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Introduction to Fasting by Dr Khalifa Ezzat

Ramadan and Fasting

10 April 2020

What Is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and the month in which the Qur'an was revealed. Ramadan is the month of worship, the month of helping the needy through charity and the month of compulsory fasting. Fasting Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and became obligatory on Muslims during the 2nd year after the Hijrah [migration of the Prophet from Makkah to Madinah]. Therefore, the Prophet fasted nine Ramadans in his lifetime. The command to fast was revealed in the month of Sha'ban [the month immediately preceding Ramadan].

Sighting of the Moon

It is a collective duty on the Muslims to make an effort to sight the moon of Ramadan on the 28th of Sha'ban. Muslims should depend on sighting the moon based on the naked-eye or astronomic calculation. The Prophet [pbuh] himself instructed, ‘Begin the fast on the sighting of the moon and break the fast likewise, but if the sky is cloudy [on the 29th of Sha'ban], then estimate it [by completing] 30 days of Sha'ban' [Muslim]. Muslim scholars and scholars of astronomy agreed that astronomic calculation is a science that is based on observation of the position of the sun and the moon; a scientific basis, not on Tanjīm [astrology]. Muslim scholars also agree that sighting the moon with the naked-eye is the fundamental basic criteria and there is no need for astronomic calculation if the moon is seen clearly. If sighting with naked-eye is not certain or in conflict with calculation, then decision by means of sighting solely with the naked-eye will not be acceptable and calculation should be taken into consideration.

What Is the Definition of Fasting?

The literal meaning of fasting [Sawm] is to restrain oneself from something. The technical meaning is to abstain from all those things that are forbidden during the time of fasting which is from the break of dawn to the sunset and to do this with the intention of fasting. Fasting in Islam involves abstaining from all bodily pleasures between dawn and sunset. It also includes abstaining from doing bad deeds, evil actions and bad manners. Fasting is not unique to Muslims. It has been practiced for centuries by Christians, Jews, Confucianists, Hindus, Taoists, and Jains. God states this fact in the Qur'an: 'O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may develop God-consciousness' [2:183].

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