O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous (The holy Quran, Chapter 2 Verse 183).
Ramadan is a month in the Islamic (hijri) calendar which is considered sacred by Muslims all over the world. There are many significant features of this month which supersede all other months. These are summarized below:
- Fasting in the month of Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam
- There is a night in the last third of the month which is better than a thousand months (night of decree)
- Allah sent down the Quran from the preserved book (Al-lawh al mahfooz) to the first heaven on the night of decree, after which it was revealed to prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) over 23 years
- Allah chains the devils, closes the doors of hell and opens the doors of heaven during this month
- Allah’s mercy and forgiveness are all-encompassing; humans can ask for forgiveness through fasting
- Fasting redeems people from the sins committed since the previous Ramadan as long as they are not major sins
- Fasting in Ramadan earns ten times the reward of fasting at any other time
- Any charity given in the month of Ramadan is rewarded 70 times more
Entering the gate of Ar-Rayyan
Ar-Rayyan is a special gate of heaven that Allah has designated for those who used to fast in Ramadan. There are eight gates of heaven, all designated for people who earned their reward by different means, such as charity, fasting, forgiving when they were wronged, steadfastness in prayer and for those who remembered Allah constantly.
This is a gate through which only the people who constantly fasted, struggling and striving to please Allah, can enter. There are whole communities in our world at present, who are persecuted for wanting to observe the religious requirement to fast during Ramadan. The freedom to practice religion is not available universally. For example, in the Xinjiang province of China, Muslims have been banned from fasting. The Muslim Uighur community of this region faces government censure, torture and persecution every year for observing the fasts of Ramadan. Several hundred people have been killed over the last few years in clashes with government forces for precisely this reason. Millions of Muslims all across the world, are displaced due to war. They have no homes, no safety, no medical facilities, no incomes, and in most cases, no hope. Most of the people in this situation might not even have a glass of clean water and a dry date to break their fast. Their only hope is to please Allah as best as they can, in the face of severe adversity.
So, entering the gate of ar-Rayyan is not a simple matter of abstaining from eating and drinking. It is a matter of “holding firmly to the rope of Allah” (The holy Quran, chapter 3 verse 103) through the hardships of the world. It is an entrance earned with the highest sacrifices.
Rules of Fasting
The rules of fasting during Ramadan are straightforward.
The fasting person must:
- Not eat or drink anything from sunrise until sunset
- Not imbibe, ingest, smoke, or in any way take into the body any form of food, drink, smoke or nourishment
- Abstain from marital relations while fasting
- Not do anything that displeases Allah; this includes lying, cheating, backbiting, using foul language and committing any sinful and prohibited acts
The fasting person must continue with the daily acts of living, worship and work, and devote maximum time to the remembrance of Allah and to reciting the Quran. Eating ‘suhoor’ (a pre-dawn meal) and ‘iftaar’ (breaking fast at sunset) are a part of the process of fasting.
People who are excused from fasting are pregnant, breastfeeding and menstruating women, children, the sick and infirm, elderly and travelers.
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