Fasting (Sawm) in Islam is not a very complicated task- just like many other tasks in this holy religion. However, having a general knowledge of its rules and regulations is essential for all Muslims. Fasting is generally defined as the act of voluntarily preventing oneself from eating and drinking during a particular period in the day – from the time of dawn prayer(Salat al-Fajr) until dusk prayer (Salat al-maghrib). According to the Sharia of Islam, there are seven types of fasting that are obligatory for Muslims to perform ; one of the most important of which is fasting during the month of Ramadan. lets see how to fast.
The process of fasting is quite an easy one; first, you will need to make your intention (Niyyah) clear for your fasting: “I will fast today seeking Allah’s contentment and closeness to him.” Note that you should make your intention- whether in your mind or by saying the actual words- before the time of dawn Prayer (Salat al-Fajr). The next step is to avoid doing certain actions during the time of fasting. Basically, there are nine actions that would void your fast:
Eating and drinking (if you forget you are fasting and ate or drank something unintentionally, your fasting won’t be voided)
Having sexual intercourse
Insulting Allah and his holy prophets
Inhaling thick dust
Immersing your head completely in water
Not having performed the obligatory ablutions before sunrise
Doing enema using liquids
To vomit intentionally 
In certain cases, fasting would lose its obligation. If you are a traveler, you won’t need to fast, if you have become temporarily ill and by fasting your illness would worsen, fasting will be forbidden for you, and if you fast you have committed a sin.
Nevertheless, you will have to fast before the coming of the next Ramadan, instead of the one(s) you have missed. However, if you have a chronic sickness – e.g., diabetes- and according to your doctor’s view fasting is harmful to you forever, instead of fasting you will have to pay a certain amount of money in order to be given to underprivileged people in society called atonement (Kaffareh) .
Muslims celebrate Eid-al-Fitr, Feast of Fast-Breaking, at the end of Ramadan which falls on the first day of the Islamic month of Shawwal. This religious Eid is a single day during which Muslims are not permitted to fast.
Many Muslims attend a particular congregational prayer (Salat al-Jama'ah) to thank the Almighty who enabled them to fast and to remember the needy and the destitute. It is also compulsory for Muslims to pay Zakat al-Fitr (Fitrah) during Eid al-Fitr, preferably before offering the Eid prayers.
Zakatul-Fitr is a mandatory religious tax paid by those who can afford it as a kind of charity at the sunset of Eid al Fitr night (i.e., the night preceding Eid day). Whoever is an adult, sane, neither unconscious, nor poor, nor the slave of another, should give, on his own behalf as well as all those who are his dependents, about three kilos of wheat, barley, dates, raisins, rice or millet, etc. per person. It is also permissible if he pays the price of one of these items in cash. Fitrah should be given to deserving believers whose income is not sufficient to spend on their families for one year .
It is noteworthy that fasting is not a mere act of depriving oneself of foods or drinks; in fact, the most important aspect of fasting is its spiritual impact upon man. It makes human's soul kind, strengthens his determination, and moderates his instincts. Trying to avoid foods and drinks in Ramadan, which are allowed on normal days, fasting helps people keep away from forbidden deeds (Haram) more easily.
Fasting is a special act of worship that is only between humans and God since no one else knows for sure if this person is actually fasting. Imam Ali (AS) explains the philosophy of this act as below:
“Allah ordered the observance of fasts for fostering (the attribute of) sincerity within the people” .
Fasting is also a practice for human beings to be more observant of their actions and to experience, even for a very short period, what poor people go through in their lives. God has obliged humans to fast to convey the message of equality between the rich and the poor; the rich experience the pangs of hunger and thus fulfill their obligations to the destitute.
If the wealthy nations of the world were to fast for just a few days in the year and experience hunger, pain and trouble poor people suffer from, they would probably exhibit mercy upon them, and there would not still exist any hungry people in the world .
The miraculous effect of abstinence (from food) in curing various diseases has been ascertained in modern as well as ancient medicine. Lots of articles have been written on the medical and therapeutic effects of fasting.
In a well-known tradition, the Noble Prophet (PBUH&HP) says:
“Fast, in order that you become healthy.”
It is a fact that the cause of a great number of diseases is extravagance in the consumption of various types of food.
The prophet (PBUH&HP) also says:
“The stomach is the house of all maladies and abstinence (from food) is the best of all cures” .
When we eat or drink, we inevitably enter many toxic substances into our body; consequently, organs should always be working to get rid of these harmful materials. The detoxification process of the body will be considerably accelerated during the time of fasting.
Since our body does not receive any substance externally, the materials that had been stored in the body will be used to produce sufficient energy; thus, the infections and microbes that were accumulated in our body will be released along with those materials and our blood will be purified noticeably. It has been claimed that fasting will balance the hormones in our body and will result in better functioning of our organs  & .
To conclude, the ultimate goal of fasting in Islam is to redirect our attention toward our inner selves. In addition, it serves as a reminder for us of our superiority to other creatures in respect to our power of will, our capacity to choose to fight against evilness and to refuse to be driven by our desires. In consequence, we would finally be prepared to reach the summit of humanity and become the perfect human who is worthy of God’s attention and reward.
May Allah bless you and accept your fasting as well as all your other good deeds.
Unlike many socialistic or capitalistic economies, the Islamic economy is the one in which all kinds of people have their own right to financially benefit from their society. Therefore, a typical feature of this kind of economy is essentially social justice in which poor people are not neglected or excluded from the beneficiary circle of society. Accordingly, Islam, the religion that even cares about animals and plants let alone human beings [i], has established some rules with regard to people who are suffering from deprivation; one of the most important of which is called “Zakat” (Alms Tax).
Alms-tax (Zakat) is an obligatory rule, which is considered one of the foundations of Islam [ii]. In a literal sense, Zakat means growth and purification while technically it is defined as “paying an exact amount of money that has become obligatory through the rules of Sharia in order to be used in favor of the people in need or for certain beneficial deeds in society”  in order to purify and cleanse one’s money or his incomes. Its significance becomes evident through many verses in the Holy Quran, which sometimes consider it along with prayer (Salat) as a sign of true believers .
Despite the fact that the concept of Zakat had never existed in the full form that Islam offers, it is not the first religion that introduces Zakat as a kind of task that should be done for the benefit of the individual as well as the society. According to the text of the Holy Quran, Jesus Christ and Moses, as well as Ishmael, are among the prophets who recommended their followers to carry out this advantageous task .
In the Bible, Christians are advised to help the poor financially: “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42) and “But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you” (Luk 11:41). Moreover, the act of “Tzedakah” in Judaism, is a religious obligation that includes almsgiving as one of its manifestations . However, in Islam Zakat is a compulsory rule while in others it is just a recommendation .
The performance of this vital task is accompanied by many definite and specific criteria:
A person will be obliged to pay Zakat if he is grown-up, of sound mind, and in possession of something.
A person is considered a good recipient of Zakat if he is living in poverty, in debt, and cannot pay for it. Also, it can be used for public jobs such as building schools, hospitals, etc.
The amount of money that should be paid depends on the kind of the material through which Zakat has become obligatory; these are two kinds of metal- gold, and silver-, four grains- barley, wheat, date, and raisin- as well as three kinds of animal - cow, sheep, and camel. Each of the aforementioned products has its particular amount and time of payment which have been specified in detail in the sharia of Islam . Nevertheless, under certain circumstances and based on the needs of people at every time, other things – whether an object or a concept (e.g., Knowledge) – may be included to which Zakat is ascribed.
There are certain manners that should be carefully observed when giving someone Zakat; for instance, it should be given with complete contentedness, respecting the person who is receiving it, and also should be from the best materials at hand .
Aside from its financial benefits - purifying one’s money, preventing the economy to be manipulated by a certain group of society, and enabling neglected people who are taken care of to act as advantageous agents of society and have a job-, it will also purify and elevate one’s soul.
This happens through collaborating and helping other members of the society which spread the spirit of kindness and affection, causes people to feel more attached to one another, form an unbreakable bond together, and finally direct one’s attention to others’ needs rather than his own. Also, it would relieve him from greediness and eventually make him a better person.
It is noteworthy that Zakat has been ascribed to those products that are provided for human beings through nature; most of the work has been done by nature for free and with the least effort of human beings. Of course, his mental and practical effort is involved, but the main part is accomplished by nature. So in order to make up for this generosity, we would give away a very small amount of money to the ones in need.
[i]. It is known through a hadith said by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) that watering a thirsty tree is like quenching thirsty Muslims with water .
[ii]. There are many hadiths that consider the skeleton of Islam to be founded on five practices: prayer (Salat), holy pilgrimage (Hajj), fasting (Sawm), alms-tax (Zakat), and guardianship (Velayat) .
- Sheikh Al-Hur Al-Aamili. Wasail Al-Shia. Vol. 7.
- Muhammad ibn Yaqub Al-Kulayni. Al-Kafi (The Sufficient Book). Vol. II. Tehran: Masjed Publication.
- Mohsen Qaraati. Khums and Zakat. Ahl al-beit's Maaref research and publication institute.
- Holy Quran 2:177,277- 4:162- 9:71
- Morteza Avini website
- Holy Quran 19:31, 55 – 2:43
Prayer in Islam (Salat) is one of the most important practical principles of Islam . It is a physical, mental and spiritual act of worship consisting of prescribed actions and words. Every action in the prayer in Islam (Salat) is meaningful and if you want to know the Philosophy of Prayer in Islam, we will see what each movement in the prayer means and represents.
The prayer in Islam starts with standing. That is to appear in front of God gently and courtly with your whole heart and body; that is how one demonstrates the respect for others. Having the gaze down in Qiyam demonstrates the modesty towards God. It makes one forget about his\her superiority and helps to overcome his\her arrogance . Also, knowing that one should stand five times a day in front of a superior power, who knows every overt and covert act and behavior, will eventually prevent from evil deeds and sins .
We do many things every day, some of which are repetitive and by habit, and we are not even aware of why we are doing them. Prayer in Islam, one of those works, seems to be a physical practice. That is why the prayer must have a Niyyah to prevent the prayer from becoming a daily habit and to help the Muslim to recall the reason behind that. Hence, a prayer without Niyyah will be a set of physical movements, and it won’t be accepted.
Niyyah reminds one that he\she is showing up to demonstrate the submission to the divine orders. Having a pure intention in the prayer teaches to avoid duplicity. It is not necessary to repeat the words of the Niyyah. That is enough to recall it and to consider it throughout the prayer. Indeed, this should be considered during any other act or practice in daily life; firstly, to purify our intentions for God; then, to stick to that intention until the end.
The sayings in the prayer in Islam (Salat) start with Takbir. Takbir means to regard God as great. By saying Takbir, we express our belief that God is great. There exists nothing similar to Him. He cannot be perceived or touched by our physical senses and understanding . Takbir reminds us of the Monotheism (Tawhid) which is the first pillar of Islam .
Bowing (Ruku) is a perfect demonstration of the gratitude and respect that a human being has for God, as a divine source and a higher power. And, this is a unique posture that a Muslim will never have in front of anyone else . In Ruku, every individual, in whatever position and grade, bows to God which consequently reduces the arrogance and pride within him\her. Lady Fatima (AS) said: “God has ordered […] the prayer to purify you from arrogance and pride” .
According to Imam Ali (AS), holding the neck straight during Ruku shows that one believes firmly in Islam such that he\she won’t give up even if he loses his\her life (to have the neck cut) for this belief. Another point in Ruku is that it is a unique posture that only exists in the Islamic ritual and distinguishes the Islamic prayer.
Prostration (Sujood) is exhibiting the maximum humility and dignity for God. Imam Sadiq (AS) describes that one is closest than ever to God in this posture . According to the Quran: “to Allah prostrates whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth of creatures…” (16:49). This means that in that posture, the human being is in harmony with the whole universe and creatures.
Imam Ali (AS) explained that the first Sujood means that God has created us from the earth. Coming up from the first Sujood is the symbol of this worldly life. The second Sujood represents the death and returning to the earth. Finally, rising from the second Sujood symbolizes the afterlife . According to the interpreters of the Quran, this refers to the fact that: “From the earth, We created you, and into it, We will return you, and from it, We will extract you another time” (20:55).
There have been some attempts in the recent years to analyze and justify the physical benefits of performing the prayer. Those discussions might be true, but they are not the whole reason behind this practical principle of Islam. The prayer is a means of worship that engages the body and soul and is beneficial to both. The reasons above are a small part of the philosophy behind the acts of the prayer. One might refer to the advanced references for more details.
- Shaikh al-Hur al-Aamili, "Wasail al-Shia", p. 214.
- J. Maleki Tabrizi, “The Mysteries of the Prayer”, vol. 1, p. 323.
- Ibn Babawayh, "Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih", Book Salat, Chap. 17
- Monotheism Tawhid
- A. Hosseini Khamenei, “The Prayer in Depth”, p. 5.
- M. Majlisi, "Bihar al-Anwar", vol. 29, p. 223.
- Shaykh al-Kulayni, "al-Kafi", vol. 3, p. 324, T. 11.
- Ibn Babawayh, "Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih", vol. 1, p. 311.