Why Do Muslims Fast? – Part 1

According to the Hijria calendar, last Friday (July 20th in international Gregorian calendar) was the first day of the Ramadhan. In Islamic teaching, it also means the first day of Ramadhan fasting. In this holy month, all Muslims adult, who fulfill certain requirements, are obliged to do the Ramadhan fasting. I have been asked some questions regarding this holy activity, which tempted me to share what I was taught about it, simply through this post, particularly in English for the consumption of international people who are often curious about this practice. What I share here are based on the Holy Al-Quran, from what I learned in school, and from Muslim teachers outside school. 🙂

So first thing first: what is fasting actually?
Basically, fasting means “to refrain from eating, drinking, and doing every other action that cancel one’s fasting, from dawn until dusk, under certain requirements, for the purpose of upgrading one Muslim’s piety.” It is a practice to control your appetite and desires.

Now I’m ready to answer questions. Before I answer the question “why”, I think I ought to share fasting actually is 😉

Am I required to do it?
Well, if you are a Muslim who’s perfectly mentally healthy, you have come of age (according to Islam, you are if you’ve had your first period or your first wet dream), and you are physically able to do it, you are not having your period, not carrying a baby, not lactating, and not on a long-distance travel (more than 81 km), then voila! You’ve fulfilled all the requirements! 😀

Okay, say I do fulfill the requirements. So I must do it?
Yes you must, since it’s obligatory in Islamic teaching. If you avoid doing it intentionally, your action will be accounted as ‘unacceptable’ and reprehensible. And you must however “repay” it another day.

Very well, tell me, how do I do it?
You can store some nutrition and energy stock for your body for the whole day, before dawn rises. This meal (called sahur or sahr in Arabic) is not obligatory, but highly recommended and merited. Usually, families eat together 1 hour before dawn, regular daily food, depends on your eating habit. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water. And say the intention prayers before dawn. When dawn rises (not sunrise), you must start refraining from all prohibitions. You can do your daily activities as usual. When dusk falls, you can eat and drink again, do all the fasting-prohibited things, again! 🙂

….. wait, what are those “fasting-prohibited” things? (there are more?!)
Well, yes. Unlike the common knowledge, fasting is not just about not eating nor drinking. Fasting is about patience and self-control. Basically, during fasting, you must refrain from two things; appetite and desires. Refraining from appetite means you cannot intentionally consume anything. In that sense, you cannot smoke either. Refraining from desires means that you cannot copulate, as well as for men ejaculate your semen intentionally. Those are the “controllable” things that, if you do it, will cancel your fast.

There are also some other things that are to be avoided, although they don’t necessarily cancel your fast. For example, being too emotional or expressing excessive anger. Or being negative-thinking towards another person. These, which are rather bad attitude, are the behaviors disliked by Allah, thus doing one during fasting will reduce the value of your fast in His eyes.

Okay I get it. So  no smoke, no puking, no sex (even if done without desire?? — just asking). What do you mean those are the “controllable” things?
There are some uncontrollable circumstances, such as having your period and giving birth, losing your mind (seriously–in the sense of becoming ‘really’ insane), and apostatizing from Islam. Under these circumstances, your fast will be cancelled automatically. (Oh and yes, no sex even without desire — just answering :p).

So no eating, drinking, even no sex, nothing, for how long, 12 hours or more?!
Since the duration follows the movement of the sun, how long you need to fast depends on where you are and in which season the Ramadhan month falls. For example, this year, in equatorial countries like Indonesia, you do it from around 04.50 to 17.50 — that’s about 13 hours. In Europe, this year Ramadhan falls in summer when the days are longer. It starts from around 03.45 to 21.00. So, around 17 hours. There’s a global timetable on IslamicFinder.org.

Oh have mercy! 13, 14, 17 hours without anything?! That sounds terrifying!
it does. But you know what, if you’re committed, and do it wholeheartedly, and you’re willing to learn the wisdom and gain all the powers, after one or two days you’ll see and feel that it’s not that terrifying, and not that hard. 🙂

to be continued..

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