Fasting in Ramadan – Annual Training for a Righteous Life.

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Training is very important to do something efficiently. It is like hands-on training of a doctor before treating a patient.

Allah has created human beings to discharge a great responsibility of developing and managing this world on His behalf as His Representative (Calipha).

Al-Quran recorded this fact as: “It is He (Allah) Who has appointed you (human being) vicegerent over the earth” (Quran 2: 30).

He had sent Prophets and Books from Him to train mankind so that they can do the duty as His Representative efficiently.

Finally, He sent Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) with al-Quran to Train people as Muslim, so that they can do the duty as His Representative efficiently.

Fasting in Ramadan is the Annual Mandatory Training that Allah has introduced for the Muslim Nation.

Allah says: “Anyone of you who knows that the month of Ramadan has begun, he must start to fast” (Quran 2:185).

Importance of Fasting in Ramadan.

Fasting is one of the Five Pillars of Islamic Way of Life.

Prophet (pbuh) said: “Islam is built on Five Pillars: Testimony that there is no god except Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, Establishing Prayer, Paying Zakat, Fasting in Ramadan and Hajj to the House of Allah” (Bukhari, Muslim).

Fasting is a direct order of Allah and Mandatory for Muslims.   

Allah says: “Anyone of you who knows that the Month of Ramadan has begun, he must start Fast” (Quran 2: 185).

Fasting is so important that it was Mandatory for all Nations in the past as well:

Allah says: “O believers! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you that you may become righteous” (Quran 2: 183).

Fasting is a unique worship for one complete month:

Prophet (pbuh) said: “You must Fast, as there is nothing equal to it” (Nassai 2223) and “You have to Fast during the whole month of Ramadan” (Bukhari 1891).

From the above references, we can conclude that Fasting in Ramadan is compulsory and that the denial of fasting takes a believer out of Islam.

Why is Fasting so Important?

  • To work as Representative of Allah, believers need to be Conscious of Allah and Obedient to Him. Fasting in Ramadan provides training for this.
    • Allah says: “O believers! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you that you might become righteous” (Quran 2: 183).
  • Training for righteousness is the sole purpose of Fasting.
  • All activities planned in Ramadan is designed to achieve righteousness (Taqwa) by establishing self-control in the believers.
  • Believers are trained in Ramadan to be closer to Allah, obey what He has ordered to do and abstain from what He has forbidden. Without these qualities, one can not be righteous enough and will not have enough ‘Self-control’ to act as His Representative.
  • Living as a Muslim in this world and to die as a Muslim is important for the happiness of a believer in this world and in the afterlife.
  • ‘Fear of Allah’(Taqwa) is necessary to obey order of Allah and live as a Muslim.
    • Allah says: “O believers! Fear Allah as he should be feared (by doing all that he has ordered and by abstaining from all that He has forbidden). And do not die except as Muslim (by following Islamic way of life)” (Quran 3: 102).

What is Taqwa that Fasting in Ramadan offers?

  • Allah says: “The good end is for the people of Taqwa” (Quran 20: 132). Therefore, Taqwa deserves to be understood well, it should be tried to achieve in best possible way and should be applied in all activities of life of the believers.
  • ‘Taqwa’ is an Islamic term that states many essential qualities of virtuous life. It is stated in the Quran more than 250 times with its derivatives for explaining essential qualities of Taqwa. Some of these are; obeying order of Allah and abstaining from unlawful things (3:102), performing prayer (2:177), speaking Truth (33:70), paying zakat (2:177), doing duty to Allah (4:131), Trust (2:283), fulfilling contract (2:177), patience (3:186 ).
  • The word ‘Taqwa’ is translated in English as ‘conscious of Allah’, ‘Fear of Allah’, ‘Love for Allah’, ‘self-restraint’, ‘piety’, ‘protect’, etc. It is a condition of mind that keeps a believer always prepared to obey the order of Allah, do good deeds and avoid wrongdoing in Fear or Love of Allah. It is a measure of status of believers.
    • Allah says: “Surely the most honourable in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you” (Quran 49:13).
  • Following the Quran completely as guidance for life is the goal of Taqwa of believers.
    • Allah says: “There is no doubt that this book (Quran) is a guide for those who are conscious of Allah” (Quran 2:2).
  • Taqwa of a believer is in his body, mind and soul. Taqwa of soul is the spiritual power, Taqwa of mind is intellectual power and Taqwa of body is physical strength.
  • Taqwa of these can be seen and felt in the action of believers.
  • When these are used to carry out the order of Allah (i.e,, to  do good deeds and follow Islamic way of life), then a believe is performing with Taqwa.  At this stage a believer’s mouth, ears, eyes, hands and legs are perfectly obeying the order of Allah.
  • In recognition to such Taqwa, Allah says: “I become his mouth by which he speaks, I become his ears by which he hears, I become his hands by which he works and I become his legs by which he walks” (Bukhari).                              
  • Above is the word of Allah, uttered by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It gives a live picture of a believer who possess Taqwa. He is that believer whose mouth, eyes, ears, hands and legs works for only the satisfaction of Allah by obeying His order.

Understanding and practice of Taqwa among early Muslims:

  • The nature of Taqwa understood and practiced by early Muslims was as stated above. They achieved this type of Taqwa through Fasting, Prayer, Zakat, Hajj, Dhikr and other rituals. After that they demonstrated this in every sphere of life. Taqwa used to regulate their personal life, family life, social life, economy, business, trade, judiciary, battle field, state affairs, international affairs etc. Their focus was how to improve in each of these affairs of life by the qualities of Taqwa.
  • Few examples are as follows:
    • Prophet (pbuh) said: “Fear Allah’ (Taqwa), wherever you may be. Follow up an evil deed with a good one, which will wipe out evil and behave good towards people” (Tirmidhi).   
    • Prophet (pbuh) said: “Fear Allah’(Taqwa) and be good to your family” (Tirmidhi).        
    • From these two short hadiths we understand that Taqwa should be demonstrated in every field of life (i.e., to wipe out evil by doing good deed, by behaving good with people and family, etc.)
  • Imam Hasan (RA), grand son of Prophet (pbuh) said: “The people who have Taqwa are those people who avoid whatever  Allah has prohibited and do whatever Allah has ordered”.                                                                   
    • We understand here that abstaining from whatever Allah has forbidden is Taqwa.    
  • Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz (RH), the fifth Caliph of Islam, said “Taqwa is not by Fasting in the day and not by praying in the night. Moreover, it is not by mixing between the two of them. But Taqwa is leaving what Allah has made unlawful (haram) and by doing what Allah has made obligatory (Fard)”.     
    • We understand here that Taqwa is abstaining from whatever Allah has made unlawful and doing what Allah has told us to do.                     
  • Imam ibn Juzawy (RH) said: “Meaning of Taqwa is Fear, adhering to obedience to Allah and avoiding disobedience to Him. It is some of all good”.
    • Here we see that ‘Taqwa’ is doing all good by obeying the orders of Allah and avoiding His disobedience.
  • Based on above references from the Quran, hadith and understanding of early Muslims we can conclude that:
  • Worship like obligatory prayer, voluntary prayer, obligatory fasting, voluntary fasting, hajj, umrah, zakat, voluntary charity, Dhikr,etc. are all means of achieving Taqwa; and
  • Real Taqwa is doing everything in life by following Quran and Sunnah. This is the Taqwa that ‘Fasting in Ramadan’ offers to the believers.

Positive Environment in Ramadan for Training Taqwa.

  • Every training deserves an environment that suits the subject of training.
  • Purity of body, mind and soul is the focus of Ramadan Training. So, it needs a favourable environment for that.
  • Positive social environment is needed for developing purity of body, mind and soul. We observe preparation for virtuous environment and sense of purity in Muslim community right from beginning of Ramadan.
    • Prophet (pbuh) said: “When the month of Ramadan starts the devils are chained” (Bukhari 3277, Muslim 1079).
  • Every training should follow with reward for encouragement. Allah encourages believers to train themselves in Ramadan by offering rewards in multiple way.
    • Prophet (pbuh) said: “Every deed of people will be rewarded as equals, until 700 folds of it” (Muslim 1151).     
  • To make training effective there is a need of punishment for not giving sufficient attention in training: “Gabriel informed Prophet that whoever reaches the month of Ramadan and he is not forgiven, then he will enter hellfire” (Ibn Hibban).

Above facts, makes environment of Ramadan suitable for training of Taqwa and we observe purest environment in Ramadan compared to other months in Muslim community.

How does Ramadan trains believers to achieve Taqwa?  

  • Deep thinking on various worship in Ramadan, helps to understand how these work for achieving Taqwa. There is some work that the believers try to do more in this month and also there is something that the  believers try utmost to avoid. Understanding how these makes the believers righteous is very important for getting benefit from Ramadan. So we will be elaborating some of these here:
  • Actions that the believers try to do more:                                    

From the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) Ramadan is unique in worship of Allah through various good deeds. Muslims do these with a hope of Mercy, Blessing and Forgiveness from Allah. Some of these good deeds are:

  • A) Quran study, b) daily obligatory prayer, voluntary prayer, tahajjud prayer, tarawi prayer, c) dhikr, d) Zakat, voluntary charity, e) welfare work for family, neighbours ,relatives and friends, f) teaching and learning hadith g)  cleanliness, health and hygiene work, h) healthy eating, i) calling people to Islam etc.                                                                                           

In a word thinking and doing all good is the theme of Ramadan. A believer tries to dedicate day and night of entire month in these good deeds. Month long practice of doing these good deeds, make it their habit to continue these throughout the year.

  • Prophet (pbuh) said: “Every good deed of people will be rewarded as equals, until 700 folds of it” ( Muslim 1151). Doing good and promoting good is all about Islam.
  • Prophet (pbuh) said: “Whoever directs someone to do good will gain the same reward as the one who does good” (Muslim).
  • Actions that the believers try utmost to avoid in Ramadan:          

Believers are aware that for Mercy, Blessing and forgiveness of Allah; in addition to doing good deed. they need to avoid many wrong things. Some of these are :

  • Cheating, lie, backbiting, unproductive gossiping, slandering, false accusation, b) Anger, Insulting others, losing control, pride, c) wasting time, unnecessary talk, d) wasting food, overspending, limitless luxury , e) overeating, laziness, oversleeping, f) harmful criticism, accusing, complain, argument, create division among Muslim on minor issues , g) any sort of action that harms oneself, family, neighbours, relatives, friends and any human being.
    • In a word, Muslims remain vigilant throughout the Ramadan to avoid anything that is treated as sin. By practicing avoiding all these bad things they build noble character that avoids all bad not in Ramadan only but also throughout the year.                              
    • Prophet (pbuh) said: “He who does not give up uttering falsehood and acting according to it, Allah has no need of his/her giving up food and drink” (Bukhari, Muslim).
  • Habit of avoiding bad, cleans up soul from impurities and habit of doing good deeds make the soul fit for establishing Allah in the soul. Once Allah is established in the soul of a believer, his body and mind starts to work by obeying Allah
  • Few examples of how deeds in Ramadan brings Taqwa in life:       
  • Quran study:

Ramadan is called ‘Month of Quran’. It is revealed as Guidance of life for mankind in the month of Ramadan.

  • Allah says: “The month of Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed as Guidance for Mankind and it consists of clear teachings which shows the right way and the criterion of the truth and falsehood.” (Quran 2 :185).                                                                               
    • Prophet (pbuh) said: “Best worship for my nation is Quran study” (Baihaqi), “study of one verse from Quran is better than 100 rakha prayer” (Ibn Maja), “A person who studies the Quran and follow its teaching will not be misguided” (Tabarani), “Jibril used to meet the Prophet every night in Ramadan and study Quran with him” (Bukhari, Muslim), “A person who study, think and work asper Quran, he will enter paradise” (Tirmidhi).

Above references from Quran and hadith clearly states, purpose and ways to study Quran as worship for benefit in the world and afterlife. Despite a very clear direction on importance and system of Quran study, many Muslim does not follow this. Many Muslims recites Quran without understanding and thinking what guidance he has from Quran for his life.  This does not serve the purpose of sending Quran by Allah as a guidance for mankind.  What guidance a believer of Quran can get from it, if does not try to understand? Moreover, as a result of reading without understanding, sometimes it happens that they work against what the Quran tells.        

  • Prayer:
    • Allah says: “Establish prayer for My Remembrance” (Quran 20:14), “Keep up prayer; surely prayer keeps one away from immorality and wrongdoing” (Quran 29 : 45 ).              
    • Prophet (pbuh) said: “He who performs Salat, but his salat can not refrain him from obscenity and sinful act, He earns nothing but curse and distance from Allah through his Salat” IIbn Jarir ).
    • Believers spend significant amount of time at night in Taraweeh and Tahajjud prayer, in addition to daily 5 times prayers. The goal of believers in these prayers should be what Allah and His Prophet (pbuh) has set.
    • Early Muslims used to pray to build relation with Allah and gain Taqwa through prayer, so that they can obey His order in any work in between prayers. That is the reason their life and society was pure.
    • Now a day many Muslims pray but do not concentrate to the objectives that Allah and his Prophet (pbuh) has set for prayer. As a result their prayer does not achieve the objective set by Allah.
  • Try to know Allah and be ready to obey Him:        
    • Whatever worship believers do in Ramadan is a training to obey Allah throughout the year. Obeying Allah is the only meaning of Worship. To obey Allah believers must study to know about Allah, His qualities, power, order and way of life he has given for mankind.
    • Ramadan is the best time for this. The best source to know Allah is Quran. Allah has introduced Himself in Quran in so much detail that only His one name ‘Allah’ is mentioned 2698 times alone. We can see Allah in every page of Quran.                                                                     
    • Another source to know Allah is hadith of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). In fact, Prophet (pbuh) introduced Allah to us. We should study hadith to know Allah.
    • Prophet (pbuh) said: “The first question in the grave will be; ‘Who is your Lord’?” (Bukhari).
    • Without knowing and obeying Allah, how one can answer, ‘Allah is my Lord’?                                                                              
  • Dhikir:                                                                                             
    • Allah says: “Remember Allah as He has guided you” (Quran 2: 198), “When you complete your prayer, remember Allah all the time while standing, sitting or reclining” (Quran 4: 103).
    • Prophet (pbuh) said: “Remembrance of Allah is the best of deeds” (Tirmidhi).                                                                                        
    • ‘Dhikir’ is translated in English as; ‘mentioning’, ‘remembering’. It is also a key worship in Ramadan. This trains believers to remember Allah in all situation, at all time and at any work for His Guidance. Remembering Allah helps believers to save themselves from influence of Satan and practice Islam as a Muslim. Satan can only misguide a believer, when he forgets Allah.
    • Allah says: “ Whoever turns away blindly from the Remembrance of the Most Gracious ( Allah), We appoint Davil upon him, who becomes his companion” (Quran 4 : 36 ).  
    • Now a day we see some people do dhikr but do not think that they need to remember Allah always and need to follow Guidance of Allah in everything they do. This type of dhikr is not in conformity with the purpose of dhikr and does not build Taqwa.                                                                                                
  • Charity:
    • This is another key worship of believers in Ramadan. “Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was most generous in Ramadan”(Bukhari ).
    • Charity is so important that he asked every believer to do charity. He said: “Every Muslim has to give charity. The people then asked, if someone has nothing to give, what he should do? The Prophet replied; he should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give charity from whatever he earns. The people further said; if he can not find even that? He replied; ‘He should help(physically) the needy, who appeals for help’. Then the people asked: ‘ if he can not do even that’ ? The Prophet said finally; ‘then he should perform good deeds and keep away from evil deeds” ( Bukhari vol.2 hadith 524).
    • This is the charity that every Muslim should practice. It could be anything that benefits mankind. Imagine! How wonderful is the charity system of Islam! Even a beggar also can do charity. Any form of human welfare, good work and abstaining from evil are sign of Taqwa, provided it is done for the satisfaction of Allah. Unfortunately, the spirit of charity that the Prophet (pbuh) explained here is not seen in many believers now a day. Some people think that charity means; rich should help the poor.                                                    
  • Self- restraint in food, drink and sexual need:          
    • Believers leave these from sunrise to sunset in Ramadan with difficulty for the satisfaction of Allah. Month long practice of this, trains the believers on patience and self control. Moreover, it helps to understand sufferings of starvation of poor people and motivate to help them. Self- control, patience and restraint are important qualities of Taqwa. If these qualities are not there, immorality may ruin peace in life.       
    • As a practice of control of food and drink, Prophet (pbuh) and his followers used to have simple Iftar and  Sahoor. But now a day we see many Muslims are indulge in lavish food at night. Their total food intake in Ramadan is no less than other months. This is not in line with Guidance from Allah and his Prophet(pbuh); nor in the spirit of sacrifice, control on food and Taqwa. As a result, purpose of one of the key qualities of fasting ‘self- control’ is not observed in the life of believers throughout the year.   
    • Allah says: “Eat and drink but not in excessive, Allah does not love those who are excessive” (Quran 7: 31).       
    • Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) explained limit of excess as follows: “Maximum a third stomach for food, a third for drink and a third empty for air (breathing space)” (Musnad Ahmed).                                                                            
  • Training to avoid crime throughout the year is another goal of fasting:     
    • Fasting is not just leaving food, drink and sex from sunrise to sunset. Prophet (pbuh) said: “He who does not give up uttering falsehood and acting according to it, Allah has no need of his/ her leaving food and drink” (Bukhari, Muslim).     
    • Every Muslim must leave forbidden things in Ramadan and practice these habits throughout the year.
  • Believers should try to study Prophet’s (pbuh) life and practice his Sunnah (way of life) in Ramadan as much as possible and make this habit throughout the year.                      
    • It is essential for a Muslim to follow his Prophet (pbuh). Allah has instructed Prophet (pbuh) to communicate this fact: “Say (O Muhammad)! If you should love Allah, then follow me” (Quran 3: 31).
    • It is not possible to follow Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) without knowing him. So believers should try to know about him, what he did, how he did and what he ordered his followers from Quran, hadith and biography and then follow.          
    • Allah says: “Take whatever the Messenger gives you and refrain from whatever he forbids you. Fear Allah. Allah is severe in inflicting punishment” (Quran 59: 7).
    • Think! how a believer can take if he does not know what the Prophet gives and how he can refrain if he does not know what is forbidden by him ?
    • Imam Bukhari recorded a hadith that states one of the first 3 questions in grave is,‘ Who is your Prophet’ ?
    • Without knowing and following him, how the believers would be able to reply; ‘Muhammad (pbuh) is my Prophet! 
  • Calling people to Islam:
    • Direct people to good and try to teach family, friends, relatives, neighbour and all people beneficial knowledge is such a worship that benefits both the person who does and on whom it is done. This should be done more and more in Ramadan and then continue throughout the year.
    • Allah says:“Who speaks better than one who invites people to Allah while he himself does good deeds and says, ‘surely I am a Muslim” (Quran 41: 33 ).
    • Prophet (pbuh) said: “Whoever directs someone to do good will gain the same reward as the one who does good” (Muslim). “Whoever goes to mosque not desiring except to learn or teach what is good has the reward of a pilgrim who completed hajj” (Tabarani).
  • Believers should try to know and follow Islam  in Ramadan as much as they can and then continue throughout the year:
    • Allah says: “O believers! Enter into Islam completely and do not follow the footstep of saitan, surely he is your open enemy” (Quran 2:208 ).
    • Muslims should follow Islam completely throughout the year. It is not acceptable that a believer follow something from Islam and something from manmade law or other religion. Believers need to remember one of the first 3 question in grave is: ‘what is your religion?  Only those believers who know Islam, accepted it completely will be able to reply, ‘Islam is my Religion’.
    • As stated above, when believers focus on the purpose of fasting; they surely get essence of Taqwa in each action in Ramadan. These type of worship makes soul pure and establishes Allah in the soul. That pure soul commands body and mind to implement Taqwa by obeying His Order throughout the year in every action

Result of Training of Fasting at the time of Prophet (pbuh) and now.

  1. Success of any action depends on achieving the purpose of that action. Righteousness in life is the purpose of Fasting. If a believer achieves righteousness and has the habit to practice righteousness throughout the year, then his Fasting has achieved the purpose and is successful.
  2. Goal of Muslims at the time of Prophet (pbuh) was to be righteous for the satisfaction of Allah through fasting, hajj, prayer and dhikr. They achieved righteousness with the help of these worship by the Training of Prophet (pbuh). They themselves and their society was the most righteous in the history of humankind. They were not only righteous in Ramadan but also was righteous in every action throughout the year. So, their training was successful and they achieved the purpose.
  3. Today also Muslims Fast by abstaining food, drink and sex from sunrise to sunset as was at the time of Prophet(pbuh). But we do not observe the righteousness in their activities of life as was in the early Muslims. Main reason for this situation is lack of right training to achieve Taqwa through worship. Many Muslim think that they have to do these worships to save themselves from Hellfire and go to Paradise. They do not take up these as a means of self correction to avoid wrong and do the right. There is no focus to be righteous in all action throughout the life through training of Fasting; as was in the case of early Muslims.
  4. Many Muslims think that by Fasting they will go to paradise but forgets that Allah has made Taqwa as condition for acceptance of Fasting. As a result, they do not pursue righteousness in all actions throughout the year. In many cases their life and society does not reflect Islam. The main reason of this failure is lack of Taqwa, which is the only purpose of Fasting. If life does not change to righteousness through worship, then there is no meaning of such worship.
  • Prophet (pbuh) said: “Whoever does not give up false speech and evil deed, while fasting, then Allah is not in need of his/her giving up food and drink” (Bukhari, Muslim). “There are many people who  Fast, get nothing from their Fast except hunger and thirst and there are many people who pray at night, get nothing from it except wakefulness” (Sunan Darami).


  • Every Muslim needs to practice vigorous Annual Training of many ritual worship (e.g., salat, dhikr, Quran study, charity etc.) during Ramadan with the aim to achieve the qualities of Taqwa. This training for Taqwa should be like the annual training of a soldier. After Ramadan believers should refresh their training everyday through daily prayer and good deed. This is like a soldier’s daily fitness training. If the believers maintain Taqwa throughout the year, then their Taqwa will give good result. If they do not maintain Taqwa their performance will be like a soldier, who does not work daily for fitness and at the end fails to face the enemy.
  • Religious leaders, Mosques, schools, Islamic organisations and national leaders all should work hand in hand to teach ritual worship as a means of acquiring righteousness in life, as the prophet (pbuh) did. They need to highlight benefits of ritual worship in this world and afterlife as well. They should teach righteousness practically, like parents teach a baby how to walk.
  • Success to make the people righteous, as stated as objective of fasting; is really a wonderful beneficial achievement for mankind. This is most rewarding and most honourable.
  • Allah says: “The good end is for the people of Taqwa” (Quran 20 : 132),“The most honourable person to Allah is one who has Taqwa” ( Quran 49 13 ).
  • This righteousness has two parts; do good deeds and abstain from wrong doing. Both are integral part of Taqwa. Allah wants the believers to achieve both . This is what the great Teacher of mankind, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has taught his nation. He said: “He who does not give up uttering falsehood and acting according to it, Allah has no need of his abstaining from food and drink” (Bukhari, Muslim), “He who performs salat (prayer), but his salat can not refrain him from obscenity and sinful act, he earns nothing but curse and distance from Allah through his salat” (Ibn Jarir)

Syed Md Jalal Uddin, Toronto

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