The Purpose of Fasting in Islam

By Abu Amina Elias for

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

The purpose of fasting is to develop the quality of righteousness (taqwa) by abstaining from sinful deeds and training ourselves to control our desires.

Allah said:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا
كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you that you may become righteous. [Surah Al-Baqarah 2:183] The word taqwa comes from the root meaning “to guard” and it is variously translated as mindfulness, righteousness, and Godfearing piety. Fasting is meant to instill this virtuous quality within us. In this way, fasting acts as a shield which protects us from sin and ultimately from the punishment of Allah in the Hereafter.

Uthman ibn Abu Al-As reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

الصِّيَامُ جُنَّةٌ مِنْ النَّارِ كَجُنَّةِ أَحَدِكُمْ مِنْ الْقِتَالِ

Fasting is a shield from the Hellfire just like the shield of any of you in battle.

Source: Sunan Ibn Majah 1639, Grade: Sahih

Therefore, a Muslim must be especially careful to guard himself from all kinds of sin while he is fasting. He should abandon unbeneficial speech and especially argumentation. If anyone tries to argue with him, he should simply respond by saying he is fasting.

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

إِذَا أَصْبَحَ أَحَدُكُمْ يَوْمًا صَائِمًا فَلَا يَرْفُثْ وَلَا
يَجْهَلْ فَإِنْ امْرُؤٌ شَاتَمَهُ أَوْ قَاتَلَهُ فَلْيَقُلْ إِنِّي
صَائِمٌ إِنِّي صَائِمٌ

When one of you awakes in the morning for fasting, then he should not use obscene language or behave ignorantly. If anyone slanders him or tries to argue with him, he should say: Indeed, I am fasting! Indeed, I am fasting!

Source: Sahih Muslim 1151, Grade: Sahih

If a Muslims fails to protect himself from sins and unbeneficial speech while fasting, then his fasting has not achieved its purpose. Allah certainly does not need any one of us to fast, so a Muslim who sins while fasting has nullified the virtue of his fasting.

Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

مَنْ لَمْ يَدَعْ قَوْلَ الزُّورِ وَالْعَمَلَ بِهِ فَلَيْسَ لِلَّهِ
حَاجَةٌ فِي أَنْ يَدَعَ طَعَامَهُ وَشَرَابَهُ

Whoever does not give up false speech and evil deeds while fasting, then Allah is not in need of his leaving food and drink.

Source: Sahih Bukhari 1804, Grade: Sahih

In addition to abstaining from sin, a Muslim must use the exercise of fasting as a means to develop control of desires. If a Muslim can develop enough will power to abstain from eating and drinking during the day, then this will power will become strong enough to refuse sinful temptations at other times.

Ibn Mas’ud reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

يَا مَعْشَرَ الشَّبَابِ مَنْ اسْتَطَاعَ مِنْكُمْ الْبَاءَةَ
فَلْيَتَزَوَّجْ فَإِنَّهُ أَغَضُّ لِلْبَصَرِ وَأَحْصَنُ لِلْفَرْجِ
وَمَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَعَلَيْهِ بِالصَّوْمِ فَإِنَّهُ لَهُ وِجَاءٌ

O young men, if you are able to support a wife, then get married. Verily, it restrains the eyes and protects the private parts, but whoever is not able to do so then he has the duty to fast because
indeed it is a means of control.

Source: Sahih Muslim 1400, Grade: Sahih

Thus, fasting is a means of preventing the soul from fulfilling sinful desires and lusts. This quality of self-control is one of the reasons people enter Paradise.

Allah said:

وَأَمَّا مَنْ خَافَ مَقَامَ رَبِّهِ وَنَهَى النَّفْسَ عَنِ الْهَوَىٰ
فَإِنَّ الْجَنَّةَ هِيَ الْمَأْوَىٰ

As for him who feared to stand before his Lord and prevented the soul from lust, then his abode is Paradise.

Surah An-Naziat 79:40-41

Likewise, fasting should be a means of developing control of our anger. For this reason, Muslims should not argue or respond to slander while fasting.

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

لَيْسَ الشَّدِيدُ بِالصُّرَعَةِ إِنَّمَا الشَّدِيدُ الَّذِي يَمْلِكُ
نَفْسَهُ عِنْدَ الْغَضَبِ

The strong are not the best wrestlers. Verily, the strong are only those who control themselves when they are angry.

Source: Sahih Muslim 2609, Grade: Sahih

Moreover, fasting is a means for compassion for the poor and gratitude for the favors of Allah.

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

انْظُرُوا إِلَى مَنْ أَسْفَلَ مِنْكُمْ وَلَا تَنْظُرُوا إِلَى مَنْ هُوَ
فَوْقَكُمْ فَهُوَ أَجْدَرُ أَنْ لَا تَزْدَرُوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ

Look to those lower than you, and do not look to those above you, lest you view the favors of Allah as trivial.

Source: Sahih Muslim 2963, Grade: Sahih

The discomfort we feel while fasting should remind us of the suffering of those in poverty who do not enjoy food security or clean water. By reflecting on their situation, this should cause us to give in charity in order to relieve their suffering and to be grateful for the blessings of Allah.

Finally, by fulfilling the purpose of fasting, a Muslim will be rewarded with salvation in the Hereafter, protection from the Hellfire, and entry into Paradise. Every day somewhere a Muslim is emancipated from the Hellfire due to his virtuous fasting.

Jabir reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

إِنَّ لِلَّهِ عِنْدَ كُلِّ فِطْرٍ عُتَقَاءَ وَذَلِكَ فِي كُلِّ لَيْلَةٍ

Verily, Allah has people he redeems at the time of breaking fast, and that is during every night.

Source: Sunan Ibn Majah 1643, Grade: Hasan

We ask Allah Almighty to accept our fasting and instill in us virtues most pleasing to Him.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.

Edited from:
Website Builder