About Fasting

(Prof. Dr. Ayhan SONGAR)

It is the greatest heedlessness to see the fast as a simple diet. Actually, we are not going on any diet by eating at the nighttime the two meals that we normally eat at daytime. The fast is a worship that Allah commanded with the verse:

O you who believe! Prescribed for you is the Fast, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may deserve God's protection (against the temptations of your carnal soul) and attain piety. (The Qur'an, Al-Baqarah Surah, 2:183)

Worships are performed for Allah's pleasure, as a debt to Allah, and as a duty which must be fulfilled. For this reason, there must not be any expectations of returns or any anxiety of gaining a benefit.

What is described by Islam as Nafs'al-Ammarah (the evil commanding soul) and human's struggle against it, is also mentioned in many philosophical doctrines, in biological and psychological theories and schools. Whether we accept the term “subconscious” of the Psychoanalysts or we talk about instincts, or observe the conditioned and unconditioned reflexes with the reflex-oriented psychologists, in all of them we will see Nafs'al-Ammarah, which is mentioned in Islam, and find the repetition and corroboration of it with different expressions. According to Islamic faith, the soul is created in order for humans to live, reproduce and to carry out their worldly dealings. However, at the same time, commandments are decreed for humans so that they will not obey their souls, but will control it, and will protect themselves from its harms by ruling over it.

Just as uncontrolled vapor pressure blasts its container, and if controlled, it drags the train along, so too does our evil commanding soul need certain mechanisms of restraint, control and regulation. And fasting comes first among those mechanisms. Allah says: “ Prescribed for you is the Fast, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may deserve God's protection...”

Many people asked me about the “benefits” of the fast and other worships. I never forget; on the eve of the last Ramadan, while I was going to the Tarawih Prayer (special extra 20-part prayer in Ramadan) at the first night, a young girl asked me: “There was no fast today; so what did you eat so much that you go to the tarawih prayer to digest it?” This girl was a Muslim child of a religious family; however, she was not aware of the meaning of the matter. She did not have the Islamic culture. She thought that the 20-part tarawih prayer was a kind of bodily exercise so as to digest the abundant meals eaten at iftar (meal eaten to break the fast after sunset). It was commanded by Allah, but for that particular aim, she thought. We cannot-God forbid-explain away the Divine Wisdom; but of course, it is possible to guess and to feel it. It is a very simple way of thinking to interpret the worships in such a low level.

(Assist. Doc. Dr. Irfan GÜNDÜZ)

The fast is the act of directing the heart toward Allah, through the exercises of the hand, tongue, and the lust (through controlling them).

Such a beautiful and holy month, which is the good tidings of salvation to the hearts which have been polluted with foul trickeries in the other eleven months of the year and which are heavily burdened under sins, is an invaluable opportunity to stick to the commandments and prohibitions of Islam in such a way as if we were seeing Allah, so that they rule over our souls. The times of fast such as Mondays and Thursdays of the week, the 13th, 14th, and 15th days of Arabic months, and the two months from the Month of Rajab to Ramadan are unfortunately forgotten by today's Muslims, and the prescriptions of dieting in newspapers are seen as reliable. Today, their own bodies rebel against those who are against the fast and force their owners to fast for a whole lifetime through dieting. However, would it not be better if they fasted on the days mentioned and followed a comfortable and peaceful life on the other days? Does that exemplary dilemma not show that the fast is a physiological requisite for human health.

(Doc. Dr. Emin IŞIK)

All the nutritions that we take in mixed into the blood after being digested and via blood vessels, they spread around all our body. Our Prophet said: “The devil enters inside humans through blood vessels.” In his work Ihya, Imam Ghazali says, with reference to that hadith, that the devil attacks humans through their lust and material desires. It is because the helping forces of the devil in us are the lustful desires, and the lust becomes more powerful through eating and drinking. The hadith above clearly explains how the material forces are utilized by the devil. Again, our Prophet said: “Weaken the means of the devil by fasting.” And thus he wanted us to attenuate and lessen our animal desires. There is a fine point in saying “weaken” rather than “cut down” or “stop” which points to the aim of fasting in Islam. For what Islam demands is not the eradication of lustful powers altogether but taming them. Our Prophet also said that the soul is our mount, and that it has certain rights on us. A Muslim should act toward his/her soul like a roughrider, who tries to tame his horse. S/he will neither let it go astray by satisfying it too much, nor make it too feeble with too much hunger to do any work. For the aim is not to stay hungry, but to tame and to control, and the fast is just the means.

The fast Islam asks for is a worship which everybody can easily perform. By commanding something that everybody can do, Islam did not demand something that only a few very pious people in the community could do and the rest could not. Islam aims that the individuals of the community go through the same taming all together and that the morals in the society improve. In this respect, the fast is a worship made obligatory for everybody just like the obligatory prayers. The Qur'an says, “ Prescribed for you is the Fast, as it was prescribed for those before you...” (The Qur'an, Al-Baqarah Surah, 2:183) and uses a different and more general expression than the expressions it uses to inform about other obligatory worships. All communities and all the humanity are addressed, which is because the fast concerns the whole humanity and is a requisite of being human.

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