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There are two basic elements that
constitute the essence of Islamic fasting.
The observation of these elements makes one's fasting acceptable.
The first element of fasting is abstinence of fast breakers from the break of dawn (Fajr)
until sunset (Maghrib). By fasting, the Lawgivers, in no uncertain terms and free from any
ambiguity and confusion, meant abstinence from food and drink and sexual relations. Any
nourishment taken by mouth or nose, or drink of any sort, water, juices, milk, etc.,
should be avoided. Also, sexual intercourse during daytime is prohibited. In this element,
the period of observance is daily. It is not Islamic fasting when fasting takes place at
night. Indeed, we are encouraged to break the fast without any delay as soon as the sun
goes down. The proof for this first element is the saying of the Most High: "...And
now associate with them and seek what Allah has ordained for you and eat and drink until
the white thread of dawn appear to you distinct from its black thread." (Al-Qur`an
This verse defines the time limits in which the worshiper is obligated to exercise
abstinence. The first part of the verse is an indication of Allah's mercy upon the
worshipers by making it easy for them during night hours in their relations with their
spouses. For when verse (2:185) was revealed, it restricted daily as well as nightly
relations with spouses. It was obviously difficult for the believers.
Imam Al-Qurtabi and others reported: Once Umar bin Al-Khataab (RAA) returned home late at
night after visiting the Prophet (PBUH). When he came home, he felt the urge for his wife.
So he slept with his wife, breaking the rule. Early in the morning he went to the Prophet
(PBUH) and informed him about the incident. He said, "I seek pardon from Allah and
you. My soul tempted me to have relations with my wife. Can you find a permission for me
in this offense?" The Prophet, (PBUH), asked whether he really was serious about
this. Umar (RAA) replied, "Yes". The Prophet (PBUH) did not have an answer for
him, but told him Allah has to decide on this.
By the grace of Allah, before Umar arrived home, Allah (SWT) revealed verse (2:187),
permitting believers to enjoy their wives during the night. So this is what the verse is
referring to. It sets the limit of abstinence. It does so in metaphorical language draped
with flair and beauty, as it describes the starting and the ending time of fast. Eat and
drink until the white thread, i.e., the first rays of light finds its way through the dark
horizon, the black thread. At that time, one must stop eating and start the observance of
The second element of fasting is Niyyah (intention). In Islamic practices,
Niyyah is highly rated. This remarkable element is not unique to fasting; it
permeates every ounce of the believer's undertakings from Salaat, to Zakaat,
to Hajj. It is the difference between whether the actions are religious or
irreligious. For instance, fasting for political reasons, or as a weapon of
passive resistance, or hunger strikes, or starving for dietary reasons, or
weight control, or even on medical advice - all of these are not proper
Islamic fasting, because they lack one main component: that is, the Niyyah.
This is why Niyyah for fasting is to worship Allah by abstaining from
fast-breakers from the break of dawn to sunset.
The act of abstinence is not meant to starve you. It is an act of worship, like Salaat. It
is the lack of intention that makes ones acts non-Islamic. Interestingly, you can pursue
your regular activities, which have nothing to
do with religion, such as maintaining your livelihood and earn a religious reward by the
intention. The Prophet (PBUH) told the believers that by declaring Niyyah, their relations
with their spouses would become charity.
The companions asked how would that be a charity (Sadaqah)? The Prophet
responded, "Don't you know that if he does it in an unlawful way it will be
a sin on him? They said, "Yes." "The same", he said, "When he
does it in a
legal way, it is charity." (Muslim)
Liya'abudu (to worship) - generally means to humble - but has become a name for every type
of worship rendered with humbleness and utmost respect to Allah (SWT). However, the key
word is mukhliseen, purely intending in their hearts for the pleasure of Allah (SWT) the
worship Allah alone. One should declare in his heart that the act he or she is about to
undertake is intended for Allah (SWT). It is not for eye service (Riya'a), ear service
(sum'ah), lip service (saying to be heard), or for any other reasons. The most important
thing in Islam is not the quantity of worship (`ebadah) but the quality. By quality it
means that it is intended for none but Allah. On the other hand, Allah (SWT) is telling
the believer and humanity, you know that I have created everything in creation just for
you, that is all of
creation. Not half one-third, one quarter, or a fifth of it, but all of it.
"It is He who has created for you all things that are on earth." (Al-Qur'an
2:29) If that is the case, you should not intend with your acts but for Allah alone. Do
not intend in your deeds half for Allah and the rest for someone else. You cannot fast
three-fourths of a day for Allah and one-fourth for someone else. Nor can you sacrifice
two sheep, one for Allah and the other for the ruler. Allah would never accept that. That
is the proof of Niyyah in the Holy Qur'an.
In a hadith related by Umar bin Al-Khattab (RAA), he said: "I heard the
Messenger of Allah (PBUH), saying: "Deeds are but by intention, and every
man shall have all but that which he intended. Thus, he whose migration was for Allah and
His Messenger, his migration was for Allah and His Messenger,
and he whose migration was to achieve some worldly benefit or to take some
woman in marriage, his migration was for that for which he migrated."
This hadith pronounced by the Prophet (PBUH) explains, in effect, the above
verse and attempts to educate the believers before they embark on a course of action. At
the outset, as the persecution of the believers reached its
peak, the Prophet and the believers were ordered to emigrate to Abyssinia,
then finally to Medina, where the Prophet and the believers settled. Migration was, and
still is, a sign of faith and a great honor in the sight of Allah. He (SWT) described
those men and women who endured that experience as "Al-Muhajirun," declared in
Surah 2: 218.
" Those who believe and adopted exile and fought (and strove and struggled)
in the path of Allah...."
So every person who has an ulterior motive claims he is emigrating to Medinah, to please
Allah. But the Prophet (PBUH) made it clear to the
believers that Hijrah is not the pain and hardship of traveling and missing the loved
ones, but the intent behind it. The hadith defines what constitutes Allah's perception of
the deeds of the believer.
Hence, the elements of fasting are two: to worship Allah (SWT) by abstaining
from fast - breakers, combined with intention.Back to top