The ''torture'' of fasting?

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They Ask Us About
The Torture of Fasting
How Do We Answer?

:Why do Muslims 'torture' themselves during the month of Ramadhan by going without food, water and intimate relations?

QUESTIONS? - JUST ASK ISLAM.com

Bismillah Rahman Raheem
.Your Question :

:Why do Muslims 'torture' themselves during the month of Ramadhan by going without food, water and intimate relations?

. Answer:
Before we begin, it is important to begin with the name of Allah and send the prayers and blessings on His last prophet, Muhammad, peace be upon him. (Bismillah Rahman Raheem, was salat was salam ala rasoolulah). Then it is equally important to mention that it is only Allah who has all Knowledge. (Allahu 'Alim).

 

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Now here is an example of how you might answer folks with questions:
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Thank you for your interest in Islam and the Muslims.

It is our duty and privilege to present the truth and proof about Islam and what it represents.

We desire to clear up misconceptions and misunderstandings about Islam to help others see the true message that came with all of the prophets from Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, peace be upon them all.

The message is: "Laa elaha illa lah" (none has the right to be worshipped except Allah).

Answer the question simply and nicely without getting emotional.
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Now to the answer for your question regarding the reason for Muslims going through 'torture' in Ramadhan.

It should be noted we do not suggest to even discuss the issues of the five pillars of Islam until the person is already familiar with the tawheed and has accepted that there could be no other god to worship, except Allah. Discussing other issues related to Islam, without the correct understanding of who Allah is and what Islam actually means can be very counter productive and is not based on the way of the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

It is narrated that the prophet, peace be upon him, was dispatching Mu'adh bin Jabal to got to the people of Yemen to invite them to Islam. It is stated that he told Mu'adh, "I'm sending you to a land of Christians, teach them tawheed (monotheism)." He also told him to teach them about Allah being One, first and then if they accept that, tell them about the salat (prayers) and then if they accept that, tell them about fasting, etc.

Having stated all of this for clarification let me also mention you might like to visit our site on the subject of fasting at: http://www.islamtomorrow.com/islam/sawm.htm
This is what is mentioned on the page:

Sawm (Fasting the Month of Ramadhan)
The fourth pillar of Islam is fasting. Allah prescribes daily fasting for all able, adult Muslims during the whole of the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the lunar calendar, beginning with the sighting of the new moon.

Exempted from the fast are the very old and the insane. On the physical side, fasting is from first light of dawn until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations. On the moral, behavioral side, one must abstain from lying, malicious gossip, quarreling and trivial nonsense.

Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are menstruating, pregnant, or nursing are permitted to break the fast, but must make up an equal number of days later in the year. If physically unable to do so, they must feed a needy person for each day missed. Children begin to fast (and to observe the prayers) from puberty, although many start earlier.

Although fasting is beneficial to the health, it is regarded principally as a method of self-purification. By cutting oneself off from worldly pleasures and comforts, even for a short time, the fasting person gains true sympathy for those who go hungry regularly, and achieves growth in his spiritual life, learning discipline, self-restraint, patience and flexibility.

In addition to the fast proper, one is encouraged to read the entire Qur'an. In addition, special prayers, called taraweh, are held in the mosque every night of the month, during which a whole section of the Qur'an (Juz') is recited, so that by the end of the month the entire Qur'an has been completed. These are done in remembrance of the fact that the revelation of the Qur'an to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was begun during Ramadan.

During the last ten days - though the exact day is never known and may not even be the same every year - occurs the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr). To spend that night in worship is equivalent to a thousand months of worship, i.e. Allah's reward for it is very great.

On the first day of the following month, after another new moon has been sighted, a special celebration is made, called 'Id al-Fitr. A quantity of staple food is donated to the poor (Zakat al-Fitr), everyone has bathed and put on their best, preferably new, clothes, and communal prayers are held in the early morning, followed by feasting and visiting relatives and friends.

There are other fast days throughout the year. Muslims are encouraged to fast six days in Shawwal, the month following Ramadan, Mondays and Thursdays, and the ninth and tenth, or tenth and eleventh of Muharram, the first month of the year. The tenth day, called Ashurah, is also a fast day for the Jews (Yom Kippur), and Allah commanded the Muslims to fast two days to distinguish themselves from the People of the Book.

While fasting per se is encouraged, constant fasting, as well as monasticism, celibacy, and otherwise retreating from the real world, are condemned in Islam. Fasting on the two festival days, 'Id al-Fitr and 'Id al-Adha, the feast of the Hajj, is strictly forbidden.


Allah Subhannah wa Tala (God Almighty) tells us in His "Last Testament" to mankind (the Quran):

"O you who believe, fasting has been ordered for you as it was ordered for the people before you that you may attain righteousness (God consciousness)." (Quran, 2:183)

The statement is very clear and even in the translation there is no way to misunderstand these 4 points:

1. This is only for believers
2. It is an order from God
3. It was ordered previously for believers (for Jews and Christians)
4. The purpose is to make us more aware of Almighty God.

The idea of "torture" by fasting is a bit ridiculous if you consider, it is always voluntary. No one is forced to fast or pray or even believe for that matter. The idea is if you truly believe in the One True God and you are seeking to please Him, there are things He has prescribed for you to do thereby demonstrating your willingness to obey Him.

While a person is staying away from food and drink and keeping away from their spouse there are physical feelings within the body that make one conscious of the fact they are not doing the things they would normally do. But this is not the primary target for Muslims. There is something far more important going on while fasting in Islam.

Lying, cheating, gossiping and other evil acts are forbidden at any time for a Muslim, but they are stressed even more while one is fasting. The additional staying away from some very bad habits is very much needed to accompany this fasting otherwise the fasting is not accepted.

The prophet, peace be upon him, is reported to have said what translates into English, whoever does not keep himself from lying, backbiting, cheating, etc. does not need to leave his food and stand in the night for prayers -- as he will only be hungry and tired (or words to that affect). Immediately, we see the concept of doing without and sacrificing anything is not going to be accepted if it is not in total compliance with what Allah has prescribed. The fasting and extra praying in Ramadhan is only of value to the believers when they are totally submitting to Allah on His terms and this is not something to take for granted.

Some may question the health issues surrounding the fasting. They may wonder if it is safe for a person to leave off eating and drinking for such a period of time. The answer from medical and health journals is very clear, in fact it is something recommended for people who are accustomed to overeating or eating too frequently. There are many books on the subject of fasting written by highly respected doctors and health care practitioners. Giving the digestive system a chance to "rest" during daylight hours while continuing to work as usual is something prescribed for many patients under a doctors care. This is particularly true in cases of overweight and poor diets. Junk food is usually consumed much less when a person is fasting because they feel the need for good and wholesome food and drink when breaking the fast and before entering the fasting in the mornings. Naturally all of this can provide better nourishment and build stronger bodies.

There is a provision in the Quran for those who are not able to fast due to being ill or on a journey. This concession from Allah is very wide and allows for those who are experiencing temporary as well as permanent difficulties with fasting and for those who are traveling and not able to eat properly before the morning begins or when the fasting is supposed to end. Allah Knows full well what He has created and what their needs are and these provisions are very clear for those who are not able to stay away from food and drink whether for medical or other reasons. Someone could feed others, especially the poor, if they are not able to fast themselves and they can keep up with the days missed in cases where they are able to make up these days later. All of this is acceptable, as the most important thing with Allah is the intention of the individual.

This brings us back to the main subject, willingness to serve the Lord on His terms. If anyone is sincere in their beliefs and is trying to follow through with the correct actions prescribed by the Almighty, then this person can hope for a good experience and many rewards on the Day of Judgment from his Lord.

From all of this we should be able to better understand that Islam is coming with two very important attributes:
1. Rights
2. Limits

Regarding the 'rights', the first and foremost right of all in Islam, is Allah's right over us that we would not set up partners with Him in our worship. The second 'right' is the right of the prophet, peace be upon him, to be followed as the example sent by Allah to present us with the correct message of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable and what is meant by the revelations of Allah.

The next 'right' is the rights of the parents over the children, to be obeyed and listened to and to honor and respect them in all matters except if they try to have us set up false worship with unknown gods other than Allah.

The rights are extending over into everything we do throughout our entire life and there is nothing that we will encounter except that Allah has made a provision for it in His Book or in the example of the life of our beloved prophet, peace be upon him.

Limits are there as well. We are allowed to eat and drink anything we like, except the forbidding things like pigs, animals dying in certain ways and wine. And we are allowed to eat at any time, except during Ramadhan during the daytime with the exceptions mentioned above.

If a person does not wish to follow what Allah wants for them, then Allah is in no need of them anyway. The order for fasting was after all, only for "You who believe."

 

Thanks for your questions. Answers are based on Quran & Teachings of Muhammad, peace be upon him. All answers and advice are based on information provided. We are not responsible for incorrect information from the questions.
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Comments   

#1 sk 2012-01-31 02:58
by fasting you will achieve piety. you also learn patience & perserverance through discipline. by fasting you will remember those who are hungry or those who don't get 3 meals daily & you will try to help them. we shouldn't take our sustanance for granted & try not be wasteful.

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