The Creator, the Almighty, has not honored any nation as He has honored the Islamic nation. When one investigates its Sharia, its eras, generations, and times, one finds it enjoying many opportunities for divine forgiveness and divine satisfaction. It has been granted the greatest rewards and the most opportunities to earn the satisfaction of its Lord, so that He may be pleased with it and admit it into the gardens of bliss, after it becomes the witnessing and martyred nation, fulfilling His promise and realizing His methodology.

Ramadan is one of the most important of these opportunities granted to the individuals of this nation, for them to achieve in one month what they may not have achieved in their past lives. So welcome Ramadan, the month of fasting, love, and tolerance, the month of mercy, blessings, and forgiveness, the month in which the gates of Paradise are opened, and the gates of Hell are closed, and in which the devils are chained. It contains the Night of Decree, which is better than a thousand months. Blessed are the fasting, worshiping, obedient servants, who extend their hands in goodness and generosity, those whose hearts have expanded with love for people after being filled with love for the Creator of people.”

Narrated by Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him), the Prophet (peace be upon him) said when Ramadan began: “Indeed, a blessed month has come to you. Allah has made fasting in it obligatory upon you. During it, the gates of Paradise are opened, the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are chained. In it is a night better than a thousand months. Whoever is deprived of its goodness is truly deprived.” (Ahmed, An-Nasa’i, Al-Bayhaqi).

And narrated by Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him), the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Allah the Almighty said: ‘Every action of the son of Adam is for him except fasting, for it is Mine and I shall reward for it. Fasting is a shield. If one of you is fasting, let him not use foul language, nor raise his voice in anger. If someone insults him or fights with him, let him say: I am fasting.’ By the One in Whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, the smell emanating from the mouth of a fasting person is better with Allah than the fragrance of musk. For the fasting person, there are two moments of happiness: one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord.” (Ahmed, Muslim, An-Nasa’i).

Fasting in Ramadan is established by the Quran and the Sunnah, and it is one of the five pillars upon which Islam is built. It is mentioned in explicit texts, as in the Quranic verse: “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous” (Al-Baqarah: 183).

Due to its utmost importance, the Quran has specified its time and distinguished its excuses with decisive textual evidence. This knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation among all believers. Because Islam is a religion of ease, not hardship, a religion of mercy, not difficulty and harshness, all its legislation is based on the principle: “Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear” (Al-Baqarah: 286), and “He has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty” (Al-Haj: 78). Therefore, Allah has allowed those who are forced into disbelief to speak words of disbelief without their hearts being at ease, and He has allowed those who fear destruction or harm from hunger or thirst to eat and drink what He has forbidden, to the extent necessary to preserve their lives or ward off the harm that threatens them. If they fail to do so and die of hunger or thirst, they will be sinners in the sight of Allah, excessive in their religion.

Likewise, Allah has permitted those who are harmed or fear harm to use water for purification in prayer to perform Tayammum (dry ablution) on clean soil. He has allowed prayer to be lit in places of fear and hardship. He has permitted leaving the obligation of Hajj for those who fear the journey but stipulated that the expenses for travel to and from it exceed the expenses of maintaining the family. In this context, Islam views people fasting in Ramadan in three categories:

1. The first category comprises those who are settled and able without harm or hardship. Fasting is obligatory upon them, as mentioned in the Quran: “Fasting has been prescribed upon you” and “Whoever witnesses the month.”

2. The second category includes the sick or travelers who are permitted to break their fast with the obligation of making up for it later when they are healthy or settled, as mentioned in the Quran: “So whoever among you is ill or on a journey, then an equal number of days [are to be made up later]” (Al-Baqarah: 184).

3. The third category consists of those for whom fasting poses difficulty due to reasons unlikely to be alleviated, such as old age, chronic illness, pregnancy, or continuous breastfeeding if there are concerns for the pregnant, breastfeeding, or nursing child’s safety. These individuals and similar cases are permitted to break their fast and are required to feed one needy person for each missed day with the amount of food sufficient for two meals, in accordance with the customary estimation among people.

This is referred to in the Quran: “And upon those who are able [to fast, but with hardship] – a ransom [as substitute] of feeding a poor person” (Al-Baqarah: 184).

Imam Mahmoud Shaltut stated: “The ransom is only applicable for a person who is unable, and ‘able’ does not mean ease and convenience. We do not say that someone can carry an apple, but we say they can carry this rock, indicating hardship and difficulty in carrying.”

“Where ease is found, fasting is prescribed; where hardship is found, breaking the fast is prescribed. This is the law of Allah and His religion.”

Surely, a person knows themselves best, and assessing ease and hardship is up to them and does not require a fatwa from scholars. “Righteousness is what the soul finds tranquility in, and sin is what causes doubt and unease in the chest and is disliked being seen by people.”

Fasting is like other acts of worship; it must be performed with sincere intentions. Allah is near, He knows the hearts of His servants, He is aware of their intentions, and He accepts only what is sincerely for Him. Therefore, the fasting person should refrain from hypocrisy, bad manners, lying, immorality, cheating, deceit, false testimony, and causing trouble or disputes.

Fasting has two aspects

The first aspect: refraining from food, drink, and sexual desires from dawn until sunset.

The second aspect: restraining the limbs from sins.

Each aspect has its nullifiers. The nullifiers of the first aspect of fasting are food, drink, and other sensory nullifiers specified by Islamic jurisprudence, distinguishing what nullifies the fast from what does not.

As for the nullifiers of the second aspect, many hadiths have the same indication of breaking the fast as sensory nullifiers.

Therefore, breaking the fast is not only through sensory nullifiers; in other words, not everyone who refrains from sensory nullifiers is fasting, but one should also refrain from the moral nullifiers specific to the second aspect.

Imam Al-Ghazali said: “How many fasters are not rewarded for their fasting except hunger and thirst. It has been narrated in a hadith: ‘How many people fast, yet they get nothing from their fasting except hunger and thirst.’

Therefore, the fasting person should refrain from both sensory and moral nullifiers altogether. They should lower their gaze, restrain their hearing, and guard their tongue from sleeping, lying, and backbiting. They should distance themselves from disputes, animosity, and arguments. The fasting of the hearts from worldly matters and lowly things is crucial. The fasting of the mind involves abstaining from plotting schemes against people or contemplating evil matters, trivialities, and minor issues that destroy rather than build and divide rather than unite. Fasting cannot be established unless a Muslim has control over themselves, their limbs, their hearts, and their conscience to direct their behavior towards what is beautiful, good, and consistent with the teachings of Islam.

Imam Al-Ghazali divided fasting into degrees: “General fasting, specific fasting, and the fasting of the most specific.” General fasting entails restraining the stomach and the private parts from fulfilling desires, while specific fasting involves restraining the hearing, sight, tongue, hands, feet, and all limbs from sins. The fasting of the most specific entails fasting of the heart from worldly ambitions and thoughts and complete detachment from anything other than Allah, the Almighty.

We ask Allah to grant us the highest levels of fasting, so that we may attain His pleasure and satisfaction.