Islam is the religion of nourishment of faculties and every worship in Islam has a wisdom (and/or wisdoms), some of it may be apparent by texts and/or by the intellect.
On the other hand, some of these wisdoms may not be clear to some but may be clear to others from the people of knowledge, and this is why we are commanded to ask the people of knowledge in case we do not know.
The collective wisdoms in worship are all directed to the purification of the soul from its defects.
Every worship in Islam, done in the legal way, has its influence on the self, the degree of which however differs in accordance with the degree of attachment of the worshiper to Islam.
And when worship does not influence man's soul and actions then such worship is like a body without a soul.
Certainly fasting is one of the acts of worship in Islam and the month of Ramadan is the master of months.
It is a school for the believers, nourishing the heart as well as the tongue and the limbs.
Fasting this month in accordance with the way prescribed has many fruits to it. This includes:
1- firmness on the truth
2- increase in faith
3- strength in certainty
4- establishment of good manners
5- the manifestation of the actions of the heart from fear, hope, love and longing.
The blessings of this month are diverse and reflect on the creed of the Muslim and his manners, and it is a means of protection from deviation.
In it, the Muslim tries to fulfill the rights of Allah upon him as well as the rights of mankind in order to perfect his true slavery to His Creator, Allah.
The name Ramadan was given because it coincided with a time of the year when the sun vehemently heated the ground and the stones (this is known as ar ramdaa').
Meaning of Fasting
Linguistically fasting means al imsak [i.e., abstaining]. Allah, the Most High, says:
"...Verily! I have vowed a fast unto the Most Beneficent (Allah) so I shall not speak to any human being this day." [Qur’an, 19:26]
The meaning of the fast here is that she (Mariam as) will abstain from speaking to any human being, as explained in the Ayah itself.
The legal meaning of fasting is worshiping Allah by complying to his command to abstain from anything that constitutes a breach of fasting (such as food, drink, legal sexual intercourse, etc.) from daybreak until sunset.
Rulings on Fasting the Month of Ramadan
Fasting of Ramadan is obligatory as established by textual proofs from the
Qur’an and the Sunnah, as well as by way of the general consensus of the Muslims.
Proofs from the Qur’an: Ayahs 2:183-185
2:183 O you who believe! Observing As-Sawm [fasting] is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious).
2:184 [Observing Sawm] for a fixed number of days, but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days.
And as for those who can fast with difficulty, (e.g. an old man, etc.), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a Miskeen (for every day). But whoever does good of his own accord, it is better for him. And that you fast, it is better for you if only you know.
2:185 The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong). So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan i.e. is present at his home), he must observe Sawm that month, and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number [of days which one did not observe Sawm must be made up] from other days. Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you. (He wants that you) must complete the same number (of days), and that you must magnify Allah [i.e. to say Takbeer on seeing the crescent of the months of Ramadan and Shawwal] for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him.
Proofs from the Sunnah:
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Islam is founded upon five (pillars): The testimony that there is no true god worthy of worshiped except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, the establishment of Salah (prayers), the payment of Zakat (obligated charity), the fast of Ramadan, and the Pilgrimage to the House of Allah." [Bukhari and Muslim]
"If you see it (the crescent of the new moon of Ramadan) then fast." [Bukhari and Muslim].
Proofs from the general consensus of the Muslims:
There is decisive consensus amongst the Muslims that fasting of the month of Ramadan is an obligatory worship the knowledge of which is inevitably known to be of Islam.
Anyone who denies its obligation becomes a kafir (disbeliever) unless he lives in a remote place whereby he does not know anything about the rulings of Islam, then he is to be taught and if then insists, after the proof is established upon him, then he commits kufr (disbelief).
Anyone who abandons the fasting due to laziness while he testifies to its obligation then he is in a grave danger since some scholars consider him as an apostate kafir.
However the preponderating opinion is that he is not an apostate kafir but he is a rebellious fasiq (sinner) and he is indeed in a grave danger.
When Was Ramadan Ordained?
The command concerning the fasting of the month of Ramadan was in the second year after Hijrah [the migration of the Prophet (peace be upon him) from Makkah to Medina]. So the Prophet (peace be upon him) fasted nine years. Its ordainment was in two stages:
1- Giving a choice between fasting and feeding the poor, while giving preference for fasting over feeding
2- Decreeing fasting and abrogating the choice. Ayah 2:184 was abrogated by Ayah 2:185 [See above]:
"So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan i.e. is present at his home), he must observe Sawm that month."
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