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
Unity between Muslims is considered as a crucial matter in Islam. Thus, the Quran compares discordance and disunity among Muslims to “a pit of the Fire”: "And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided...And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it." (3:103). Looking at the former nations, we find them honored and glorious when they were united, but disgraced and vulnerable when they fell apart . Hajj, as one of the obligatory rituals in Islam, is one of the ways which encourages unity among Muslim nations. Let’s see how.
There is no other ritual, social, or political program in Islam greater than Hajj, where every Muslim from any corner of the world finds the chance to approach others and communicate with them freely.
Besides, it provides the opportunity to strengthen the emotional, social, and religious bonds with other Muslims. Hajj is a social kind of worship that represents the glorious Islamic unity through its numerous participants of various nationalities, skin colors, languages, and sects who are like brothers (49:10). They have left behind the religious conflicts, and follow the same intention, perform the same actions, and wear the same outfit.
In Surah Ma’idah, it is stated that coming together around Ka’aba makes Muslims powerful (5:97). In other words, the aim of Hajj for Muslims is not just performing some physical actions. It is to bring Muslims of different races and origins together to get acquainted, communicate with each other, initiate political, economic and cultural relations, and find themselves closer to each other despite their many differences.
Besides, Islam calls “every” Muslim to Hajj, which means that everyone, regardless of origin and skin color, is invited to the land of Allah. It reminds us of what the Quran says; that there is no superiority except rightfulness and the most righteous, is the noblest in the sight of Allah (49:13). This is an important message, especially for the less powerful Islamic nations, causing them to feel more confident and encouraging them to communicate with other Muslims, which ultimately results in a more united Muslim society.
In a discourse that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) has given during one of his Hajj pilgrimages, he described Muslims as brothers, and like a single hand (a united community) when facing the enemies . Emphasizing brotherhood among Muslims during Hajj shows that this ritual was a good representation of unity. Thus, Muslims are expected to support each other and be close to each other as they are during Hajj.
During Hajj, Muslims can exchange ideas with Muslims of other sects. In the early years of Islam when non-Muslims also went to Mecca for their religious rituals, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) took this opportunity to introduce Islam to them and exchange ideas with them to spread his message and find followers in other cities, too. In Hajj, many misunderstandings and ideological conflicts can be discussed among Muslims, and the real beliefs of different sects about the others can be clarified. Hence, the wrong prejudgments and hostilities can be rectified. According to Imam Sadiq (AS), Hajj is a means to gather all Muslims from east to west to let them get acquainted with each other and achieve consensus .
Through the communications that Muslims have during Hajj, they find out the social achievements and national advances in other Muslim nations and might decide to follow their path. They also learn about the social problems and deficiencies of others and might find solutions by further cooperation. Moreover, they become aware of the real political situations of other Muslim countries, especially the difficulties that sometimes other countries impose on them. For instance, one of the goals of Hajj is to announce the support of Muslims for Palestinians and those oppressed in the world. This helps Muslims to become more united against common enemies of Islam.
To summarize, Hajj is a time that a Muslim finds him/herself in the accompaniment of millions of others who wear as simple as him/her and who repeat the same words as him/her as they move around Ka’aba. This is where “one” is transformed into the totality of ‘people’, establishing the universality of the Islamic community with the goal of approaching Allah.
- Imam Ali (AS), Nahj-ul Balaqa, Infallible 192
- M. B. Majlesi, "Bihar al-Anwar", vol. 21, p. 105.
- Shaikh al-Hur al-Aamili, “Wasa’il al-Shi’a”, vol. 11, p. 14