What is Sawm in Islam?
Sawm is an Arabic word that means to fast. In Islam it means abstaining from eating, drinking and sexual intercourse from sunrise to sunset. Allah says:
وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ الْخَيْطُ الْأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الْخَيْطِ الْأَسْوَدِ مِنَ الْفَجْرِ ۖ ثُمَّ أَتِمُّوا الصِّيَامَ إِلَى اللَّيْلِ ۚ
And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread of night. Then complete the fast until the sunset. (2:187)
It is an obligation for Muslims to fast the month of Ramadan. Allah says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous
The reward, benefits and virtues of Fasting the Month of Ramadan are great because muslims are engaged in worshipping Allah through fasting, praying at night, giving sadaqah and reciting Quran. The Prophet (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said:
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ : أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ كَانَ يَقُولُ الصَّلَوَاتُ الْخَمْسُ وَالْجُمْعَةُ إِلَى الْجُمْعَةِ وَرَمَضَانُ إِلَى رَمَضَانَ مُكَفِّرَاتٌ مَا بَيْنَهُنَّ إِذَا اجْتَنَبَ الْكَبَائِرَ
The five prayers, and one ramadan to another is an expiation for the sins in between as long as the person avoids the major sins.
Fasting the month of Ramadan is an obligation for the person who meets the following conditions:
- above the age of puberty,
- sound mind,
- resident (a traveller is not obliged to fast but if he /she does it is valid),
- healthy (an ill person is not obliged to fast but if he /she does it is valid),
- not menstruation or post natal bleeding (haram to fast and not valid if they did)
The Muslim begins the fast when the new moon has been sighted or if it is not sighted when the month of Sha’baan has completed 30 days.
The intention to fast the month of Ramadan must be present in the night otherwise the fast will not be valid. The Prophet (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Whoever does not have the intention to fast before the Fajr then there is no fast for him”
Who has to fast and Who doesn’t have to fast
There are valid reasons that make it permissible for a person to break their fast. They are:
Chronic Illness that prevents fasting. This person doesn’t fast and feeds a poor person for every day of the month
Temporary Illness which is made worse by fasting or which makes fasting difficult. This person breaks the fast and makes it up afterwards.
If fasting when travelling is going to cause difficulty or illness then it is disliked to fast. It is better to break the fast and make up the days. However if fasting is not going to cause any difficulty, for example because the day is short and the journey is by train, then the person has the choice to fast or to break his / her fast.
Menstruation and Post Natal Bleeding
It is prohibited for a woman to fast when she is on her menstruation or post natal bleeding. She must break the fast and make up the days later.
Breastfeeding and Pregnancy
If a breastfeeding or pregnant woman is afraid that fasting will lead to some harm to her or the baby then she is permitted to break the fast and must make up the days later.
Things that break the fast
The following list of things break the persons fast
- Eating and Drinking intentionally
- Sexual Intercourse
- Intentional Vomitting
- Hijaamah (Cupping)
- Menstruation and Post Natal Bleeding
Every Muslim is required to do their best to make the most of the month of Ramadan. The aim of fasting is not just hunger and thirst but to increase in Emaan by avoiding all the things that are forbidden and doing more good acts like offering more prayer, giving more sadaqah, reciting more Quran.
The Prophet Muhammad (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said: Whoever does not leave false speech and actions of ignorance, Allah has no need of him to leave his food and drink.