Islamic Wisdom

The Effects of Fasting in Ramadan

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said about Ramadan:

"It is a month which Allah regards as the best of all months. Its days, in the sight of Allah, are the best of days; its nights are the best of nights; its hours are the best of hours." [2]

He also said: 

"Shall I tell you about something which, if you do it, will distance you from Satan as much as the distance between the east and the west?" They said, "O yes! Please do so," whereupon he (pbuh) said, "It is fast. It darkens his [Satan's] face, while charity breaks his back and the love for Allah's sake and assisting others in doing good deeds cut off his tail and seeking Allah's forgiveness splits his spine. For everything there is a zakat (purification), and the zakat of the bodies is fast."[3]

Name and root word:

'Ramadan' comes from 'Ramd' which means 'to burn'. 

Also, to make something 'armad' is to squeeze it and pound it between two rocks. A person fasting, by analogy, pounds his own nature between two rocks: hunger and thirst.

The Prophet said: "The month of Ramadan was named so because it tends to 'ramad' the sins, that is, burn them." [4]

He said, "Ramadhan burns the sins and faults as fire burns the wood”. [5]

Also, during this month, the demons among the devils are chained and fettered. 22

Why fast?

Fasting is not only of the body, but of the mind and soul. 

Actually, God really doesn't approve of mere abstention from food 13

"One who, while fasting, neither guards his tongue from telling lies nor refrains from doing bad deeds does not respect his fast...When you fast, you should not speak ill of anybody, nor should you be boisterous or noisy. If anybody speaks ill of you or tries to pick a quarrel with you, do not respond to him in the same manner; rather, simply tell him that you are fasting." 14

Fast is not only to abstain from eating and drinking...The Imam (as) continued to say, "When you fast, you should safeguard your tongues, lower your gaze, and should neither dispute with nor envy one another." 9

"Rather, adorn yourself with the dignity of the fast, and do not make your fasting day any different from the day when you do not fast." 10

Imam Baqir (AS) is also quoted saying that the Almighty has entrusted seven angels to keep each demon fettered till the end of the month of Ramadan. (22)

Syed Ali Khamenei said:
"Fasting requires toleration of hunger and thirst for long periods. To resist and struggle against the appetite for eating and drinking are difficult tasks requiring tremendous amount of resistance. In spite of possessing appetizing food and drinks, to be able to impose voluntary self-restrictions, to spend a long hot summer day with empty stomach and dry lips, of course, requires a lot of will power and strong determination.

Of course, for those who have tasted the sweetness of walking on the difficult road for the pleasure of Allah, and the sacred and exalted aims of humanity, all the above difficulties are desirable and tolerable." [6] Rather, it is sweeter than honey. 

"And whoever does good of his own free-will, it is better for him. And it is better for you that you fast, if only you knew," [2:184]

"Patience must be offered against those extremist tendencies which tempt us to enjoy eating and drinking on a hot dry day instead of fasting." [7]

A party of the Jews came to the Prophet (S.A.). The most learned among them put a few questions.

He asked: "What is the good to your people in that Allah has enjoined fast on them and that, too only for thirty days (excluding nights) whereas the other people had to fast for more than thirty days?"

The Prophet (S.A.) replied: "When Adam ate of that tree the fruit remained in his stomach for thirty days. So Allah enjoined upon his progeny to remain hungry and thirsty for that period, and the permission to eat in the night is Allah's grace. Adam also had to fast for so many days and Allah enjoined those fasts upon my people." 11

Also, the Prophet mentioned 7 benefits:

(1) If he has partaken of the forbidden food, it will be excreted after being digested.
(2) He will not be deprived of the mercy of Allah.
(3) He will share the compensation of his father's (Adam) fault
(4) Allah will grant him relief in his agony of death. 
(5) The observer of fast will not feel hungry and thirsty On the Day of Judgment.
(6) Allah will grant him deliverance from Hell fire on the day of Resurrection. 
(7) He will satisfy him with the sacred diet of Paradise. 12

Imam Ja'far Sadiq (AS) said: 
"If a person fasts during a hot day, and he suffers from thirst, Allah will assign 1,000 angels to wipe his face and convey to him glad tidings, and when he breaks his fast, Allah, the most Exalted, the most Glorified, addresses him with these words, "How sweet your smell and soul are! O My angels! Bear witness that I have forgiven him." [8]

Imam Ali (AS): "Fasting was enjoined so that the sincerity of the righteous may come to light." 15

When asked for the philosophy behind why Allah enjoined fasting, Imam Ja'far Sadiq (AS) replied: "Allah enjoined Fasting so that the rich and the poor may be equal. The rich never experience hunger that they may show mercy to the poor. The rich provide everything for themselves because of their wealth. Allah desired that His servants may be equal on this occasion and the rich may also feel hunger and suffer pain. He, therefore, enjoined fasting that the rich may be kind to the destitute and merciful to the hungry." 16

So, actually, Ramadan poses a solid chance of hope for the poor. 

More examples of it are here:

Imam Raza {A.S.) gave this reason for fasting that the observer of fast may feel the pain of hunger and thirst, and prove himself meek, humble, worthy of reward, hopeful and patient before Allah, and this trouble here may remind him of the hardships of the Hereafter. 17

During the month of Ramadan, the believers learn to curb their desires and check them against transgression, extravagance, and the yielding to the lower desires, all of which degenerate man and bring him to the pit of self-destruction and annihilation. 

Fast fosters a strong will, teaches patience and self-discipline, the ability to bear hardship and tolerate hunger and thirst. 

In short, it brings about a clear victory over one's illicit desires and selfish impulses. It regulates and systemizes the energies of instincts.

It trains the body to submit to lofty spiritual impulses. It safeguards the body's health by protecting it against extravagance. It grants its organs a respite so that they may be ready to resume their activities. As medical science has proved, it is a medicine for many bodily and nervous ailments. It is a moral education, a nourishment of supreme virtues. It teaches the believer to abandon vices, to control emotions and instincts, to curb the tongue against saying what is wrong or inappropriate and the conscience against contemplating upon wrongdoing or subversion. It promotes the spirit of unity among members of the fasting community; it teaches them humility and humbleness and instills within them the feeling of equality before Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. 

The rich have to observe it as well as the poor, the women as well as the men, the influential and powerful as well as the weak and downtrodden: they all have to observe the fast. It promotes the spirit of charity and compassion towards the poor and the needy, and it reminds each believer of the needs of other believers. Muslims share with each other Allah's blessings unto them. The believers strengthen their ties with the Almighty, since they express through fast a continuous desire to obey His Will and carry out His commandments. They also strengthen their ties with one another, since the month of Ramadan is the month of giving. It is the month for productive social interactivity. Islam places a great deal of emphasis on moral excellence during this holy month. 18

The institute of the fast is one of the signs of the Almighty's mercy on those who adhere to His divine creed and it is never meant to put a hardship on anybody. 

The Almighty does not gain any benefit from putting hardship on anyone; on the contrary, He always tries to pave the way of happiness for His servants in this life and the life to come, and sometimes He even "pushes" them to do what is good for them, as is the case with making the fast of the month of Ramadan obligatory on every believing man and woman. But if you afford this great month a sincere and profound welcome, you will receive your rewards in many, many ways both in the short life of this fleeting world and in the eternal abode, Insha-Allah. 19

Fasting also has scientific advantages. 

They have found that various glands secrete certain acids in the stomach on account of hunger and thirst and that these acids kill many a germ which produce different diseases. Statistics have also shown that several digestive and other diseases are less abundant among people who have the habit of fasting every year. 20

Fasting makes a thorough cleansing and purification of the stomach. 

The rewards for fasting are many. 

Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has said:

"Had you ever come to know about your rewards during the month of Ramadan, you would surely have thanked the Almighty a great deal more (than you usually do).
When the first night is over, Allah, the Almighty and the Exalted One, forgives the sins committed by all members of my nation, the ones committed in secrecy and the ones committed in public, and He elevates your status two thousand degrees and builds you fifty towns in Paradise.

On the next day, He rewards you for every step you take during that day with the rewards of one who adored Him for a full year and the reward of one of His prophets, and He will reward you as though you had performed the fast for a full year.

On the third day, the Exalted and Dear One grants you a dome in Paradise for each hair on your body, a dome of a white pearl on top of which are twelve thousand light houses and at the bottom of which are twelve thousand houses in each one of which there are one thousand beds and on each bed of which there is a nymph (huri) with large lovely eyes, each served by one thousand servants the head-covering of each one of them is better than this world and everything in it.
On the fifth day, He builds you in Paradise a million cities in each one of which there are seventy thousand houses, inside each one of which there are seventy thousand tables, and on each table there are seventy thousand bowls, and in each bowl there are sixty thousand types of food each one of which is different from the other.
On the sixth day, He will grant you in the Abode of Peace a hundred thousand towns in each one of which there are a hundred thousand rooms, in each room there are a hundred thousand beds of gold the length of each is a thousand yards, and on each bed is a hun wife with large lovely eyes whose hair has thirty thousand locks braided with pearls and sapphires, and each lock is carried by a hundred concubines.
On the seventh day, the Almighty grants you in the Garden of Bliss the rewards of forty thousand martyrs and forty thousand siddeeqs.
On the eighth day, Allah Almighty grants you the rewards of the good deeds of sixty thousand worshippers and sixty thousand ascetics.
On the ninth day, Allah, the Exalted One, gives you what is equal to what He gives a thousand scholars and a thousand devotees and a thousand warriors fighting for Allah in a foreign land.
On the tenth day, He gives you the fulfillment of seventy thousands of your worldly wishes and orders the sun, the moon, the stars, the animals, the birds, the beasts, every rock and every rain-drop, everything wet and everything dry, all fish in the oceans and all leaves on the trees, to pray for your forgiveness.
On the eleventh day, the Exalted and Mighty One grants you the rewards whereby He rewards one who performs the pilgrimage and 'umra four times and one who performs the pilgrimage with His prophets and the 'umra with every siddeeq or martyr.
On the twelfth day, He takes upon Himself to replace your sins with good deeds, and then He multiplies your good deeds many times and gives you the rewards of each of your good deeds a million times.
On the thirteenth day, Allah Almighty grants you what He grants the devotees of Mecca and Medina and bestows upon you an intercession for each and every stone and rain drop between Mecca and Medina.
On the fourteenth day, He treats you as though you had met and followed in the footsteps of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Solomon [peace be upon all of them], and as though you had worshipped the Almighty Allah in the company of His prophets for two hundred years.
On the fifteenth day, He fulfills ten of your worldly wishes and those of the hereafter and grants you what He granted Job (as), then He orders the angels who bear the 'Arsh to pray for your forgiveness and grants you on the Day of Resurrection forty lights: ten on your right, ten on your left, ten before you and ten behind you.
On the sixteenth day, the Almighty grants you sixty outfits to wear as soon as you abandon your grave and a she-camel to ride, and He will send a cloud to overshadow you to protect you from the heat of that Day.
On the seventeenth day, the Almighty Allah says: 'I have forgiven them and their parents and exempted them from having to undergo the hardships of the Day of Resurrection.'
On the eighteenth day, the Praised and Exalted One orders Gabriel, Michael and Israfil as well as the angels who bear the 'Arsh and all archangels to seek forgiveness for the nation of Muhammad (pbuh) till the next year, and He will also grant you on the Day of Resurrection whatever rewards He grants to those who participated in the Battle of Badr].
On the nineteenth day, all angels in the heavens and on earth will have already sought permission of their Lord to visit your graves and to bring you every day a present and a drink [as long as you remain in the barzakh].
So, if you complete your fast for twenty full days, the Almighty Allah sends you seventy thousand angels to protect you from every accursed devil, and He will have granted you for each day of your fast your rewards as though you fasted a hundred years, and He will set a ditch between you and hell and grant you the rewards of all those who recited the Torah, the Gospel, the Psalms and the Holy Qur'an, and will write for you for each feather on Gabriel the reward of a full year and will grant you the rewards of those who glorify Him at the 'Arsh and Kursi and will marry you to a thousand nymphs for each of the verses of the Qur'an.
On the twenty-first day, the Almighty expands your grave a thousand parasangs and lifts the darkness and loneliness of your graves and makes your graves look like the graves of the martyrs and your faces like the face of Joseph son of Jacob (as).
On the twenty second day, the Almighty dispatches the angel of death as He dispatches him to His prophets to remove your worldly worries and the torment of the hereafter.
On the twenty third day, you will pass on the Straight Path in the company of the prophets, the first to follow the prophets, and the martyrs, as if you had fed each orphan and clothed everyone who needed to be clothed.
On the twenty-fourth day, you will not leave this life before each one of you sees the place reserved for him or her in Paradise and is given the rewards of a thousand sick and a thousand who go back to their creed and will grant you the rewards of one who freed a thousand captives from the descendants of Ishmael (as).
On the twenty-fifth day, Allah will have built you under His 'Arsh a thousand green domes on top of each one of which is a tent of light. The Almighty and Exalted One will then say: 'O followers of Muhammad! I am your Lord and you are My servants! Enjoy the shade of My 'Arsh in these domes and eat and drink with enjoyment, for there will be no fear on you, nor will you grieve. O nation of Muhammad! By My Dignity and Greatness! I shall dispatch you to Paradise in a way which will amaze the first generations and the last, and I shall crown each one of you with a thousand light crowns, and I shall provide for each one of you a she camel whose reins are made of light, and in it are a thousand gold rings, in each is an angel looking after it, in the hand of each angel is a light rod so that he may enter Paradise without a reckoning.'
And on the twenty sixth day, Allah will look at you with compassion and will forgive all your sins except those of shedding innocent blood or robbing people's wealth, and He will grant you every day a thousand barriers against backbiting, lying and slandering.
On the twenty-seventh day, He will consider you as though you had aided every believing man and woman and clothed seventy thousand naked persons and equipped a thousand soldiers to camp in a foreign land to defend Islam, and as if you have recited every book Allah has revealed to His prophets.
On the twenty-eighth day, Allah will have built you in Paradise a hundred thousand light cities and granted you in the garden of bliss a hundred thousand silver mansions and a hundred thousand cities in each one of which there are a thousand rooms, and granted you in the garden of greatness a hundred thousand pulpits of musk inside each one of which there is a thousand saffron houses in each one of which there are a thousand beds of pearls and sapphiresand on each bed a wife of the huns with large lovely eyes.
So if you complete your fast till the twenty ninth day, the Almighty Allah will grant you a million quarters, inside each quarter is a white dome underneath which is a white camphor bed on which there are a thousand mattresses of green silk on each one of which there is a hun decorated with seventy thousand ornaments and crowned with eighty thousand locks each one of which is decorated with diamonds and sapphires.
So if you finish thirty complete days of fast, the Almighty will have granted you for each day the rewards of a thousand martyrs and a thousand foremost believers in His Prophets, and He will have assigned for you the rewards of fifty years of adoration, and He will have decreed a clearance for you from hell and a passage on the Straight Path and a security against the torment. One of the gates of Paradise is called al-Rayyan, and it shall never be opened before the Day of Resurrection. It will be opened for those among the nation of Muhammad (pbuh) who performed the fast. Ridwan, custodian of Paradise, will call out saying: 'O followers of Muhammad! Come to the al-Rayyan gate!' So he will let my nation enter Paradise through that gate.

Therefore, if one is not forgiven during the month of Ramadan, in which month can he be forgiven? There is neither will nor strength except from Allah; Allah suffices us, and what a great Helper He is!" 21

May Allah give us the faith to sincerely fast and take advantage of this month.

[1] Fast of the Month of Ramadan Philosophy and Ahkam: by Yasin T. Al-Jibouri International Islamic society of Virginia, Inc.
[2] Ibid. 7/22/2012
[3] p. 59, of al-Saduq's Amali (or Majalis) 
[4]Fast of the Month of Ramadan Philosophy and Ahkam: by Yasin T. Al-Jibouri International Islamic society of Virginia, Inc.
[6] Hadeeth Howl Al-Sabr, or, Discourse on Patience. Pg. 42.
[7]Ibid. Pg. 46
[8]Safeenat Al-Bihaar, vol.2, pg. 64
9 Bihaar al-Anwar Vol. 94, pg. 351
10 Ibid. Pg. 351-352
11 7/22/2012
12 Ibid. 7/22/2012
13 Fast of the Month of Ramadan Philosophy and Ahkam: by Yasin T. Al-Jibouri International Islamic society of Virginia, Inc.
14 Ibid. 7/22/2012
15 Nahj Al-Balagha
17 Ibid. 7/23/2012
18 Fast of the Month of Ramadan Philosophy and Ahkam: by Yas
in T. Al-Jibouri International Islamic society of Virginia, Inc.
19 Ibid. 7/23/2012
21Bihaar al-Anwar, Vol. 8, pg. 183-185
22 Thawab al-A'mal wa 'Iqab al A'mal, pg. 92