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Christianity, Islam, Jews, Judaism, Religion, Sprituality

Fasting: The 4th Pillar of Islam

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Islam is based on the following five (principles), which are also the forms of worship; the first two (Shahada & Salah) are daily, next two (Zakat & Saum) are annual and the last Hajj (Pilgrimage to Makka)  is once in life:-
1.   To testify (Shahada) that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad(peace be upon him) is Allah’s Apostle. This is a spiritual form of worship.
2.  To perform (iqamat as Salah), five canonical daily prayers. This is physical, spiritual and social for m of worship in congregation.
3.  To pay Zakat (obligatory alms), a financial, social and spiritual form of worship.
4.  To observe Saum  (fast) during the month
of Ramadan, a physical and spiritual form of worship.
5.  To perform Hajj (Pilgrimage to Makka once in life time if one can afford financially and physically). This form of worship has physical, financial, social and spiritual aspects.

FASTING; THE 4TH PILLAR OF ISLAM

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Every year in the month of Ramadan, all Muslims fast from early morning till sunset, abstaining from food, drink,
and sexual relations (with wife).
It is a unique Islamic way of worship which creates sincere love to God. Fasting
infuses creative sense of hope, devotion, patience, unselfishness, moderation, willpower, wise saving, sound budgeting, mature adaptability, healthy survival, discipline, spirit of social belonging, unity and brotherhood.
The
tradition of Fasting as a unique form of worship, different form Prayer and Zakat. This is very old form of worship which existed in very old societies. It is mentioned in Qur’an: “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, even
as it was prescribed for those before you, that ye may ward off (evil);”(Qur’an;2:183).

Fasting Mentioned in Bible:

Prophet Jonah (Younas, peace be upon him) was sent to one of the nations in the area of the old civilizations of Nineveh and Babylon. His people initially denied him but later followed him. It is mentioned in the Bible: “So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.”(Jonah; 3:5-8).“And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.  And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.”(Exodus; 34:27-28). “And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on
the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you: For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD.”(Leviticus; 16:29-30).
“Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the LORD, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.” (Judges;
20:26). “And they mourned, and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son,
and for the people of the LORD, and for the house of
Israel; because they were fallen by the sword.”(2 Samuel; 1:12).“David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth.” (2 Samuel; 12:16). “And the LORD spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying, Let the children of Israel also keep the Passover at his appointed season. In the fourteenth day of this month, at even, ye shall keep it in his appointed season: according to all the rites of it, and according to all the ceremonies thereof, shall ye keep it.”(Numbers; 9:1-3). “But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.” (Psalms; 35:13).“Therefore go thou, and read in the roll, which thou hast written from my mouth, the words of the LORD in the ears of the people in the Lord’s house upon the fasting day: and also thou shall read them in the ears of all Judah that come out of their cities.” (Jeremiah; 36:6). “Therefore also now, says the LORD, turn you even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And tear your hearts, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and relents from sending calamity”.(Joel; 2:12-13). “And the word of the LORD of hosts came unto me, saying, Thus said the LORD of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.” (Zechariah; 8:18).“Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”(Mathew; 16:16-18).“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” (Acts; 13:2-3). “And he (Jesus) said unto them (disciples), This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”(Mark; 9:29). “Howbeit this kind goes not out but by prayer and fasting”(Mathew; 17:21). “And he (Jesus) said unto them (disciples), This kind can come forth by nothing, but by
prayer and fasting”(Mark;
9:29).

Significance of Fasting (Saum) in Islam:

The significance of Fasting has been emphasized in Qur’an: “The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the Criterion (of right and wrong). And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, (let him fast the same) number of other days. Allah desires for you ease; He desires not hardship for you; and (He desires) that ye should complete the period, and that ye should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that peradventure ye may be thankful.” (Qur’an;2:185). Narrated by Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “Allah said, ‘All the deeds of Adam’s sons (people) are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.’ Fasting is a shield or protection from the fire and from committing sins. If one of you is fasting, he should avoid sexual relation with his wife and quarreling, and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say, ‘I am fasting.’ By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, the unpleasant smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord; then he will be pleased because of his fasting.”(Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 3.128).

Apart from obligatory one month fasting in Ramadan; the voluntary   fasting brings higher rewards if done on every Monday and Thursday of every week, three days in the middle of each Islamic month, six days after Ramadan following the Feast Day and a few days of the two months before Ramadan.   The Muslims have been allowed to eat (Sehri) till early morning, thereafter they abstain from eating and drinking till sunset (Maghrib). Muslims  take special care to avoid all bad and prohibited acts and sins and try to do all good acts to seek pleasure of Allah. Extra prayers (Tawraweeh) are offered after Isha prayer, in which the prayer leader (Imam ) complete one recitation of Qur’an in this holy month. The Muslims under take extensive recitation of Qur’an on daily basis to complete at least one recitation of whole Qur’an in the holy month of Ramadan.  Fasting in the month of Ramadan is a an act of worship which is obligatory on every adult Muslim, male or female who are mentally and physically fit and not on a journey. Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are pregnant, menstruating or nursing are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year. If they are physically unable to do this, they must feed a needy person for every day missed. Children begin to fast (and to observe the prayer) from puberty, although many start earlier.  Although the fast is most beneficial to the health, it is regarded principally as a method of self-purification. By cutting oneself off from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person gains true sympathy with those who go hungry while growing the spiritual life. Revelation of Qur’an was started during this month, the last tend days are specially revered because ‘The Night of Power’ (Lailatulqadar) is expected to fall in this period. Allah says: “We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the night of Power: And what will explain to thee what the Night of Power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand Months. Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by Allah’s permission on every errand: Peace!… This until the rise of Morn!”(Qur’an;97:1-5). Some Muslims perform aitekaf  by staying and spending last ten days & nights in the mosque in solitude for devotion and prayers as practiced by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). At the end of Ramadan (month of fasting) the feast of Eid-ul-fitr is celebrated by offering special prayer and paying alms (fitrah) to the poor

Read more onIslam, The Legacy of Abraham מורשתו של אברהם

The Essence of Fasting!
By: Khwaja Mohammad Zubair

Fasting in the Holy month of Ramadan is a devotional exercise, which purifies the soul and equips one for a sustained relationship with God where fear of Allah remains supreme. If performed with faith and sincerity, fasting, above all, helps us in becoming a good human being – no wonder all religions one way or other prescribe fasting. It is common knowledge that fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam (the other four being Iman, prayer, Haj and Zakat). The blessed month of Ramadan is the month of prayers, the month of charity, the month of piety, the month of Quran and, above all, the month of introspection and self-reform. It is especially during this month that Muslims strive to do all the good they can, by all the means they can, in all the ways they can, in all the places they can, to all the people they can.With the motto of “do all the good”, it is necessary today for the Muslims all over the world to resolve to make a concerted effort to become a good human being, to achieve the excellence of character, to improve their general behaviour and to develop an exceptionally powerful moral sense and a fierce confidence that they know right from wrong – even if what is right is not always immediately attainable. This is the real requirement of this age and of this holy month.The basic moral values of Islam are: compassion, mercy and peace. With the overpowering fear of God in our heart and mind for self-righteousness that fasting breeds and, equipped with the moral values of Islam, Muslims can do wonders to tame the world and bring back the lost glory.What comes to mind, first and foremost, is compassion and how it can turn us into good human beings. The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.It is necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and emphatically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism or self-interest to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others – even our enemies – is a denial of our common humanity.The best place to begin our study of the compassionate tradition in Islam is, of course, the Holy Quran and the life of Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Muslims must contemplate the signs (Ayat) of God’s benevolence in all the wonders of the created world. Because of Allah’s generosity, there was order and fertility where there could have been chaos and sterility. As they learned to appreciate the overwhelming kindness of God, Muslims would be inspired to imitate Him; they would want to give graciously to all God’s creatures and cloak themselves in the virtues of compassion, developing a caring and responsible spirit, especially for the weak and vulnerable members of society.Every recitation of the Holy Quran begins with an invocation to Allah, the Compassionate and the Merciful. The fundamental message of the Quran is a call to practical compassion and social justice; it is wrong to build up a private fortune and good to share your wealth fairly, and work hard to build a just and decent society, where everybody is treated with respect. From the very beginning of the Holy Prophet’s mission, Zakat made charity to the poor an essential part of Muslim life. Faith is not merely an intellectual acceptance of a set of doctrines about God. The earliest Surahs repeatedly emphasised the fact that a man or woman of faith was one who performed the “deeds of justice” (Salihat).Every Muslim knows all this, but we all need to make a conscious effort to remind ourselves of these basic truths. The Quran, itself, is just such a reminder. It says again and again that human beings are not essentially bad, they are just forgetful. Once the compassion is reinstated at the heart of the religious, moral and social life, all the other contentious issues that cause dissensions among the faithful can be seen in proper perspective.

The writer is a freelance columnist. This article has been reproduced from the Khaleej Times.

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/columns/21-Jul-2012/the-essence-of-fasting

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