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The Purpose of Fasting
By:  Hassan A. Sheikh, Brielle, New Jersey

Ramadan is an Islamic month in between the months of Shaban and Shawal on the Islamic Lunar Calendar.  There are twenty-nine or thirty days in Ramadan, depending on the lunar cycle.  More importantly though,  Ramadan is a month when all Muslims fast.

Many non-Muslims inquire of the purpose of fasting.  Muslims fast to get closer to Allah.  Now, you may wonder how starving oneself takes you closer to Allah.  Fasting is not just about starving oneself of food.  When you fast you must also starve yourself of impure sights, sounds, and touches.  This is because if you allow yourself to be exposed to certain things your fast will be broken and you will have to fast for additional number of days, to make it up.

Fasting is a symbolism of how we are different from the other creations of Allah.  For example if a piece of meat was put before a man and a lion the lion would not stop and think that it might be a hunter's trap or that the meat was rotten whereas a man could stop to contemplate the consequences of his actions.  A man can tell the difference between fresh and rotten, good and bad, and right and wrong but lion cannot.  Fasting is a way for Allah to help us recognize this and promote this in daily life even after Ramadan.

The process of fasting is fairly simple.  You eat a little before dawn, or the night before.  This early breakfast is called ' Sehri '.  After Sehri you make your niyyat (intention )… " I am fasting to seek nearness to Allah . You do not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset.  At sunset you break your fast with water or dates, and then eat. This is called ' Iftar '..

So now you see that fasting is not merely giving up a meal; it is an exercise in delf-restraint-- to be able to say ' No ' to what is not allowed, to be good to others, to refrain from vain talk, and to strive to seek nearness to Allah.



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