in Islam for someone who is capable of standing up against it and can improve the situation. That is one of the reasons why enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong (Amr bi-l-maʿruf and Nahy ʿani-l-munkar) are among the practical principles of Islam; to improve the society and bring awareness to people.
Imam Hussain (AS) was courageous and stood up against what was wrong. But he never gave up his human virtues for the sake of furthering his purpose. In other words, for Imam Hussain (AS), “the end does not justify the means.” While his enemy was impatient to start the war, he did his best to prevent it by negotiating and bringing awareness to them .
He was not afraid of fighting, yet, for him starting a war with the enemy was not the end. Instead, leading them to what is right, toward a life of honor and dignity rather than humiliation and oppression, was his ultimate purpose. Imam Hussain (AS), tried to show that being just is far more important than being courageous. If everyone is just, then no right would be taken away, and you do not need to be courageous to stand up against it [iii].
According to Imam Ali (AS), courage is dependent upon three virtues which complement each other. These are self-sacrifice, not bowing down to humiliation and oppression and not being after making a name for yourself . In his movement, Imam Hussain (AS) exhibited all these virtues. He sacrificed his life and family, did not surrender to the injustice his enemies were imposing, and never cared about his fame but was entirely devoted to Allah’s cause [iv].
In Islam, the intention always comes before the action. Imam Hussain (AS) knew well why he was taking action. For him, nothing was more important than Allah’s satisfaction and reviving the true teachings and peaceful message of Islam in the corrupt society of his time [v].
He was courageous for the right cause. Neither was he after usurping the throne, nor manipulating people for his own sake. In that case, he would not be courageous anymore but selfish. As Charles Dickens admitted, “If Husain (as) had fought to quench his worldly desires…then I do not understand why his sister, wife, and children accompanied him. It stands to reason, therefore, that he sacrificed purely for Islam” .
Imam Hussain (AS) did take a risk in furthering his purpose, but he never acted unwisely and on his whim. When people sent thousands of letters from Kufa to Imam Hussain (AS), to ask for his help and declare their devotion to him, he did not accept their invitation immediately.
Instead, he first sent a representative to their city to validate their claim. Also, on the day of Ashura, despite his enemy's insistence on war, and while he was not afraid of fighting with them, he first tried to reason with them. You cannot be called courageous if you let go of your insight and wisdom and act recklessly [vi].
As said earlier, Imam Hussain (AS) was not willing to go to war with his enemy. While he was fully capable of fighting with them, and he courageously did it with only 72 people against thousands, he was never in favor of making war without any good reason. He was a courageous leader and guide, not a ruthless tyrant.
Thus, he first tried to guide his enemy toward the true teachings of Islam through speaking and reasoning, but when he saw their insistence on being ignorant, he was forced into a war.
It takes courage and spiritual strength to endure the pain of losing your beloved ones. Imam Hussain (AS) lost many of his family members and friends in the battle of Karbala, including his brother and two of his sons. However, while he felt a deep pain in his heart, he never lost his control and power of reason.
And he never regretted his action, nor doubted his cause. He was sure that what he did was for the sake of Allah’s satisfaction and his movement will forever inspire those who are seeking what is right.
[i] Imam Ali (AS) said, “Generosity and courage are great attributes that Allah bestows upon whoever He loves most and has examined before”
[ii] “In Islam, faith is nothing beyond human’s reason and understanding; in other words, the axioms of this religion are the fundamental principles that are rational by themselves and can be ascertained by people’s common sense. So stepping onto the stage of this faith depends on the submission that is gained through preliminary investigation of its axioms” .
[iii] Imam Ali (AS) said, “ Justice is better than courage. Since if every person is just toward other people, then they won’t need to be courageous” 
[iv] On the cause of his movement, Imam Hussain (AS) said,“O' God! Surely you know that whatever we did was not a competition to gain worldly positions and not for the worthless physical attractions of the world. But to show the signs of religious ways and to remove corruption from your lands, so that the oppressed feel secured and act according to your traditions and rules.” 
[v] Imam Hussain (AS) said, “My revolution aims to reform the society and revive the true teachings of Islam.” 
[vi] Imam Ali (AS) said, “ negligence and not having foresight, spoils the courage” .
- al-Shaykh al-Mufid, al-Irshad, p.253.
- Ibn Shu'ba al-Harrani, Tuhaf al-'uqul, p.322.
- Ibid. p.239.
- Ibid. p.243.
- The Islamic Axioms
- HUssain (AS)
- Abd al-Wāhid b. Muḥammad al-Āmidī, Ghurar al-hikam wa durar al-kalim, p.375.
- Ali ibn Muhammad Laithi Vaseti, Oyun al-Hikmah va al-Mavaez, p. 182.
- Ibn Abi al-Hadid, The interpretation of Nahj al-Balaghah, vol 20, p.333.