Sawm and the Fasting of Ramadan

What is Sawm?
Sawm or Fasting, during the holy month of Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam. The fast is an act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a richer perception of God. Sawm during Ramadan or any time is recognized as physically demanding but spiritually rewarding.

It is the duty of all healthy muslims to observe the fast for this whole month. It is done so that we will know what humility really is. Fasting is also an exercise in self-control whereby one's sensitivity is heightened to the sufferings of the poor.

Who is it prescribed upon?
Fasting of Ramadan is a worship act which ordained upon every adult Muslim, male or female if he/she is mentally and physically fit and not on a journey. Exceptions: women during their period of menstruation and while nursing their child, and also in case of travel and sickness for both men and women. If they are physically unable to do this, they must feed a needy person for every day missed.

Abstention and self control
Abstention means abstention completely from eating, drinking and intimate sexual contact from dawn to sunset and curbing even the smallest of evil intentions and desires.

It is not a month of starvation since nutrition and hydration are ensured at night although it is recommended to be taken in a mood of asceticism. As one conquers the daily habits and endures hunger and thirst, Ramadan furnishes a first class drill in self-restraint and will power (and what would humanity be if the faculty of self restraint is gone?)

Eating and Drinking
Ramadan also is a joyful month. Muslims break their fast at sunset with a special meal, iftar, "break-fast; "perform additional worship, tarawih, after evening prayer; and throng the streets in moods that are festive and communal.

Improving physical and mental health
A fast does have positive health benefits, the stomach has been working for 24 hours a day non stop fasting will give it a rest. Although beneficial to health it is regarded principally as a method of self-purification. By cutting oneself off from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person gains true sympathy with those who go hungry as well as growth in one's spiritual life. Fasting is a very enriching experience as one transcends the needs of our material component and cherishes the spiritual. The month feels like going "into maintenance" and is almost like charging your batteries for the rest of the year.

Teaching Mankind
It teaches man the principle of sincere love to God. Fasting teaches man patience, unselfishness, moderation, willpower, discipline, spirit of social belonging, unity and brotherhood.

It is not difficult to do so and this is only for one month. Is it too much to ask? The poor are forced to do it for the 24 hours a day all year round. When we know how lucky we are to live a comfortable live and our duty next is to help the poor

When does it occur?
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. It begins with the sighting of the new moon. The month of Ramadan is part of the lunar calendar, and since this is eleven days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, Ramadan comes eleven days earlier every year which allows fasting in various seasons and weather throughout a life time.

What happens at the End of Ramadan
Intensified worship and charity are a feature of the month. At its conclusion Muslims preform a a special collective morning prayer. Celebration start at the end of the Eid with a spirit of joyous achievement by four days of celebration called eid al-fitr, the feast of the Breaking of the Fast. Customarily, it is a time for family reunion and the favored holiday for children who receive new clothing and gifts from family members and friends.


 Source:University of Northumbria at Newcastle. Islamic Society.