The Significance of Fasting
Allah has made man a combination of body and soul, of animality and spirituality. In his nature are present all the physical and carnal propensities that are peculiar to animals yet there, also, dwells within him the luminous element of spirituality which is the characteristic quality of the supernal beings of the Celestial World, the angels. The success and salvation of man depends upon the subordination of the animal part of his nature to the heavenly part and the keeping of his sensual instincts and desires within proper limits Such a thing can be possible only when the corporeal aspect of the human personality renders habitual obedience to the celestial aspect instead of pulling against it. The main aim of Fasting is to make the carnal urges and inclinations subservient to the Divine commandments and spiritual ideals, and since it is also the chief end and object of Apostleship and the Shariat, Fasting was prescribed in all the earlier Canonic Laws as well. While giving the command of Fasting to the Muslims, the Qur’an declares:
“O ye who believe ! Fasting is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you, that ye may ward off (evil).” (II : 183)
Be that as it may, as Fasting is most efficacious for the disciplining of the self and a special means to the promotion of the strength and ability to subordinate the carnal appetites to the Divine injunctions and spiritual values, it had also been enjoined upon all the former religious communities though there was some difference in the duration, etc., of the fasts in view of their individual needs and circumstances. For the last of the Ummahs, i.e. the Muslims, Fasting for a month in the year from sunrise to sunset has been prescribed which definitely is the most appropriate, moderate and reasonable arrangement with reference to the aforementioned objects in the Current Age. The aim of moral and spiritual disciplining and inculcation of the virtue of self-restraint could not be realised had it been less than that. If, on the other hand, the time and duration of Fasting were longer, as for example food and drink were permitted only at the break of day or fasting was ordered for two or three months in succession in a year, it would have been unendurable for most of the people, and also, injurious to health.
Again, Allah has prescribed Fasting in the month in which the Qur’an was revealed and in which there, also has been concealed Lailatul Qadr (Night of Power) which is better than a thousand months in spiritual worth and blessedness. No other month could, obviously, be more suited for it. In this month apart from Fasting during the day , an extraordinary institution of worship has, also, been established which is functioning in the Ummat in the form of Taraweeh.
The joining together of the fasts of the day and Taraweeh in the night has resulted in an increase in the effulgence of the month of Ramadan which is felt by everyone in proportion to his inner awareness and perception.
FROM Meaning and Message of the Traditions
BY SHAYKH Mohammad Manzoor Nomani (RA)