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Sawm (Arabic: صوم) is an Arabic word for fasting regulated by Islamic jurisprudence. In the terminology of Islamic law, Sawm means to abstain from eating, drinking (including water), having sex and anything against Islamic law (Ithm). The observance of sawm during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, but is not confined to that month.
For example, the Muslims of Central Asia, Afghanistan, India, Iran, Bangladesh, and Pakistan use the word uraza/rozah/roza/roja which comes from the Indo-Iranian language of Dari. In Turkey, Sawm is called oruç (compare Kyrgyz öröz), while the Malay community in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore call it puasa, which is derived from Sanskrit, upvaasa. Puasa is also used in Indonesia, Southern Thailand and Southern Philippines.
Muslims are prohibited from some things which are legal and natural for seeking the face of Allah. Muslims are prohibited from eating, drinking, smoking, and engaging in sexual intercourse from dawn (fajr) to sunset (maghrib). Fasting is essentially an attempt to seek nearness to Allah and increase one's piety. One of the remote aims of fasting is to sympathize with those less fortunate ones who do not always have food and drink readily available. Also one must try to avoid cursing and thinking evil thoughts. Fasting is also viewed as a means of controlling one's desires (of hunger, thirst, sexuality, anger) and focusing more on devoting oneself to God.
Sawm also carries a significant spiritual meaning. It teaches one the principle of love: because when one observes Fasting, it is done out of deep love for God and to learn self restraint.
Fasting in the Qur'an
In the Qur'an, this practice is mentioned:يَا أَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ ٱلصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
أَيَّامً۬ا مَّعۡدُودَٲتٍ۬ۚ فَمَن كَانَ مِنكُم مَّرِيضًا أَوۡ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ۬ فَعِدَّةٌ۬ مِّنۡ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَۚ وَعَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ ۥ فِدۡيَةٌ۬ طَعَامُ مِسۡكِينٍ۬ۖ فَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيۡرً۬ا فَهُوَ خَيۡرٌ۬ لَّهُ ۥۚ وَأَن تَصُومُواْ خَيۡرٌ۬ لَّكُمۡۖ إِن كُنتُمۡ تَعۡلَمُونَكُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ ٱلصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
- O those who believe, the fasts have been enjoined upon you as were enjoined upon those before so that you be God-fearing.[Quran 2:183]
شَهۡرُ رَمَضَانَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ ٱلۡقُرۡءَانُ هُدً۬ى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَـٰتٍ۬ مِّنَ ٱلۡهُدَىٰ وَٱلۡفُرۡقَانِۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ ٱلشَّهۡرَ فَلۡيَصُمۡهُۖ وَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوۡ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ۬ فَعِدَّةٌ۬ مِّنۡ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَۗ يُرِيدُ ٱللَّهُ بِكُمُ ٱلۡيُسۡرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ ٱلۡعُسۡرَ وَلِتُكۡمِلُواْ ٱلۡعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُواْ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَٮٰكُمۡ وَلَعَلَّكُمۡ تَشۡكُرُونَ
- (Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (Should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (With hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will,- it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.[Quran 2:184]
أُحِلَّ لَكُمۡ لَيۡلَةَ ٱلصِّيَامِ ٱلرَّفَثُ إِلَىٰ نِسَآٮِٕكُمۡۚ هُنَّ لِبَاسٌ۬ لَّكُمۡ وَأَنتُمۡ لِبَاسٌ۬ لَّهُنَّۗ عَلِمَ ٱللَّهُ أَنَّكُمۡ كُنتُمۡ تَخۡتَانُونَ أَنفُسَكُمۡ فَتَابَ عَلَيۡكُمۡ وَعَفَا عَنكُمۡۖ فَٱلۡـَٔـٰنَ بَـٰشِرُوهُنَّ وَٱبۡتَغُواْ مَا كَتَبَ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمۡۚ وَكُلُواْ وَٱشۡرَبُواْ حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ ٱلۡخَيۡطُ ٱلۡأَبۡيَضُ مِنَ ٱلۡخَيۡطِ ٱلۡأَسۡوَدِ مِنَ ٱلۡفَجۡرِۖ ثُمَّ أَتِمُّواْ ٱلصِّيَامَ إِلَى ٱلَّيۡلِۚ وَلَا تُبَـٰشِرُوهُنَّ وَأَنتُمۡ عَـٰكِفُونَ فِى ٱلۡمَسَـٰجِدِۗ تِلۡكَ حُدُودُ ٱللَّهِ فَلَا تَقۡرَبُوهَاۗ كَذَٲلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ ٱللَّهُ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمۡ يَتَّقُونَ
- The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the Criterion (of right and wrong). And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, (let him fast the same) number of other days. Allah desireth for you ease; He desireth not hardship for you; and (He desireth) that ye should complete the period, and that ye should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that peradventure ye may be thankful.[Quran 2:185]
- It is made lawful for you to go unto your wives on the night of the fast. They are raiment for you and ye are raiment for them. Allah is Aware that ye were deceiving yourselves in this respect and He hath turned in mercy toward you and relieved you. So hold intercourse with them and seek that which Allah hath ordained for you, and eat and drink until the white thread becometh distinct to you from the black thread of the dawn. Then strictly observe the fast till nightfall and touch them not, but be at your devotions in the mosques. These are the limits imposed by Allah, so approach them not. Thus Allah expoundeth His revelation to mankind that they may ward off (evil).[Quran 2:187]
Types of Fasting in the Quran
- Food Fasting(Sawm ut Taam).[Quran 2:187]
- Money Fasting(Sawm ul Maal).[Quran 2:188]
- Word Fasting(Sawm ul Kalam).[Quran 19:26]
Usually "Fasting" means Food Fasting
Conditions of Fasting
For a fast to be intentional/valid in the first instance, an intention (niyyah) must be made beforehand; this is considered to form an oath. It is not required to be made verbally, but without being performed the fast is not valid.
Throughout the duration of the fast itself, Muslims will abstain from certain provisions that the Qur'an has otherwise allowed; namely eating, drinking, and sexual intercourse.[Quran 2:187] This is in addition to the standard obligation already observed by Muslims of avoiding that which is not permissible under Qur'anic or Shari'ah law (e.g. ignorant and indecent speech, arguing and fighting, and lustful thoughts). Without observing this standard obligation, Sawm is rendered useless, and is seen simply as an act of starvation. The fasting should be a motive to be more benevolent to the fellow-creatures. Charity to the poor and needy in this month is one of most rewardable worship.
If one is sick, nursing or traveling, one is considered exempt from fasting. Any fasts broken or missed due to sickness, nursing or traveling must be made up whenever the person is able before the next month of Ramadan. According to the Qur'an, for all other cases, not fasting is only permitted when the act is potentially dangerous to one's health - for example; those elderly who are too weak to fast for extended periods of time, diabetics, nursing, and pregnant women, but this must be made up by paying a fidyah which is essentially the iftaar, dinner and suhur for a fasting person who requires such financial help.
According to the Qur’ān and the Sunnah, if someone cannot afford fasting due to illness or traveling they are permitted to suspend fasting and continue at a more opportune time or condition of health. However, the question of those suffering a permanent disease has not been resolved. One view is that they can waive the obligation to fast if advised by a medical expert. Furthermore, it is held that they can provide a poor person with a meal for each day of fasting waived. Nonetheless, such a delinquent person must be willing to fast when in health.
Observing the fast is not permitted for menstruating women. However, when a woman's period has ceased, she must bathe and continue fasting. Any fasts broken or missed due to menstruation must be made up whenever she can before the next month of Ramadan. Women must fast at times when not menstruating, as the Qur'an indicates that all religious duties are ordained for both men and women.
Breaking the fast and the consequences
During Ramadan, if one unintentionally breaks the fast by eating or drinking then they must continue for the rest of the day and the fast remains valid.
However if one intentionally breaks the fast by eating or drinking then they must repent from this major sin and fast the same number of days they missed as soon as possible. If one intentionally breaks the fast by having sexual intercourse with his wife, then he and his wife (if she was forced) must repent by fasting the day that they missed, and offer expiation (kaffara) for this major sin by doing one of the following in order:
1) Free a slave, and if that is not possible,
2) Fast for two consecutive lunar months (approximately 60 days), and if that is not possible,
3) Feed and/or clothe 60 people in need
During voluntary fasts, if one unintentionally breaks the fast then they may continue for the rest of the day and the fast remains valid. If one intentionally breaks the fast there is no sin on them because it is voluntary.
Breaking oaths and the consequences
If an oath is given and circumstances dictate that it must be broken (or if the one giving the oath deliberately breaks it), one must offer expiation (kaffara) by freeing a slave and if that is not possible, feed and/or clothe 10 poor people and if that cannot be done because due to lack of financial means or poor people cannot be found, fast for three consecutive days.
Beginning and ending the Fast
In accordance with traditions handed down from Muhammad, Muslims eat a pre-dawn meal called the suhoor. All eating and drinking must be finished before azaan-ul-Fajr, the pre-dawn call to prayer. Unlike the Salat-ul-Zuhr and Salat-ul-Maghrib prayers, which have clear astronomical definitions (noon and sunset), there are several definitions used in practice for the timing of "true dawn" (al-fajr as-sadiq), as mentioned in the hadith. These range from when the center of the sun is 12 to 21 degrees below the horizon  which equates to about 40 to 60 minutes before civil dawn. There are no restrictions on the morning meal other than the restrictions on Muslims diet. After completing the suhoor, Muslims recite the fajr prayer. No food or water is allowed to go down the throat after the suhoor. However, water unlike food may enter the mouth, but not go down the throat during wudu.
The meal eaten to end the fast is known as al-Iftar. Muslims, following the Sunnah of the Prophet, Muhammad, break the fast with dates and water, before praying Salat-ul-Maghrib, after which they might eat a more wholesome meal.
Benefits of fasting
Fasting inculcates a sense of fraternity and solidarity, as Muslims can feel and experience that which needy and hungry humans feel. However, even the poor, needy, and hungry participate in the fast. Moreover, Ramadan is a month of giving charity and sharing meals to break the fast together, the latter offering more reward than if eating alone. Most importantly, the fast is also seen as a great sign of obedience by the believer to Allah. Faithful observance of the Sawm is believed to atone for personal faults and misdeeds and to help earn a place in paradise.
As briefly mentioned earlier, fasting can also be observed voluntarily (as part of the Greater Jihad): Sawm is intended to teach believers patience and self-control in their personal conduct, to help control passions and temper, to provide time for meditation and to strengthen one's faith. Fasting also serves the purpose of cleansing the inner soul and freeing it of harm. Some scholars, following the earliest understanding of the uses and objectives of the ritual of fasting strongly object to identifying mundane objectives of the ritual such as physical and psychological well being. To them the ritual of fasting is purely a worship and should not be treated as an exercise mixed with worship. The objectives of the fast is to inculcate taqwa (God-consciousness) in a believer.
Detriments of fasting
Days For Fasting
Month of Ramadhan
Days For Voluntary Fasting
Islam also prescribed certain days for non-obligatory, voluntary fasting, such as:
- each Monday and Thursday of a week
- the 13th, 14th, and 15th day of each lunar month
- six days in the month of Shawwal (the month following Ramadan)
- the Day of Arafat (9th of Dhu al-Hijjah in the Islamic (Hijri) calendar)
- the Day of Ashura (10th of Muharram in the Hijri calendar), with one more day of fasting before or after it (For Sunni Muslims only. It is Abominate in Shia Islam)
- As often as possible in the months of Rajab and Shaban before Ramadhan
- First nine days of Dhu al-Hijjah in the Islamic calendar(Only for none Hajee's)
Days when fasting is forbidden
Although fasting is considered a pious act in Islam, there are times when fasting is prohibited:
- Eid ul-Adha And 3 days following it because Mohammed said "You are not to fast these days. They are days of eating and drinking and remembering Allah", reported by Abu Hurairah.
- Eid ul-Fitr
- For Shia Muslims, the Day of Ashura, 10th of Muharram in the Hijri calendar.
- It is also forbidden to single out Fridays and only fast every Friday, as Amr al-Ashari said that he heard Muhammad say "Verily, Friday is a eid (holiday) for you, so do not fast on it unless you fast the day before or after it."
- Fasting everyday of the year is also forbidden; Muhammad said "There is no reward for fasting for the one who perpetually fasts."
Fasting while in polar region
As Qur'an says that : "(During Ramadan)eat and drink until the white thread of dawn appear to you distinct from its black thread" [Quran 2:187] This results that fasting is a duty for the Muslims only when days and nights are producing otherwise fasting is not necessary  So the Muslims of Svalbard have to fast only when days and nights are prominent by the sun. If Ramadan comes in June/December (when days and nights are not prominent by the sun in Svalbard, Norway) they may leave fasting and then complete their fasting in March/September (when days and nights are prominent by the sun in Svalbard, Norway).In Islamic Law it is called Qadha.Allah says: "Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful."[Quran 2:185]
Fasting in other religions
Lent in Christianity, Yom Kippur, Tisha B'av, Fast of Esther, Tzom Gedalia the Seventeenth of Tamuz, and the Tenth of Tevet, all in Judaism, are also times of fasting. Nevertheless, the fasting practices are different from one another. Eastern Orthodox Christians fast during specified fasting seasons of the year, which include not merely the better-known Great Lent, but also fasts on every Wednesday and Friday (except on special holidays), together with extended fasting periods before Christmas (the Nativity Fast), after Easter (the Apostles Fast) and in early August (the Dormition Fast). Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) generally fast for 24 hours on the first Sunday of each month. Like Muslims, they refrain from all drinking and eating unless they are children or are physically unable to fast. Fasting is also a feature of ascetic traditions in religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. Mahayana traditions that follow the Brahma's Net Sutra may recommend that the laity fast "during the six days of fasting each month and the three months of fasting each year" [Brahma's Net Sutra, minor precept 30]. Members of the Baha'i Faith observe a Nineteen Day Fast from sunrise to sunset during March each year.
- ^ Fasting (Sawm), muslimliving.org
- ^ http://www.al-islam.org/beliefs/practices/fajr.html
- ^ (Maarif ul Qur'an page#450)
- ^ http://www.al-mawrid.org/pages/articles_english_detail.php?rid=196&cid=330&search=fasting
- Fasting & Ramadan: Complete Interactive Online Guide
- Scholarly Articles on the Law of Fasting in Islam
- Fasting in the Quraan
- Comprehensive Article and Book Collection on fasting and Ramadhan
- Esoteric view on sawm - fasting in Ramadan
- Islamic holidays and observances
- Time of start and end of sawn per city
- Health in Ramadan
- How Fasting Helps with Self-Control
- http://www.al-islam.edu.pk/Islamicmonths/ramdan2.htm How to spend Ramadan
- Fasting Six Days of Shawwal: Necessary?
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sawm — /sawm/, n. fasting, esp. during the month of Ramadan; the fourth of the Pillars of Islam. * * * ▪ Islam (Arabic: “fasting”), in Islām, any religious fast, but particularly the fast of the month of Ramaḍān (q.v.). * * * … Universalium
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sawm — noun fasting, abstention, abstinence; the third of the five pillars of Islam (during the month of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food, drink, gambling, and all sensuous pleasures from sunrise to sunset. Sawm is regulated by Islamic jurisprudence.… … Wiktionary
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