Fasting is one of the five fundamental pillars in Islam. It is a universal institution because all other religions in the world also adopted fasting in some forms as the principal method of controlling and killing passions. Fasting helps in gaining perfection in all activities of our worldly life. Like prayer, the institution of fasting is kept alive as it is observed every year in the Islamic world and forms the regulating principle of their lives. In fact, benefits of fasting are endless. Fasting helps in gaining Taqwa (Fearness and love of Almighty Allah)). Almighty Allah legislated fasting for gaining Taqwa through the following verse of the Holy Qur’an, “O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed upon you as it has been prescribed upon those before you, so that you may attain Taqwa.” (2:183) Taqwa in this case means to make a shield between oneself and Almighty Allah’s anger and hellfire. Fasting helps in acquiring patience and strong will. Allah Almighty has mentioned patience more than seventy times in the Holy Qur’an. So, when one fasts, and gives up one’s food and drink, and one’s marital sexual relations for fasting hours, one learns restraint and patience. Fasting helps in striving for Ihsaan (righteousness and sincerity) and staying away from ‘riyaa’ (showing off).
Fasting is the only thing which gives a sense of pangs of a hungry man in the mind of the rich. Thus this sense creates a spirit of kindness to the poor and the distressed. It accustoms a man to face the hardships of life and increases his power of resistance.
Ihsaan means to worship Almighty Allah as if one sees Him, and even though one does not see Him, He sees all. Almighty Allah singles out fasting from all other types of worship saying, ‘Fasting is for Me’, because no one knows whether you are fasting or not, except Almighty Allah. Fasting helps in refinement of manners, especially those related to truthfulness and discharging trusts. The Prophet (SAW) said, “Whoever does not abandon falsehood in word and action, then Almighty Allah does not need that he should leave his food and drink” (Bukhari). What we learn from this Hadith is that we must pay attention to the purification of our manners. The Prophet (SAW) said, “He who gives food for a fasting person to break his fast, he will receive the same reward as him, without nothing being reduced from the fasting person’s reward.” (Tirmidhi) Fasting refreshes the soul and cheers up it from its lethargic state. Fasting removes false sense of prestige and pride because a hungry man finds himself weak and naturally turns towards One who is strong. It saves time and trouble as it reduces the period of sleep and thus a great deal of time is saved for work. Fasting greatly contributes to the preservation of health. It teaches equality of human being which is not even witnessed in prayer. A king may pray with a beggar in the mosque but at home he may lead quite a different life by taking foods at pleasure and having sexual relations with women. Fasting, however, places all men, rich and poor, on the same pitiful plight of hunger, and does not allow anybody to take food and drink or to have sexual relations in daytime. It teaches sympathy for the hungry. Fasting is the only thing which gives a sense of pangs of a hungry man in the mind of the rich. Thus this sense creates a spirit of kindness to the poor and the distressed. It accustoms a man to face the hardships of life and increases his power of resistance.